Saturday, July 26, 2014

Why Do Poor Uneducated White People Vote Republican?

According to a recent article by Quite Republicans like to claim they are all about liberty. Then, they support the recent SCOTUS decision where five conservative appointed judges took responsibility away from citizens and placed it in the hands of the corporation.  Their politicians lie to get our country into war about these nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, and now are trying to blame the current situation in Iraq on Obama. The Republicans advocate cutting food stamps, unemployment, education, and healthcare, while cutting taxes for the wealthy. The GOP has a long history of demonizing poor people. The relatively new Tea Party crowd and their pals the libertarians have been on record with "go fend for yourself," type attitudes towards the poor. [See Article; Why Poor People Vote For Republicans]

If You're Poor, You're Just Lazy.

However, the Republicans garner much of the poor white uneducated votes, why do poor uneducated white people vote Republican? Yes, there are the gerrymandered districts and the voter suppression which have been exhaustive not only in the present but historically as well.

Paul Weyrich has often been labeled as one of the founding fathers of the modern conservative movement.


In this writers view, just as I reported back last year for Liberal America, racism is alive and well in the southern states. What is even more striking we have seen where this behavior by the uneducated low-income white voter has actually worked against their best interest and is generally the norm. This reality is what makes this whole topic puzzling. For example, white voters in North Carolina have loaded up the statehouse with one of the most radical right-wing factions of government in the country. What did they get in return? A tax increase. This political reality did not spring up over night. What we are seeing is the aggravated side-effects of the decade's long now southern strategy.

Lee Atwater

What is the Southern Strategy?

  In American politics, the Southern strategy refers to a Republican Party strategy of gaining political support for certain candidates in the Southern United States by appealing to racism against African Americans.[Source: Wikipedia] Lee Atwater has been credited with being the founder of this political tactic. 

Let's not pull any punches here the southern strategies main purpose was to transform the south from blue states to red states by invoking the reality of institutional racism. This transformation is one of the most significant in American history. It is also one of the main factors that make modern politics what it is today. However, this transformation is a mystery to most people. People did not just wake up one day and start voting for Republicans in the south. There had to be a plan.

Changing demographics played a role in this strategy. With most industrialization and factories locating in the northern states many black families left the south to relocate in the north. All the while, the white middle-class was growing in the south. With this migration of blacks to the north many whites in northern states migrated down south. This migration lowered the black population in the south and increased the white population. This change in demographics alone set the table for a racist political strategy to take root.

 However, many of the whites that moved from the north were of a different mindset of the traditional southerner. Around this time, late 60's early 70's, the economics of the south improved and this change in demographics and economy gave the south much more power politically than it had before this transformation. These new southern implants from the north were not as preoccupied with the racial issues as the traditional southerner. The Civil War was not an issue for these new southern citizens. These northern implants to the south were a different brand of Republican. More moderate and centered politically than the far-right and radical southern Republicans. However, they were agreeable to the issues of lower taxes, individual freedoms, and less government regulation. So, this new dynamic created a different electorate in the south. This change in the south open eyebrows with the Republican Party elites and gave rise to opportunity for a minority party to garner a foothold in this region of the country.

In addition, with these changing demographics non-traditional type industry started locating in the south. Industries like communications, high-tech fields, like the Research Triangle in North Carolina. With these changes came more urbanization in the south. Cities like Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, experienced phenomenal growth. All of these factors changed the political landscape in the south.

The Rise Of The Southern Middle Class In The South.

This change in demographics coupled with these new industries caused a huge rise in the middle class at this time. In the past, the south was mainly textile mills, basic factory type companies and farming. Traditionally, the south was largely made up of poor people. This change brought about different expectations from government. The voters demanded low taxes, a stable business environment, but, unlike the traditional southern voter they did not want government to go to sleep. Also, there were other changes other than these social and economic issues on the political front.

The African-America Civil Rights Movement.   

 The most dramatic change on the political front was the push by the national Democratic Party for the rights of African-American citizens. Prior to this movement, the Democratic Party had not been particularly favorable of civil rights for blacks. For example, Franklin Roosevelt [FDR] failed to endorse anti-lynching legislation. FDR did not support this legislation in fear that he would antagonize the southern members of the house and senate and not past other legislation he deemed more important. Starting in the late 40's the Democratic Party began to adopt civil rights legislation. President Truman integrated the military after World War II. The very first time civil rights legislation became a part of any political party's platform was by the Democrats in 1948. This eventually led to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act in the 1960's. So, the Democratic Party association with civil-rights was gradual. All this started in the 1940's but was largely interrupted in the 1950's when there was a Republican president and SCOTUS handed down the Brown v.Board of Education case. So, when the schools in the south began to integrate in the 1950's and all the civil unrest that sprang up from it the Republican president was blamed by the angry white bigots in the region. Case in point, Little Rock Arkansas.    


To the traditional white's from the south, these changes represented to them the old horror stories of the  Reconstruction Era passed down through the generation from relatives. The sending of the national guard troops was a nightmare come true for the southerners.

So, it was the Republican Party who bore the wrath of the angry white male in the late 1950's. However, in the 1960's this changed. With the changing of the political guard in Washington with John Kennedy and later Lyndon Johnson making a public commitment and contract with the American people on civil rights there was no turning back. While many presidential historians don't give president Johnson high marks on being a principled politician it is without question his efforts are the main reason we have civil rights for all minorities in this country today. It was Johnson who championed the coalitions. He [Johnson] was fully aware that this would spell doom for the Democratic Party in the South. And yet, he went forward with it anyway, because he thought it was the right thing to do. This change and political posturing in the 1940's and in the 1960's created a real crisis for the party in the south. Many southern Democrats became angry with the party over this legislation. One of the common quotes bandied about in those days ' we did not leave the party, the party left us,' represented the mindset on many southern Democrats of the times. Basically, the attitude was that their Democratic Party they knew and loved had changed. In response to this, the hierarchy in the Republican Party saw an opportunity. In fairness, unlike the Republican Party of today, moderation was the order in the party and Eisenhower sending in troops to restore order in the late 1950's is a great example.

The changing times of the political south.

With this new development, and the emergence of the racist Dixiecrat wing of the Democrat Party being shunned there were many in the Republican Party who felt that moderation should step aside to a more right-wing conservative approach. The Dixiecrat's represented a huge block of votes that the Republican elites needed to implement their less government regulation and lower taxes mantra. With these dynamics taking place in the south the Republicans were salivating for these new voters. In 1964, the Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater who was considered a right-wing conservative at the dismay of the more moderate wing of the party. Their fears seemed to be realized as Goldwater went down in defeat. After his defeat, the party began to focus more and more on social issues and religious issues and by the time the 1968 elections rolled around the Republicans had a plan which really represents the early stages of what became known as the southern strategy. The Nixon campaign walked a fine line trying not to be overtly racist, but, his campaign did use soft-celled language that sent a message to southern voters if you are not happy with the civil rights laws we are your solution.

The Wedge Issues.

Issues like forced busing, which drove a wedge between some traditional southern Democrats and the Democratic Party which allowed opportunities for the Republican Party to capitalize on. The Republican Party used the term it was not overtly racist but functioned as a code to insight the racist whites of the south. Affirmative Action was also a wedge issues in the Untied States at this time. It was used effectively by the Republicans to weaken the southern Democratic coalition. In practice, using this drove a wedge between blacks and Jews. Jews up to this point had been sympathetic to civil rights legislation. However, affirmative action reminded many Jews of the days of quotas and created a division of viewpoints within the Jewish community. For the Jew, quotas meant only a certain number could take place in jobs, schools, and so forth. There were many of these wedge type issues whose language were not overtly racist but, in fact, were racist in code. Facts be known, Nixon was in favor of civil rights. Nixon knew to win the south he had to play the " old tricky dick," and be disingenuous. This tactic worked for Nixon. In essence, Nixon fooled a huge block of poor uneducated white voters in the south and Nixon won the south. Some say he would have swept the south had it not been for third party racist George Wallace. So, this in effect was the origin of the southern strategy for the Republican Party. The biggest wedge issues in American political history has been over abortion.  

The transformation of the south was decades in the making.

Even though, southerners had voted for a Republican president in the 1950's and with Nixon in the late 1960's the Democrats continued to dominate in local, state, house, and senate elections. That transformation has took decades to happen. The transformation of the south was a two-staged process. A top-down process. This reality has very important implications regarding party identification. The distribution of voters between Democrats, Republicans, and Independents is different in the south. Historically, the southern Republican voters in the 1980's were generally more moderate. The more conservative southern voter tended to be more Independent. These independent voters tended to be the old Dixiecrat voters the George Wallace crowd.

It was these racist old southern Democrats who were the last to transform themselves into card carrying Republicans. This has set up a dynamic in the south that has made politics in the south distinct, but, also has very important implications for the rest of the country. It is the primary elections that determine who will run in the general elections. What we have learned that people who vote in the primaries are generally the people most passionate about the issues of the day and more importantly most loyal to the party of their choice. This means they are quite different than people who generally just vote in the general elections. So, what has transpired from this is candidates that do well in the primary elections don't always fair as well in the general elections. This is paramount for a minority party like the Republicans. The primaries tend to be way more important to them [Republicans] than Democrats.

For example, in the Democrat Party most candidates from the south tend to be in step with the national Democrats as a whole. Which is basically the more liberal wing of the party. Moreover, because of the civil rights legislation, and the Democrats position on many of the aforementioned wedge issues Democrats have overwhelming garnered the black, Hispanic, and woman vote in the country. This reality has led to very successful general election outcomes for the Democratic Party over the years. In has become the order of the day to be successful a political candidate must not just get the support of the party loyalist but must attract what has become known as the swing voter.  However, in the south, for Democrats getting the support of these swing voters has become an issue. On the other hand, in the Republican primaries, appealing to the base is pretty much a given, but; attracting the swing voter is paramount.

What is so very distinct about the south, to this very day, is that the swing voters in the south tend to be the old Dixiecrat, that's right that now aging George Wallace crowd, the new racist Tea Party crowd and the growing number of white supremacist anti-government groups who in fact are nothing more than domestic terrorist. So, the realty of creating unconstitutional gerrymandered voting districts, by implementing illegal voter suppression laws these primaries have become vital in the transformation of power in the south.

Gerrymandering Has Created Republican Safe Zones In The South.  

These changes have made it increasingly hard for Democrats to win general elections in the south and these tactics and there success thereof has put the Democrats at a huge disadvantage in the south. This all started in the 1970's and has become the standard operating procedure in the region until this very day. This strategy of mobilizing the core supporters has intersected with the issue of race in a startling way. The Republican Party commitment to the southern strategy basically meant the party was writing off the black vote. The party decided they would have to find a way to win without the black vote. This meant that the Republican Party had to win more of the white vote in the south. A startling statistic used in Republican campaigns is called " white votes needed." What has created a huge problem for the Republicans in modern day politics is the upswing in political participation by blacks, Hispanics and woman. This new reality has created a situation were the Republicans now need to win what is called a super-majority, of the white vote. Doing the math on this means the Republicans need to get no less than 60% of the white vote. In this writers view, getting 60% of white people to agree on anything is almost impossible. So, the Republicans decided to use the one issue that they felt could galvanize the electorate to their side race. The thinking is that most white southerners harbor some form of prejudice towards blacks. This reality is nowhere more prevalent than in the poor white uneducated population of the south. Poor whites have a need to feel superior to something or somebody and blacks and now Hispanics are the ticket.

 This political strategy is unfortunate. It has created a huge divide in our country. What is really tragic is the Republican Party is stuck with this strategy and to abandon it would amount to political suicide. This approach on the ill side of the human nature does not fare well for the Democratic Party unless we as liberals can champion a cause of enlightenment and education to these wrongful motives sent forth and to overcome them by the one thing that destroys this plan. Voter participation.The Republicans want you to be discouraged by the process. They want you to surrender to their desire if you're not going to vote Republican you should not be allowed to vote at all. In closing, the Democrats face many disadvantages in the south. To get the issues of gridlock and obstruction from our governess we must not be idle observers. I think Pastor William Barbour, who hails from my hometown of Goldsboro, North Carolina said it best.

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