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Commentary: Did Kevin McCarthy Miss Southern Strategy In History Class, Or Does He Just Think His Voters Did?

Commentary: Did Kevin McCarthy Miss Southern Strategy In History Class, Or Does He Just Think His Voters Did?

How often do you wonder if a legislator is really ignorant of some important fact, or just banking on his voters not knowing better? When it happens, how often is it somehow directly connected to white supremacy or some other form of bigotry?

[Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images]

In this case, it’s Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) who is using the worn-out “but Democrats were the real racists” line. Let me assure him, liberals, leftists, and equality-supporters by any other name, are well aware that a lot of major names in Confederate history are, indeed, followed by a capital letter D.

However, we also know the difference between political party and political philosophy, between Democrat and Progressive. We know that in this moment, the Democratic party predominantly espouses views and policies that are progressive, left-leaning, and mean better equality for marginalized groups. Still, we also know that wasn’t always the case.

If you happen to also not be familiar with the Southern Strategy (let’s be honest, I referred to ‘history class’ in the title, but I did not learn this in my high school history class) check out the History site for a full background, here. (You can also bookmark that or a similar informational site for that one uncle who will definitely echo McCarthy at Thanksgiving.)

Here’s the central point though: the Democrats had the stronghold in the south, until President Harry Truman introduced a pro-civil rights platform in 1948. A chunk of the population immediately dumped the party, calling themselves Dixiecrats, but they still avoided the Republican party — you know, the party of Lincoln, as we’ve been so oft-reminded. Then in the mid-1960s, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed civil rights legislation, alienating more of the pro-slavery, pro-segregation bloc. Over the course of the next decade and a half, Republicans moved in to adopt this bloc — and to quote History:

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By the time Ronald Reagan became president in 1980, the Republican party’s hold on white Southerners was firm. Today, the Republican party remains the party of the South. It’s an ironic outcome considering that a century ago, white Southerners would’ve never considered voting for the party of Lincoln.

So, yes, McCarthy, the statues and portraits might be of Confederate Democrats. But as you’ll likely notice, it’s Republicans who are fighting to keep them up, keep them doing the harm they were erected to do. Also, they were Democrats, but they were not progressives, they were not the party of equality and a fair chance for every American.

So, I don’t speak for everyone on the left, but I think I can say that broadly, we don’t claim them. We don’t want them. We aren’t trying to keep honoring them.

Why are you?

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