William B. Turner
A story about white women leaving the Republican Party. A story about young people not joining the Republican Party. A story about Republican members of Congress retiring in droves.
What do they all have in common?
The so called president.
Lyndon Johnson knew what he was doing. He knew that his very prominent role in getting Congress to enact major legislation prohibiting racial discrimination against African Americans and helping them to vote would cause white southerners to leave the Democratic Party, their home since its founding in 1800 or so, in droves.
And leave they did. South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond had already bolted the Party in 1948, when Harry Truman used African American civil rights as a key component of his campaign. Thurmond ran for president himself that year on the “states’ rights” platform and lost badly, then became a Republican.
In 1964, Johnson still had to round up Republican votes for the Civil Rights Act because there were Republicans then who still cared about good policy and enough southern Democrats in Congress who opposed African American civil rights at any cost that he needed Republican votes.
In 1968, Johnson stunned everyone by choosing not to run for president again, leaving his vice president, Hubert Humphrey, to lose to the always calculating and opportunistic Richard Nixon, who cooked up the magic sauce to appeal to all the good, white Americans who were not too sure about all this civil rights stuff, but did not want to appear overtly racist. Lots of people like to whip out a reference to Nixon’s supposed “southern strategy” to look well informed, but it was really a border south strategy. Democrat George Wallace had the deep South locked up by going full racist, and Nixon calculated that competing with him would cost more moderate voters than it was worth.
Not that Nixon had any compunctions about going full racist per se.
And so, the outcome Johnson predicted came to pass. It took time, but the solid South is still the solid South, only solidly Republican instead of solidly Democratic. Only after she became famous for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples did Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis change her Party registration from Democrat to Republican.
Johnson, as a Democratic president, alienated an important segment of voters by pursuing very important, highly beneficial public policy.
Could it be that Donald Trump is pulling a reverse Johnson, alienating important segments of voters by pursuing very important, highly detrimental public policy? But also by acting like a crazy, spoiled twelve year old.
If so, the Republicans are only getting what they deserve. Following blindly the Nixon recipe for electoral success, caring only to hold power with zero concern for the quality of the policy they promote, they have poisoned our political atmosphere and deserve richly to choke on the smog.
They could not have picked a better candidate to lead their drive to political suicide than Donald Trump.
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