Southern Strategy

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The Jim Crow legal regime in the former Confederacy, begun in 1876, received the official blessing of a hyperactive US Supreme Court in the Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896, with the fig leaf of Separate But Equal. This doctrine was struck down by the Earl Warren Court in Brown v. Board of Education, leading to the Impeach Earl Warren movement. The political culmination of the Civil Rights movement that followed was the passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957-1968, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Republican Southern Strategy of courting segregationists in the US South (at first under the banner of States' Rights) originated as these actions against Jim Crow started to take hold. The century-old domination of the South by the Yellow Dog Democratic Party crumbled. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina was the first to bolt the Democratic Party and become a Republican. One after another the states of the former Confederacy went Republican, and most continue to this day. In turn, the Republican Party became more and more overtly anti-intellectual, anti-minority, anti-immigrant, anti-labor, and anti-poor much more generally, in support of Southern racism and other forms of White Supremacy, while remaining the party of big business.

Overt and covert support for racism includes

  • Replacing the legal regime known as Jim Crow with more subtle means of preventing Blacks and other minorities from voting.
  • Support for Christian Right issues, most notably in opposition to abortion and gay rights, and in favor of Creationism, which includes the denial that Whites are descended from the common Black African ancestors of all of humanity.
  • Language and symbols that had racist meanings to Southerners and to bigots elsewhere, which could be denied when necessary.
  • States' Rights, meaning the right to oppress citizens and other residents of a state without interference from the Federal government.
  • Opposition to Big Government, meaning social programs for the poor, for minorities, and for women, and Federal enforcement of Civil Rights laws on the states.
  • So-called fiscal conservatism, in the form of support for balanced budgets whenever it was a question of social spending, but not for the military or for tax cuts for the rich.
  • Immigrant-bashing
  • Ideological tests for judges
  • Demonizing and scapegoating of opponents


  • The Origins of the Southern Strategy, by Bruce H. Kalk. Lexington Books, May 28, 2001. ISBN 0739102427
  • The Rise of Southern Republicans, by Earl Black and Merle Black. Belknap Press (Harvard), September 30, 2003. ISBN 0674012488
  • The Southern Strategy Revisited: Republican Top-Down Advancement in the South, by Joseph A. Aistrup. University Press of Kentucky, January 11, 1996. ISBN 0813119049
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