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Tuesday, August 20, 2019
MRC Pushes Debunked Talking Points Denying GOP 'Southern Strategy'
Topic: Media Research Center

The Media Research Center's Ryan Foley used an Aug. 1 post to attack MSNBC's Ari Melber for claining that Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan are part of "the foundation of discrimination and racism and the politics of hate that has long stained America." The factual basis for this statement was the release of an audiotape of a phone call between Reagan and then-President Nixon in which Reagan expressed racist sentiments. Foley did smartly concede taht Reagan's comments were "indefensible," then huffed that Melber had an obligation to provide the history of the Democrats’ record on race":

For starters, 21 Senate Democrats opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 while only six Senate Republicans did. In 1971, the year the aforementioned conversation took place, segregationists, the real “foundation of discrimination and racism and the politics of hate that has long stained America,” made up a large portion of the Democratic Party. 

As for “the southern strategy” supposedly used by Richard Nixon to win the south, it didn’t work. In 1968, half of the southern states were carried by segregationist George Wallace or Democrat Hubert Humphrey. Only in the landslide elections of 1928, 1952, 1956, 1972, 1980, 1984, and 1988 did Republicans carry an overwhelming majority of the southern states.

It was not until 2000 that Republicans began consistently carrying a majority of the southern states in presidential elections. By then, the Democrats’ far-left positions on abortion, guns, and environmentalism had made them unpalatable to a majority of voters in the increasingly conservative and religious south. For more information on the truth about the “southern strategy,” consult this PragerU video from Dr. Carol Swain.

But Foley is misleading about the state of segregation by political party in the 1960s. While 21 Senate Democrats voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he failed to mention that 46 Democrats did -- meaning his claim that "a large portion" of Democrats were segregationists was likely untrue. That shift arguably began in 1948, when President Harry Truman rejected segregationist Strom Thurmond by endorsing a civil rights plank in the Democratic Party platform, forcing him to run as a third-party candidate for president.

Foley also seems to be arguing that because the Southern Strategy "didn't work" in 1968, it was never actually a thing. As historian Kevin Kruse points out in a Twitter thread debunking the PragerU video Foley cites, the Southern Strategy really was a thing. Also, the reason Nixon didn't win all the southern states in 1968 is because they were won by segregationist George Wallace. Nixon won all those states in 1972. And Southerners did not suddenly switch en masse in 2000 over "abortion, guns, and environmentalism"; the shift began in the 1960s as Democrats embraced civil rights and Republicans moved away from it. And the years that Republicans didn't dominate the south were years in which Democrats from the South -- Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton -- ran for president.

Repeating discredited right-wing narratives isn't helping the MRC's credibility.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:30 PM EDT

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