Why Hillary Clinton Might Win Georgia

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tags: election 2016, GOP, Goldwater



Joseph Crespino is a professor of history at Emory and the author of “Strom Thurmond’s America.”

Recent polls show something that has caught even the most optimistic liberals by surprise: Hillary Clinton is tied with Donald J. Trump in Georgia, catching up with him in South Carolina and generally showing strength in traditionally Republican parts of the South. It seems like the Democratic dream come true — demographic changes are turning Southern states purple.

But this story has less to do with the future than the past, and both parties run a risk in misreading it. Mr. Trump’s racially charged hard-right campaign reveals a fault line in Republican politics that dates from the very beginning of G.O.P. ascendancy in the South.

The Republican’s Southern Strategy is one of the most familiar stories in modern American history: Beginning in the 1960s, the party courted white racist voters who fled the Democratic Party because of its support for civil rights.

But things were never quite so simple. Yes, racial reaction fed G.O.P. gains in the 1960s and ’70s. And yes, Barry Goldwater called it “hunting where the ducks are.”

What did that mean? Goldwater’s detractors understood it to mean that he was going after Dixiecrats, the Southern Democrats who had abandoned the party in 1948 over civil rights. Goldwater, however, maintained that he was going after college-educated white collar professionals who were building the modern Southern economy.

That was the vision he described in his speech at the Georgia Republican Convention in May 1964. G.O.P. success in the South, he argued, stemmed from “the growth in business, the increase in per capita income and the rising confidence of the South in its own ability to expand industrially and commercially.” Southern Republicanism, he said, was based on “truly progressive elements.”

Goldwater had a point. It was Southern businessmen who grew the party in the 1950s. Democrats, they said, were the party of corruption and cronyism. These Republicans even worked together with black Republicans, who since the 19th century had been the Southern G.O.P.’s most loyal constituency....



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