Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Parliamentary Procedures Do Not Explain The Southern Strategy

Richard Reeves' odd explanation of how the South went Republican really doesn't make much sense. Rather than talk about race, he claims the roots of this shift go back to Kennedy forcing a change in the size of the House Rules Committee, which placed more of his allies on it and embarrassed leading Southern Democrats.

This explanation just doesn't hold water. As a commenter on the post named Bill said:

This is bad history. Absent the Voting Rights Act and the other civil rights legislation, it would have taken much more than a rules fight to get the South to defect to the Republican Party. Race, race and race is at the heart of Southern politics. The 2008 election is a measure of how absolutely poorly Bush had performed in office and a growing small band of younger southerners for whom race is not the lynchpin of politics who joined with an omnipresent band of liberal whites of all ages that was helped by record African-American turnout.

Yes. This actually reminds me of arguments claiming the Civil War was not about slavery. Sure, you can point to other areas of tension, but without slavery, none of those other reasons were sufficient for Americans to start killing each other. Similarly, Kennedy undermining the power of conservatives in Congress allowed for civil rights legislation to pass, but it was that legislation specifically, along with Richard Nixon taking advantage of white southern discontent to push his own ambitions, that created the all-Republican South. This legislative battle is an interesting story, but Reeves puts way too much explanatory power on its shoulders.