Do You Remember the Time?

If this interview with Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler is any indication, Jeffrey Lord's historical ignorance extends far beyond lynching; he even has a hard time grasping the basics of American political history:

"I have felt for a long time that my friends on the American left, in the Democratic party have just had this atrocious history with racial issue," Lord said. "I mean it just can't possibly be any worse. I've gone back and read all the platforms for the Democratic party starting in 1840 which was the first one."


"I understand that people on the other side are going to go poopoopoo and the Nixon Southern Strategy and all that kind of thing," Lord said. "To think that this was just, all these people just switched their party and made the Republican party segregationist is just nuts. I was there."

No, it really isn't. I'm not going to rehash the history of the conservative movement, but it suffices to say that the Republican Party owes much of its electoral success to the mass exodus of Southern whites from the Democratic Party, beginning in the 1960s and easing off in the early 1990s. To illustrate things a bit, here is a graph from National Journal showing the GOP's share of the Southern popular vote over the last 20 presidential elections. In the interest of space, I'm going to limit it to the last 13 elections:

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(National Journal)

Since African Americans vote for Democrats at staggeringly high rates, I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that the GOP's share of the Southern popular vote is mostly -- if not entirely -- white, especially as we move closer to the present day and the parties become more polarized.

I don't expect an ounce of intellectual honesty or basic knowledge from Lords, but it's worth clarifying this for everyone else; beginning in 1964, there was a massive realignment in American politics. Conservative Southern Democrats retired or left the party, and liberal Republicans did the same. Over the next 30 years, the parties would sort themselves out ideologically, as Democratic voters became more liberal and Republican voters became more conservative. And the single major catalyst for this realignment? The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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