Have those conservatives who take a hostile view of the GOP’s gradual rise in the South (not a reference to Ramesh) quite realized what cause it is they are championing? If the GOP had not become first competitive and then dominant in the southern states, the region would have divided between the Democrats and a new Dixiecrat ( i.e., Wallaceite) party–the shifting line of division being dependent on how “progressive” the national Democrats were on race. Either the Democrats or the South would then have taken much longer to accept and entrench the civil rights revolution. National politics on race would have been much more disturbed and harsh as a result–which is saying quite a lot. By bringing the South into the realm of two-party politics, the “southern strategy” ensured that the debate over civil rights would take place between two parties that had both a major stake in the region and national reputations to consider. Given the nature of democratic politics–in which you have to persuade your constituents to accept social changes they don’t like instead of being able to bully them in an enjoyably moralistic way–both Democrats and Republicans sometimes sounded grudging and reluctant in their acceptance of civil rights. But those were the techniques of political persuasion that effected a revolution without provoking a civil war. Trent Lott was part of this relatively peaceful but inevitably shifty transformation–which is one reason why the attacks on him a few years ago were so mistaken. Equally, Ken Mehlman has internalized the Left’s view of the southern strategy and now apologises because the GOP did not leave the South in the control of the party of Jim Crow. Conservatives should stop being defensive on this score.
Oh, incidentally, will anyone deny that some of the finest American literature in the last hundred years has emerged from the South?