We hear frequently from Democrats about “the Southern Strategy” that Republicans are using capture the vote of primitive, clinging-to-guns-and-religion, racist Southerners. The real history proves a bit more complicated, because the Southern Strategy was an attempt to capture White voters fleeing the Civil Rights agenda:
Up until the post-World War II period, the party’s hold on the region was so entrenched that Southern politicians usually couldn’t get elected unless they were Democrats. But when President Harry S. Truman, a Democratic Southerner, introduced a pro-civil rights platform at the party’s 1948 convention, a faction walked out.
After that, the majority of the South still continued to vote Democratic because it thought of the Republican party as the party of Abraham Lincoln and Reconstruction. The big break didn’t come until President Johnson, another Southern Democrat, signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
During the late 1960s and early ‘70s, white Southerners were still transitioning away from the Democratic party (newly enfranchised black Southerners voted and continue to vote Democratic). And even as Republican Richard Nixon employed a “Southern strategy” that appealed to the racism of Southern white voters, former Alabama Governor George Wallace (who’d wanted “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever”) ran as a Democrat in the 1972 presidential primaries.
In other words, the “Southern Strategy” existed for one election to take advantage of events already set in motion by the Leftist takeover of the Democrats via Civil Rights as a means of appealing to minority voters.