Southern Racists and the Republican Party

Southern Racists and the Republican Party

At Bloomberg View, Francis Wilkinson has this to say:

Here is [Heritage Foundation fellow Lee] Edwards's remarkable take on the 1960s: "During this period, African-Americans, long denied the most basic rights, demanded that Republicans act decisively on a variety of fronts, including civil rights, voting rights and economic rights. When Republicans didn't respond to blacks' satisfaction, they were called racists, although the real racists were almost exclusively Southern Democrats."


Casting of guilt onto racist Southern Democrats without acknowledging that approximately 100 percent of racist Southern Democrats switched parties to become Republicans between 1960 and 1980? Check. Implication that demands by a systematically oppressed minority for "civil rights, voting rights and economic rights" were militant and excessive? Check.

The portion I've bolded is just flat-out false.

Back in May, for National Review, I actually went through the trouble of pulling the numbers from the General Social Survey. As a proxy for racism, I used the question of whether the respondent would vote for a black person for president if his party nominated one. (Obviously this measure doesn't work as well for the data since 2008, because one party actually had a black presidential nominee.)

Here's a graph of Republican party ID among Southern whites, divided into these two categories. As you can see, racists and non-racists moved to the Republicans at the same pace:

And here you can see the reverse happening with Democratic ID. Though the numbers jump around a lot, by 1980 -- the point at which Democrats had supposedly lost "100 percent" of the Southern racist vote -- somewhere around half of Southern whites who wouldn't vote for a black president still considered themselves Democrats:

Or, if you prefer to look at votes in presidential elections, you can see rates of Republican voting here and Democratic voting here. Click the NR link above for more information on the methodology and a link to the spreadsheet.

Robert VerBruggen is editor of RealClearPolicy. Twitter: @RAVerBruggen

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