POLITICS JUNE 19, 1995
When the new Republican Congress was sworn in last January, the South finally conquered Washington. The defeated Democratic leadership had been almost exclusively from the Northeast, the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, with Speaker Tom Foley of Washington, Majority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri and Majority Whip David Bonior of Michigan in the House, and, on the Senate side, Majority Leader George Mitchell from Maine. The only Southerner in the Democratic congressional leadership was Senate Majority Whip Wendell Ford of Kentucky. By contrast, all but one of the new leaders of the Republican Congress hail from a former state of the Confederacy: Speaker Newt Gingrich is a Georgian, House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Whip Tom DeLay are both Texans and Senate Majority Whip Trent Lott is from Mississippi. Only Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas remains as a fossil of the era in which the GOP was a party of the Midwest and the Northeast that seldom received a Southern vote. Strom Thurmond, the 1948 presidential candidateof the segregationist States' Rights Party, the so-called Dixiecrats, is now chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee--a grim irony, inasmuch as the integration of the armed forces was one of the reforms that inspired Thurmond to bolt from Harry Truman's Democratic Party in the first place.
The Southernization of the GOP has been a long time coming, but it has now truly arrived. In the first congressional elections of the New Deal era, in 1934, there were virtually no Republicans from the South or West; 90 percent of the Republicans in the 74th Congress came from the northern tier. As late as 1946, the GOP gained control of the House on the basis of votes from New England and the Atlantic, Great Lakes and Plains regions. By 1984, however, more than 50 percent of the Republicans in the Senate were from the South and west of the Mississippi.
These shifts aren't just at the federal level, either. Since the 1960s, the Republican Party has increasingly been able to elect governors, other state officials and legislators in the South, although local and county machines still tend to be Democratic. Last November, the gains were particularly dramatic, from Texas, where George Bush Jr. beat out Ann Richards, to Florida, where only the votes of elderly retirees (many from the Northeast) saved Democratic Governor Lawton Chiles from defeat at the hands of another Bush scion, Jeb. This local depth, in turn, has given the Southern Republicans what they had, until recently, lacked: a large pool of able, experienced politicians at lower levels who can be recruited to run for more important offices. Their ranks have been augmented by the defections of conservative Democratic "boll weevils," such as Bob Stump, a representative from Arizona, who joined the GOP in 1982, and Phil Gramm, who converted in 1983 after he was thrown off the House Budget Committee by Democratic leaders.
The foundations of November's Republican victories in the South, and in Washington, are now familiar. They were established in the 1960s by Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon, with some help from George Wallace. In 1964, Goldwater's opposition to federal civil rights legislation made him the hero of white supremacists. Though he lost his presidential bid, Goldwater mortally wounded the older Northeastern Republican establishment. William Rusher, the former publisher of National Review and one of the architects of the Goldwater campaign, has written that it "turned the Republican Party over--permanently, as matters turned out--to a new and basically conservative coalition based on the South, the Southwest and the West, ending the long hegemony of the relatively liberal East in the GOP's affairs." Significantly, five of the six states Goldwater carried were south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
The success of Goldwater, and of George Wallace in his independent 1968 presidential bid, inspired Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy" (which had its manifesto in Kevin Phillips's 1969 book The Emerging Republican Majority). Nixon's plan to substitute ex-Democrat John Connally for Spiro Agnew as vice president so Connally could run for office in 1976 as the candidate of the new Republican majority party, was wrecked by Watergate and the temporary revulsion for the GOP. Under Reagan, Bush and Clinton, however, the long-term trend toward Republican growth in the South and West resumed, with the result that today the stereotypical reactionary Southern senator with a drawl is more likely to be a member of the Republican congressional leadership than a Dixie Democrat.
The elections in November were not the result of a political realignment throughout the country. There's been none, and neither party can claim a truly national majority. In fact, the major trend in party identification for several decades has been not realignment but de-alignment. Self-identified Democrats have steadily declined as a percentage of the electorate, but Republicans have not commensurately gained. Rather, independents have grown in numbers so that they now account for about a third of the electorate, forming a de facto third party of floating, alienated voters. It seems unlikely that the GOP will be able to incorporate these voters permanently--particularly if they come to identify the Republican Party as the government party.
What's more, Republican gains in the South in the past generation have been offset by losses elsewhere. The most striking changes have been in the Northeast and Midwest, the homelands of the Republican Party from Lincoln to Rockefeller. Between 1952 and 1994, Democrats edged out Republicans in percentage of Congress members elected from the Northeast. The Republican congressional advantage in the Midwest, where as late as 1968 the Republican advantage was more than 2 to 1, has declined to near-parity. Blacks, the most loyal Republican supporters in the South from the end of Reconstruction until the Goldwater takeover of the GOP, have fled to become the most loyal Democratic voting bloc, along with Jews. Among so-called "Hispanics," Cuban-Americans tend to be Republican, Mexican-Americans in California solidly Democratic and Mexican-Americans in Texas increasingly Republican.
Nor is the new Republican dominance a function of any ideological shift toward intellectual conservatism in the country at large. In their mastery of the mass media as well as in their views, Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson are the heirs not of William F. Buckley Jr. and the neoconservatives but of the Southern and Western far right that vehemently and in some cases violently opposed the New Deal and desegregation.
To cite just one example of this lineage: the far-right media empire of the late Dallas oilman H.L. Hunt from the '50s to the '70s anticipated the present-day conservative media network in many of its details. Hunt's Facts Forum, for example, was a forerunner of the "The Rush Limbaugh Show" and the conservative National Empowerment Television. Founded in 1951, Facts Forum sponsored nationwide radio broadcasts played by hundreds of radio stations, as well as TV shows, one filmed in Washington, that were carried by dozens of stations across the country. Many of the themes of today's Republicanism--loss of sovereignty to the U.N., the totalitarian tendencies of liberalism and the corruption of mainline Protestantism and Judaism--can be found in the titles of free books mailed by the Facts Forum library, a predecessor of the Conservative Book Club: We Must Abolish the United Nations, Hitler Was a Liberal and Traitors in the Pulpit. Even gay-baiting, a relatively recent addition to mainstream conservatism, is an old theme of the Southwestern far right; witness another Facts Forum title, Behind the Lace Curtains of the Y.M.C.A.
Long before there was a Christian Coalition, H.L. Hunt was subsidizing the Campus Crusade for Christ; and before Pat Robertson established the Christian Broadcasting Network, Hunt had founded life line, a nominally religious broadcasting and newspaper empire whose most influential officers, according to one historian, "were former FBI men and fundamentalist preachers." The complicity of contemporary conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, Jerry Falwell and the editors of The American Spectator in spreading crackpot conspiracy theories about Bill Clinton has a precedent, too, in the harsh attacks on Kennedy and Johnson subsidized by Hunt.
In some cases the link between Hunt's far right and today's Republican center are direct; a young football player named Jack Kemp, for example, along with Pat Boone, sat on the executive committee of Hunt's "District Speakers, Inc." Though Hunt's empire declined after his death in 1974, his son Nelson Bunker Hunt, an ardent admirer of the John Birch Society and a contributor to the Wallace campaign, helped preside at the marriage of the far right and the Republican Party. In 1982, he and his allies raised $350,000 for the National Conservative Political Action Committee. In 1984, during the Republican National Convention, he hosted a barbecue for Republicans at his ranch outside Dallas. Jerry Falwell gave the invocation, and Pat Boone and Bob Hope entertained an audience that included Jesse Helms, Orrin Hatch and Howard Phillips of the Conservative Caucus. The center of gravity of the Republican Party, in drifting to the Southwest, had moved far to the right.
Since the new Republican movement has much more in common with the old Dixiecrats than with neoconservatives, the most fruitful way to analyze and predict its course is not to read The Public Interest but to examine the history of state and local politics in the South. The greatest student of Dixie in the twentieth century was V.O. Key Jr. (1908-1963), a native of Austin who became a Harvard professor, famous for his book Southern Politics in State and Nation. (It is no coincidence that Key, like C. Wright Mills, another student of American elites who found refuge in the Ivy League, was a Texan; though Texas is not the most typical Southern state, its oligarchs, unlike the "gentry" of the Deep South, have seldom attempted to camouflage the harsh realities of their power.) Key refuted the theory that blamed Southern backwardness on the "poor white trash"; in fact, he demonstrated, the rich and educated oligarchy of the lowland "black belt," the so-called "Southern Bourbons," cynically manipulated low-income whites in the mostly white Southern upcountry in order to maintain strict control of the racial, social and economic order in the Southern states and the unity of "the solid South" in Congress.
Southern Bourbon conservatism was--and is-- radically different from the conservative tradition of the North. Northern conservatives, from Alexander Hamilton to Eisenhower, though biased in favor of business against labor, favored a strong federal government, with a tax base adequate for funding "internal improvements"--turnpikes, canals, railroads, the interstate highway system--and a first-rate system of public education (Hamilton wanted to found a national university). Southern conservatives, from Jefferson and Jackson to today's leaders of the GOP, have preferred low taxes and low services--crumbling roads, overcrowded schools without enough textbooks. "We are a low-tax, low-service state," Jared Hazelton of the Texas Research League proudly told a reporter in 1985.
As early as the 1970s, Southern conservatives in the GOP broke with traditional Republican fiscal conservatism to support what have become the central principles of the new Republican Party: massive tax cuts and the ceding of control over federally funded programs to the states. In the Senate version of the 1978 Kemp-Roth "supply-side" tax-cut bill, which inaugurated the present era of deficits, not a single Republican senator from the Great Lakes and border states, and only 20 percent of the Republican senators from the Atlantic and New England states, co-signed the bill. In contrast, 40 percent of the Pacific Republicans, 33 percent of the Southeasterners, 60 percent of the Southwesterners and 100 percent of the Republican senators from the Mountain states co-sponsored Kemp-Roth.
The argument that today's conservative positions represent a rational response to alleged "failures" of liberal policies in the '70s and '80s is simply not true; Southern Republicans have favored tax cuts over balanced budgets for two decades, regardless of the state of the economy or the deficit. Today's Republican obsession with tax cuts is not a reasoned response to federal spending, but a rigid, quasi-religious expression of the Jacksonian political culture of the Southern and Western United States. The regional conflict in Republican philosophy lives on, as a glance at last May's vote in the House to gut the 1972 Clean Water Act reveals: a majority of Republican representatives from Connecticut and Wisconsin voted against the bill, while Republicans from Texas, Colorado and North Carolina, among other Southern and Western states, were unanimously in favor.
The differences between the older Northern Federalist-Whig-Republican tradition and Southern Bourbon conservatism are not limited to economic issues. Northern conservatives, though they could be as racist as white Southerners, tended to favor a federal role in civil rights: Hamilton wanted to free the slaves during the Revolutionary War; Lincoln finally destroyed slavery; Theodore Roosevelt infuriated Southerners by inviting Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House; and Eisenhower sent the Eighty-second Airborne to Little Rock in 1957 and criticized the 1964 Republican platform for not calling for stronger federal enforcement of civil rights. Needless to say, in this area, Southern conservatism was the evil which Northern conservatism sought to cure.
Goldwater was primarily responsible for turning the party of Lincoln into a "white man's party" which, by the 1990s, would be dominated by the ideological descendants of the Dixiecrats (and in some cases, like that of Strom Thurmond, by surviving Dixiecrats). In 1960, Goldwater denounced the Compact of Fifth Avenue between Nelson Rockefeller and Richard Nixon as the "Munich of the Republican Party" because of Nixon's agreement to revise the platform in favor of "aggressive action to remove the remaining vestiges of segregation or discrimination in all areas of national life." As Goldwater explained to an Atlanta audience in 1961, "We're not going to get the negro vote as a block in 1964 and 1968, so we ought to go hunting where the ducks are."
Ronald Reagan--who would rise to national prominence on the basis of his speech at the 1964 convention nominating Goldwater--followed Goldwater's lead. Reagan voted in favor of a California state ballot proposition that tried to strike down open-housing laws, explaining that black complaints about real-estate discrimination were merely "staged attempts to rent homes, when in truth there was no real intention of renting, only causing trouble." One of Reagan's favorite stories on the stump, when he ran for president, was an anecdote about a "welfare queen," whom everyone understood to be black, making $150,000 a year. Though delivered in a denatured Midwestern voice, this was Dixie demagogy at its finest.
Southern-style racism has become more, not less, blatant in the Republican Party in recent years, if only in coded form. Mainstream conservatives, who in the 1980s were careful to identify themselves, rather disingenuously, with the color-blind integrationism of Martin Luther King Jr., have recently lionized Charles Murray and Peter Brimelow for arguing, respectively, that black and Hispanic Americans have, on average, innately lower intelligence than white Americans and that Latin American and Asian immigrants are unassimilable foreigners whose mores could unravel the republic. The new conservative obsession with eugenics and non-white immigration is to a large degree the result of the Southern electoral ascendancy in the GOP.
The Southernization of Republican philosophy has done more than transform once-moderate Republican positions on the economy and race. The politics of "culture war," adopted now by mainstream conservatives and neoconservatives as well as the far right, is, like so much else in the GOP, a transplant from the poisoned soil of the Bourbon South. Anti-intellectualism is not a traditional Republican theme; President James Garfield was fluent in Latin and Greek, Theodore Roosevelt wrote more than a dozen books and served as the president of the American Historical Association and Dwight Eisenhower was president of Columbia University. George Bush, who claimed to admire Theodore Roosevelt, in 1988 ran in most un-Rooseveltian fashion, against Harvard (and not because Bush went to Yale). Today's Republican anti-intellectualism is the gift of George Wallace to the GOP. Dan Quayle may talk about "cultural elites," but everyone knows he means "pointy-heads."
Theodore Roosevelt opposed both prayer in public schools and public money for religious schools. His successors in the GOP, however, seek to encourage small children to jump up in classrooms to praise Jesus and to replace the public school system with taxpayer-funded private schools. Conservatives have been careful to present the school-choice movement as a national movement, transcending race, region and religion. As part of this strategy, they play up the alleged troubles of Hasidic schools, like the Kiryas Joel School District in New York, and argue that the greatest beneficiaries of school choice would be poor black children in northern cities like Chicago who could receive first-rate educations in parochial schools. One may doubt, however, that the lily-white and disproportionately large Southern base of the GOP favors school choice primarily out of a disinterested desire to promote that centuries-old Southern nightmare--the Catholic-black alliance. The fact is that the chief beneficiaries of school choice would be Southern Protestant evangelical bible schools, which, incidentally, would have almost exclusively white student bodies. It is no accident that the Reagan administration fought the IRS over the revocation of the tax-exempt status not of a black-majority parochial school in the Northeast, nor of a Hasidic school district, but of Bob Jones University, a fundamentalist academy that banned the practice and promotion of interracial dating.
The beginnings of the present-day school-choice enthusiasm in the South go back to the civil rights era, when several Southern legislatures decided to abolish public education in their states altogether rather than allow white and black children to mingle in the same classrooms. The federal judiciary thwarted their plans; school choice seeks to achieve the same end by different means. Outside of the South, in parts of the country with strong traditions of public education and different political cultures, school choice has little appeal. In California, suburban Republicans, satisfied with their public schools, recently combined with Democrats to defeat a school-choice ballot initiative.
The great champions of public education in the United States have all been Northerners, like Horace Mann of Massachusetts, the father of the public school system, and Republican Senator Justin Morrill of Vermont, author of the Morrill Land Grant University Act of 1862. The Southern ruling class, though, has had an obsessive fear of the subversive effects of education ever since Virginia Governor William Berkeley in 1671 boasted: "I thank God there are no free schools nor printing, and I hope we shall not have these [for a] hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy, and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them.... God keep us from both!" Education and free discussion threatened what W. J. Cash, in The Mind of the South, described as the uniquely Southern ideal of the homogeneous community, "a place where dissent and variety are completely suppressed ... where men become virtual replicas of one another." It is no coincidence that Southern universities of the first rank, such as Duke, Vanderbilt and Southern Methodist University, have tended to be located on the periphery of the Tidewater South, remote from the power centers of the Bourbon rich.
For generations, Southern conservatives have sought to use state governments to purge "radical" professors from state universities. Consider North Carolina, where New Dealer and anti-segregationist Frank Porter Graham turned the University of North Carolina into the leading Southern university. When Graham, appointed to the Senate by a progressive governor, ran for election on his own, one of the campaign ads that brought him down read: "wake up, white people. Do You Want Negroes Working Beside You, Your Wife and Daughters? Using Your Toilet Facilities? Frank Graham Favors Mingling of the Races." The media consultant behind the successful smear campaign was the young Jesse Helms.
Helms, more than any Republican politician, is responsible for the present-day Republican "culture war," which he pioneered during the 1980s with his attacks on the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Since then, abandoning their scruples one by one, more sophisticated, conservative intellectuals have joined in this peculiarly Southern form of anti-intellectualism. In their tirades against the NEA, the NEH and campus ideologues, Northern conservatives like William Bennett, Lynne Cheney and Dinesh D'Souza are playing an old Southern tune.
In The Last Gentleman (1966), Walker Percy's protagonist returns after many years to a (white) South that has been transformed: "The South he came home to was different from the South he had left. It was happy, victorious, Christian, rich, patriotic and Republican." While the white South appears to be shifting its allegiances permanently to the Republican Party, the country as a whole has not--not yet. Whether the transformed GOP can expand from its new Southern and Western base to create a lasting majority remains to be seen. The new Republicans might be encouraged by the fact that a number of national social trends have been going their way. The three most important have been the nationalization of the race problem, the transformation of the world economy and the disintegration of the national parties in an era of factional and plebiscitary politics.
The nationalization of "Southern" racial patterns has resulted from the black immigration to large urban areas in every region of the country and the massive immigration from the Third World that followed reforms in immigration policy in the 1960s. In the past, the white majority in each region faced different ethnic "others": European immigrants in the North and Midwest, blacks in the South, Mexicans along the border, East Asians in California. Today in metropolitan areas everywhere one tends to find the same patterns--blacks, Hispanics and Asian middle-men in the inner city and virtually all-white suburbs beyond.
There is another parallel. In the New South (as in the Old South) the most significant geographic division was between the heavily black, Bourbon-dominated tidewater and the middling-to-poor white upcountry or Piedmont. A similar pattern appears to be emerging in the United States, with a division between the "brown belt" metropolitan areas of the coasts and lowlands, where both minorities and white wealth are concentrated, and the states of the Rocky Mountains and northern interior, where there are few nonwhites and fewer extremes of wealth and poverty (all of the ten most "typical" American cities--with Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the lead--are found in the American upcountry). The brown belt itself is divided between minority-dominated inner cities and homogeneous white suburban and exurban rings. Ominously, while most of the new nonwhite immigration is concentrated in a few coastal states, there is an ongoing white exodus from those same states. This raises the possibility that the old Southern Bourbon strategy of uniting black-belt whites and upcountry whites against lowland black majorities might be emulated, in the twenty-first century, by a "national" Bourbon strategy, allying wealthy, outnumbered suburban whites in majority-nonwhite coastal states like California, Texas and Florida with middling whites in the Rocky Mountain and Plains states, whose political power is grossly exaggerated by Senate malapportionment (see "The Infernal Senate," by Tom Geoghegan, tnr, November 21, 1994).
Another factor promoting the Southernization of America is the abandonment, by American business elites, of the older Whig-Republican economic nationalism, based on massive public investment in infrastructure (the railroads) and high wages (even before the U.S. industrialized, the wages of its free workers were the highest in the Western world). If the 1947 Ford Motor Company-UAW deal was the cornerstone of postwar American prosperity, guaranteeing union labor high wages to support a mass consumer market in the United States, Reagan's breaking of the patco strike in 1982 inaugurated the present era. The bipartisan economic strategy of today's America--expressed, for example, by proponents of nafta--holds that American competitiveness is to be achieved by weakening unions and lowering labor costs. This was the classic strategy of Southern Bourbon elites, who tried to attract Northern manufacturing by promising cheap labor, weak unions and low taxes. Just as Newt Gingrich recently argued that a higher minimum wage would make American workers uncompetitive with low-wage Mexicans, so the Bourbons of the New South argued against every reform proposal--free textbooks for schoolchildren, state highways--on the grounds that it would cost too much and drive away business and investment capital. Southern economists even warned that child labor laws would bankrupt the Southern textile industry. The GOP, originally the party of manufacturing tariffs and high wages, has now adopted the low-wage, low-benefit, low-tax approach to economic development favored by Bourbon Democrats.
By far the most dramatic example of the creeping Southernization of America is the replacement of disciplined party politics by a shrill, candidate-centered and money-driven politics. The basic polarity in the one-party New South was not between parties but between insiders and outsiders, between the Bourbon oligarchs and various charismatic populists. Both conservatives and populists competed to escalate "culture war" politics in order to frighten poorly educated whites into their camps. The new American politics is taking the same form, with increasingly radical outsiders appealing to grass-roots support--Buchanan, Brown, Perot--rebelling against slick, corporate-funded establishment politicians like Clinton and Bush.
Although demagogic politics is not limited to the South, the Southern states have been less "laboratories of democracy," to use Justice Louis Brandeis's phrase, than laboratories of demagogy. While the grievances of populist constituencies in the oligarchic South were often real, they were almost always disappointed by their clownish or corrupt candidates. Of "Dixie demagogues" like Ellison D. "Cotton Ed" Smith, historian Joel Williamson writes, "They were essentially dishonest and negative. They did nothing socially, and they really did nothing politically. Their prime function, it seems, was simply to be colorful and to entertain." Rush Limbaugh, anyone? The most effective Southern populist was the least typical--Louisiana Governor Huey P. Long, "the Kingfish," who was able to break the power of the Louisiana oligarchy only by building up a combination of a police state and a criminal syndicate.
The Southern conservatives, while mastering the arts of demagogy, hedged their bets by disenfranchising as many lower-income whites as they could by means of literacy tests, poll taxes and residency requirements. It should come as no surprise that the GOP has killed all the measures to reform America's corrupt campaign financing system, or that The Wall Street Journal, denouncing measures like motor-voter and Saturday voting that would make it as easy to vote in the U.S. as in other democracies, raises the specter of "electoral fraud"--the same turnip ghost invoked by segregationist opponents of the Voting Rights Act. (The Republican attack on unfunded mandates has, among its other goals, the purpose of weakening federal protection of voter rights.) While thwarting all attempts to reduce the dependence of politicians on rich donors and interest groups, Republicans have been pushing a typically Jacksonian placebo for the ills of government: term limits.
Hedging their bets still further, Republican politicians are cooperating with black activists in using the Voting Rights Act to ensure the creation of minority congressional districts. While blacks and Hispanics are thus electorally ghettoized, the number of conservative lily-white districts increases. Even this contemporary Republican ploy has a little-known Southern precedent; the emancipation of blacks after the Civil War had the paradoxical effect of increasing the power of wealthy tidewater whites against upcountry whites in many Southern state legislatures. The reason: for purposes of apportionment, blacks were counted as "qualified electors"--increasing the political weight of the black belt--at the same time that they were disenfranchised by literacy tests, poll taxes and other devices.
Of course, for many of these developments, liberals have no one to blame but themselves. Liberals first nationalized issues like censorship, abortion and gay rights, inadvertently calling into being national versions of the local religious pressure groups that used to lobby state legislatures. The liberal strategy of de-emphasizing genuine progress made by blacks, for fear of promoting complacency, has backfired, creating a distorted image of generic black degeneration, like something out of racist tracts of the 1900s, in the minds of frightened whites across the country. It was liberals who invented the racial gerrymandering that the Republican Party has now mastered, to destroy biracial Democratic districts by ghettoizing black voters. Liberals, too, favored a "participatory democracy" based on primaries rather than party conventions that has led, in practice, to successful rabble-rousing by mad-as-hell right-wing talk-show hosts and mediagenic millionaires. Rejection of assimilation and integration for multi-culturalism is guaranteed to keep non-elite groups divided and mutually hostile in the face of a homogeneous, almost entirely white national overclass. The neo-Bourbons could not ask for more useful enemies.
None of the trends I have described--from the centrality of race in politics and the adoption of a cheap-labor economic strategy to the phony populism and culture-war demagogy--is in itself particularly Southern. But the emerging combination clearly is. Anyone who doubts the importance of the transformation of the GOP by Jacksonian Southerners should try to imagine Dwight Eisenhower supporting congressional witch-hunts against federal law enforcement agents, or Robert Taft cultivating votes by denouncing abortion, premarital sex and homosexuality, or Abraham Lincoln saying, as Ronald Reagan did in his inaugural, "Government is not part of the solution, it is the problem."
Is there a way out of this? The construction of a national, political and social response to the Southern coup will require a long, and difficult, period of sustained effort. But it can only beginif Democrats--and those few principled Republicans who are left--actively contest the claim of the Southern-dominated GOP that it now speaks in any way for a new American majority. It does not. Democrats should point out that the new Republican Party is little more than the mouthpiece for the least "American" section of the country.
Does this sound prejudiced? As a sixth-generation Texan, and a descendant of Confederates (one of whom had his Georgia farm charcoaled by General Sherman) and of Southerners back to 1628, I would never suggest that Southerners, as such, be attacked or derided. The South exports some of the country's best literature, music and food--but it also exports its worst politics. Attacking Southern political culture is not anti-Southern--enlightened Southerners have been doing it for centuries. Here are one early Virginia politician's observations about North-South differences in political culture: "In the North they are cool, sober, laborious, independent, jealous of their own liberties and just to those of others." Southerners, though, are "fiery, voluptuary, indolent, unsteady, zealous for their own liberties, but trampling on those of others." Thus wrote Thomas Jefferson. Resisting the Southernization of America is a political task principled Southerners and Northerners should be able to agree upon. If they fail, George Wallace's boast may yet prove to be a prophecy: "Alabama has not joined the nation, the nation has joined Alabama!"