The causes and consequences of the “Southern Strategy” as it relates to African-Americans and the American political system.
Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” (or as the Nixon administration would call it “positive polarization”) of the 1960s was a political platform that provided the final push in transforming the “the party of Lincoln” into the political party greatly favored by the great grandsons of the old Confederacy. This strategy was aimed at getting support from the traditionally Democratic South by promising not to promote sweeping social or economic changes in race relations. Nixon argued that he supported equality however, he was against “big government”. Meaning, he was not in favor of enforcing the civil rights or integration laws. He was against forced busing and affirmative action. Once Nixon was elected he eliminated the timeline requirements for compliance with affirmative action and integration laws using this strategy. Nixon assigned the task of promoting “positive polarization” to his vice president Spiro Agnew. This promotion caused great tension against blacks amongst whites (Spiro would send representatives into white communities disguised as minority advocates to inform them of government programs created to help minorities at the tax payer’s expense). Nixon also promoted black capitalism in an effort to separate middle class blacks from poor blacks.
Nixon’s strategy fueled on racial jealousies was successful. It helped the GOP win five of the past eight presidential elections. It re-established the two-party system, which was once predominantly, the Democratic South. In 1994 it helped the GOP end the 40-year democratic rule in congress.
Why the significance of the new Black Conservatism within the context of the “Southern Strategy” combined with American politics becoming more conservative in the post 1960s era.
The growth in ethnic minorities in this country threatens the very existence of the Republican Party, and the presence of Black Conservatism is vital to its survival. The
shadow of the “Southern Strategy” and radical right association of David Duke, and Pat Buchanan has most definitely reprieved the faces of most non-whites to the GOP. The Republican Party got a glimpse of the political future last fall when a larger than expected number of minority voter turnout helped the Democratic Party gain five congressional seats, and unseated two Republican governors in the deep south. Which brings us to why Black Conservatism is becoming more conservative in the post 1960s era.
There is not anything new about the political philosophy of Black Conservatives. They merely repeat long-standing white conservative and neoconservative arguments. However, what is new in Black conservatives’ analyses is that it is Black people developing an implicitly racist rationale for placing limits on social policies. The rational goes as follows:
Although lingering racism still exists, thanks to the victories of the civil rights struggles, racial discrimination is no longer a critical obstacle to Black progress. We can speak of a racist American past, but not of a racist contemporary America.
African American demands for equal opportunity made during the civil rights era now go too far in demanding equal outcomes. A non-discriminatory America does not ensure equal outcomes. Capitalism maximizes skill and talent and any differences among ethnic groups, or between genders, is a function of each group’s particular strengths and weaknesses.
Today’s problems of race relations and Black poverty cannot be remedied by government policy alone. The roots of today’s problems are located first and foremost
within African Americans: in our inability to successfully compete in a free market system, in the poor values and irresponsible and offensive behavior of poor Blacks, in our psychological hang-ups about group identity and past victimization, and/or in our failure to take full advantage of existing opportunities. In this light, not only are government social welfare and legal remedies, such as affirmative action programs, unnecessary, they are detrimental to the development of Black people. Social welfare programs destroy Black families, foster debilitating dependency, and reward irresponsible behavior.
Affirmative action programs lower Black self-esteem since whites will always diminish Black accomplishment as reflecting only affirmative action imperatives and Black beneficiaries of affirmative action programs can never be fully confident that their success stems from their talent. These programs are also detrimental to Blacks because of the white (male) resentment they engender. Affirmative action has, in any case, only benefited more advantaged Blacks.
The appropriate strategy for African Americans is one focusing on self -help. First, we need to de-emphasize racial identity and loyalty in favor of an American identity. Second, African Americans should compete on the basis of merit only. Third, we need to de-emphasize government programs and civil rights legislation in favor of racial self-help. Blacks need to focus on Black entrepreneurship, building and supporting Black business, particularly in poor Black neighborhoods. And, most important, the Black middle class needs to teach poor African Americans appropriate values and behavior.
The Republican Party use to be known as “the party of Lincoln”. Now it is the party that wishes to irradiate the very principles that Lincoln began. Black Conservatives build on a philosophical foundation borrowed from Booker T. Washington, and incorporate self-help bromides of Black cultural nationalist rhetoric. The new Black Conservative can be viewed as the new racist culture.
The origins of this nucleus of politicians (Black Conservatives), and the extent to which they advance or impede Black political life in America Today.
Dr. Deborah Toler, author of the article Black Conservatives states that, Black conservatives’ work does not exhibit a sustained and systematic examination of conservative political philosophy and its potential usefulness for Black Americans. Nor do the Black conservatives, most of whom are trained social scientists, engage in credible social science research. They ignore reams of data contradicting their underlying assumptions and fail to produce reliable statistical evidence or to generate ethnographic research to support their positions (Dr. Deborah Toler, The Public Eye: Black Conservatives, September 1993). Black Conservatives are hindering the progress of African-Americans today. An excellent example would be the position of Nathan Glazer’s 1975 Book titled, Affirmative Action, Ethnic Inequality and Public Policy, which summarized white neoconservatives’ objections to affirmative action: that, by the end of the 1960s, discrimination was no longer a major obstacle to minorities’ access to employment, education and other social mobility mechanisms; affirmative action has not
benefited the poor who need it most, but has primarily benefited middle class Blacks and other minorities; and affirmative action fuels white resentment against minorities.
The “Southern Strategy” effect is wearing off. The ideals’ of the old Confederacy is most definitely not the same ideals of the new majority. The shadows of Nixon’s intolerance doctrine has damaged the image of the Republican Party. Using Black Conservatives who have little to no connection with the African-American community to capture some of the Black support away form the Democratic Party is an extremist tactic to keep the party alive. “Compassionate Conservatism” does not exist in this country, and the Blacks that belong to the Republican Party are there as tokens.