The Nation: A New Southern Strategy to Repair Our Democracy
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The Nation – May 10, 2023
By Tony Gavito
The decades-long Republican stranglehold on power and policy in the South is a product of manipulation masquerading as mythology. When President Lyndon Johnson, a Southern Democrat, signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, he famously declared that it meant his party had “lost the South” for a generation. But it’s not that Southerners, universally, didn’t support civil rights—it’s that white conservative Southerners, the people with the most political and financial power in the region, didn’t support civil rights.
For decades, the national Democratic Party has accepted President Johnson’s original premise—that if the powerful white conservative voters in the South opposed progressive policy, the whole region was lost to Democrats. In practice, that meant that for generations the Democratic establishment rarely engaged in any serious way with the South, and when they did, it was often with accommodationist, centrist candidates in the mold of Bill Clinton’s conservative-lite “third way.”
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