First, 1968, as the Vietnam War approached its high-water mark and the antiwar movement was starting to roll:
Nixon picked up some of the states of the Old Confederacy, largely because of their pro-military tradition and support for the war. “Wallace,” for those of you born yesterday, was Democrat George Wallace, a rabid segregationist who founded the American Independent Party and ran for president on its ticket. He won 13 percent of the popular vote, and carried five states in the Deep South for a total of 46 electoral votes.
Four years later, Nixon faced the first modern Democratic Party presidential candidate, George McGovern, who ran on a “Come Home, America” platform, and on whose campaign many of today’s radicals cut their teeth. Two items of note in the linked video clip: Missouri Senator Tom Eagleton was McGovern’s first running mate, who got dumped by the Compassion Party after it came out that he had been hospitalized for clinical depression and had undergone shock therapy. The other is McGovern’s extensive quote from “This Land is Your Land,” a hit for Peter, Paul and Mary written by the communist fellow-traveler, Woody Guthrie.
Yes, the South voted for the Republican — but so did every other state except for Massachusetts, which was the first indication of just how far gone the Bay State already was.
Four years later, Nixon was in San Clemente in the aftermath of Watergate, and a Southern governor named Jimmy Carter, whose only claim to the White House was that he was not RMN, was running against the Accidental President, Jerry Ford:
Yes, twelve years after the Solid South supposedly flipped to the GOP, here it was, back again, helping to elevate a native son past the Michigander. The two Reagan wipeouts of 1980 and 1984 began the alignment of the South with the GOP — but it was partly reversed by Bill Clinton in 1992:
The Republican ascendancy in Dixie is associated with the rise of the southern middle class, the increasingly trenchant conservative critique of Communism and the welfare state, the Vietnam controversy and the rise of the counterculture, law-and-order concerns rooted in the urban chaos that ran rampant from the late 1960s to the late 1980s, and the incorporation of the radical Left into the Democratic party. Individual events, especially the freak show that was the 1968 Democratic convention, helped solidify conservatives’ affiliation with the Republican party. Democrats might argue that some of these concerns — especially welfare and crime — are “dog whistles” or “code” for race and racism, but this criticism is shallow in light of the evidence and the real saliency of those issues among U.S. voters of all backgrounds and both parties for decades. Indeed, Democrats who argue that the best policies for black Americans are those that are soft on crime and generous with welfare are engaged in much the same sort of cynical racial calculation President Johnson was practicing when he informed skeptical southern governors that his plan for the Great Society was “to have them niggers voting Democratic for the next two hundred years.” Johnson’s crude racism is, happily, largely a relic of the past, but his strategy endures.
So the next time a Regressive tries to repeat the Thurmond myth, show him the maps — and make the Democrats own their history. They don’t like it very much, and who can blame them?