White Supremacy Is the Point
All the dog-whistling and hypocrisy cannot hide the truth: the GOP is built on white supremacy and thrives because of it.
The Republican Party was born in 1854 as a reaction to the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Its founders opposed the expansion of slavery to the Western territories. They believed in “high tariffs to promote economic growth, high wages and high profits, [and] generous pensions for Union veterans.”
This Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, Grant, and Eisenhower, died on July 2, 1964; the day LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act.
The GOP goes South
The landmark legislation led to the division of the Democratic Party and a national reshuffling of political influences. In the 1968 presidential election, George Wallace, the segregationist Governor of Alabama infamous for “standing in the schoolhouse door,” won 46 Electoral College votes.
Seeing the rise of a potential third-party movement in the Deep South, Nixon oriented the GOP towards what he called a “Southern strategy.” GOP political strategist Kevin Phillips described the plan in a 1970 New York Times interview. The intention can hardly be misconstrued:
From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 per cent of the Negro vote, and they don’t need any more than that… but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.
Nixon could not communicate outright about white supremacy or segregation, as this would hinder his chances of success with voters outside of the Deep South, so he and his team became semantically creative. As H. R. Haldeman, Nixon’s Chief of Staff explained:
Nixon’s advisers recognized that they could not appeal directly to voters on issues of white supremacy or racism. […] Nixon emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks…