Last week I swore that if I heard this question again, I’d write about it on my blog to be able to point anyone else who had this question to when the question reared it’s head again. I’m a believer in giving the short answer before giving the long answer, so here we go:
- In two words: Civil Rights
- In one word: Racism
This probably isn’t shocking to a lot of you older people, but I bet it is to the younger people out there. Growing up, I always wondered why relatively poor Southerners would vote for a party that encouraged the growth and prominence of big business. It didn’t make sense. Also, I wondered why relatively wealthy Northerners would vote for a party that transferred their wealth to the poor. It was counter to what I understood about human nature. I couldn’t get a direct answer from my history book, my history teacher, or political commentary shows. It just seemed like everyone accepted that this was how it was. How strange.
But then I pieced it together. Northerners used to vote Republican and Southerners used to vote Democratic. This was the way it was from when the Republican party was formed out of other parties (including the Whigs) to support higher education, banking, railroads, industry and cities. This modernization went hand in hand with ending slavery, which they felt was in disharmony with their vision of the future. Ok, so at some point in history it made sense, people were actually voting for their interests.
It stayed this way all the way up to 1948, which was when Harry S Truman ran on a Civil Rights platform as a Democrat. He was supporting views FDR had, but FDR had some big shit go down during his presidency (Great Depression, WWII, you might have heard of it) and he didn’t have time. Then, Strom Thurmond ran as a Dixiecrat (which means a Southern Democrat who is also racist) and won a bunch of Southern votes (4 States).
These Dixiecrats were obviously too numerous to stay a 3rd party for long, so the Republicans, in a particularly shrewd move, absorbed the racists and called it a ‘Southern Strategy‘. In another shrewd move, the Republicans then absorbed the Conservative Christians into the party to combine those who were anxious about racial issues with those to were anxious about religious issues to capture the votes of rural America. They sold ‘less government’ as ‘more freedom’ to them instead of how they sold it in the past: ‘less government’ as ‘better for business’. Absolutely… Brilliant.
And that, my friends, is how a small group of the super wealthy can push their free-market agenda onto the ballots of people who shouldn’t be voting for it: by using racism and religious fanaticism to get votes. As to why the Democrats manage to get so many votes from wealthy White people? I have no idea. I bet when the Republicans came up with this idea, they figured they’d get those votes as well.