Want to understand why so many Black and Latino voters wouldn’t vote for Romney?
The answer is well understood by people like Lyndsey Graham, and former RNC chairmen: Ken Mehlman, Lee Atwater, and Michael Steele (among others) who have to take these things seriously. In August of 2012 (two months before the election) Lyndsey Graham observed that the Republican Party’s Southern Strategy was “not generating enough angry white guys” to “Stay in business for the long term”.
In 2005 RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman told the NAACP that “we were wrong” to use the Southern Strategy.
Although well known among political commentators, strategists and those negatively impacted, it is rarely explained in the media. The strategy that Senator Graham lamented would not allow his party to ‘stay in business for the long term’ was put forth by political strategist Kevin Phillips. In 1948 the Democratic Party put a civil rights plank into their party platform. By 1964 the civil rights act was passed and Republican Barry Goldwater lost the election in a landslide. Phillips explained that the way for the Republican Party to start winning elections would be for “more Negroes” to “register as Democrats in the South”. By pushing ‘Negroes’ into the Democratic party, Phillips advised, the Republican party would start winning elections because “Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans”. By scapegoating blacks and maximizing fear and resentment in whites Phillips said they could produce enough of Grahams ‘angry white guys’ to win elections. Nixon was so impressed with Phillips’ that he hired him as an advisor to help craft and implement what became known as Nixon’s Southern Strategy (although in no way exclusive to the South).
Former RNC Chairman Lee Atwater (One of the top Republican strategists of the 80’s and 90’s (the Carl Rove of his day) and the architect of the now infamous ‘Willie Horton’ ads) explained in a 1981 interview how his party used the ‘Southern Strategy’ to win the votes of racists without sounding like racists. He explained that the strategy was to “start out in 1954 by saying, “N****r, n****r, n****r.” By 1968 you can’t say “n****r”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff”. Atwater said that to remain effective and not ‘backfire’ the strategy was forced to evolve so that “Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N****r, n****r.””.
In June of 2010 RNC Chair Michael Steele conceded that the Republican Party had been using the Southern Strategy (of driving black (and later Latino) voters into the Democratic Party so that they could attract (and hopefully expand) the much larger (read: election winning) demographic of white racists (what the plans architect called “Negrophobe whites”)) “For the last 40-plus years”.
It is within this context that Senator Graham was criticizing (not on principled grounds, but rather for strategic reasons) the fact that the Southern Strategy would probably not continue to work “for the long term”. Although we may choose to forget, after “40-plus years” the victims usually don’t have that luxury. http://travel.nytimes.com/2005/07/18/opinion/18herbert.html?_r=0
This was all in the background when after the election Mitt Romney told his supporters that he lost the election because of ‘gifts’ given to ‘certain segments of the population’. For example, Mitt Romney explained that for “Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus”.
The message being sent was well understood by people who understand history. Lyndsey Graham responded to Mitt Romney’s statement by saying that “rhetoric like this keeps digging a hole for the Republican party and if we don’t stop digging we’re going to never get out of it.” Expressing his concerns that the strategy may be losing its effectiveness.
Posted Nov 21, 2012