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The South, Its Political Past and Present

A little history:. In the aftermath of the 1876 presidential election, when the electoral vote between the Democrat, William J. Tilden of New York, and the Republican, Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio, was tied, and thus was to be decided by Congress, the Republicans made a deal with sufficient Congressional Southern Democrats. In exchange for them voting for Hayes, and making him president, Hayes would pull all of the federal troops out of the South, thus ending Reconstruction.

The incumbent president, Ulysses S. Grant, began to enforce the unwritten deal, and pull out troops. Hayes continued it, and all the troops were gone. Freed from federal regulation of their state laws and voting systems, the Jim Crow era in the South began. So “the party of Lincoln” ultimately became the party which betrayed his legacy, in order to win a presidential election.

Various devices were used to disenfranchise Black people in the South. There was the poll tax, which required payment of up to $200 in some cases, to be allowed to vote. Most Black people, newly freed from slavery, many working as underpaid sharecroppers, could not afford them. To get rid of the rest of the Black voters, they instituted literacy tests, which most of the uneducated could not pass. And then, the grandfather clauses, where you were exempt from a property requirement or poll tax, if you or your ancestors here had voted before 1865. But Black people were only given the right to vote in 1870, so they were obviously all banned by these “clever’ provisions cooked up by Southerners.

Imagine this: it took until 1915 for the Supreme Court to declare grandfather clauses unconstitutional, as violating the 15th Amendment right to vote. As to the poll taxes, it took the 24th Amendment; and even then, Southern states looked for ways to get around that; until a 1965 Supreme Court decision completely invalidated them. Ah the days of a fair and judicial Supreme Court.

As to the literacy tests, since many White Southerners were also illiterate, some states adopted “reasonable interpretation” rules, where voting registrars could decide what constituted passing such a test. Of course, most Whites were decided to have passed the tests, while most Blacks were decided to have failed them.

By 1905, virtually not one single Black person in the South was able to vote. That is the history and legacy of the post-Civil War South.

As we know, in the era of 1790-1865, the Democrats were essentially the party of the South and of slavery. The Republicans were the party of big business, and the abolitionists. After the Civil War, the South remained staunchly Democratic, because Lincoln had been a Republican, and Republicans in Congress had implemented Reconstruction.

The South always voted Democratic, even when the national Democratic Party had evolved into a party of the working class, which championed liberal reforms in all areas. It was President Kennedy who sent in federal troops to enforce integration. It was President Johnson who got the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts passed. Finally, Republicans figured out that their “law and order” slogans, and their opposition to Democratic presidents, would fit perfectly in the South, so they adopted a “Southern Strategy,” designed to make what had been previously been called the “Democratic Solid South,” completely Republican. This was building upon what the “Dixiecrats” of 1948 had done, walking out of the Democratic Convention because President Truman supported a strong civil rights plank.

And the Southern Strategy worked, as all of those states eventually overwhelmingly became Republican. The few exceptions were when the Democrats ran a Southerner such as Carter or Clinton; and then Georgia in 2020, which so shocked them, that they immediately sought to make sure that a Democrat could never win an election in that state again.

Now, Southern states like Georgia and Texas are not the only ones run by Republicans which are passing draconian voter suppression laws. But Southern states originally provided the template.

It was the Supreme Court, filled with the choices of Republican Presidents, who were largely elected by Southern states and Southern voters, which tossed out a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, and is ready to find that the vote suppression being passed now, is legitimately the province of the states to run their own elections. If they indeed decide that way, we will likely see various states finding other insidious means to keep Democrats, and particularly Black Democrats, from voting.

Can anything be done? Yes, passage of the HR1 and the new Voting Rights Act, would go a long way, though do not be surprised if the states tried to ignore them, get around them, dare themselves to be sued. Remember, all they need to do is to win back the Senate in 2022 (and suppressing votes in Georgia and Arizona, where there will be full term Senate elections would most likely get them there), and then they take over the Senate. If they can use it to win the presidency in 2024, they can install their full fascist state. If they cannot, they can still use the Senate to block any Democratic legislation, of course including voter rights laws; and they will still dare the Democrats to send federal troops in to enforce them. But they are figuring that the Supreme Court will obviate any of that.

And passing these current bills is contingent upon abolishing the filibuster, even just for these particular bills.. And that is a major task, but we have to hope that somehow Senators Manchin and Sinema have to be convinced that permanently losing voting rights for tens of millions of Americans is not worth maintaining the filibuster.

Past that, there needs to be a major mobilization of Democrats. Somehow getting people prepared to vote even with the strictures; finding IDs for those who have moved and lost them. etc. Filing as many lawsuits as possible against these laws and those state officials. Boycotting companies which are quartered in those states. Calling for boycotts of sporting events which are played by teams from those states. I do realize that doing this could cost innocent people money and jobs, but what is the alternative? To just complain and express outrage, while the Republicans sweep up all the chips, put them in their pockets, and walk away from the table with their riches?

The South did that, for at least fifty years following the the Civil War which was said to have been fought for the soul of our nation. The South honed this craft to a science, over the decades, and their descendants well understand how to do it. And I would say that people like Brian Kemp and the Republican legislators in Georgia are in a direct historical line from their forebears in the 1870’s who got all the Jim Crow laws and rules enacted.

They are very bad people. They are racists. They are authoritarians. They will do anything to get their way, They must be stopped by any non-violent means possible. They are not just going to go away. They didn’t go away after 1865, or 1915, or 1965. They will never relent or soften or see reason. The ghosts of the Confederacy, of John Wilkes Booth, the KKK, Lester Maddox and Bull Connor and Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond, are urging them on.

3 Responses

  1. “The ghosts of the Confederacy, of John Wilkes Booth, the KKK, Lester Maddox and Bull Connor and Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond, are urging them on.”

    Who ya gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS! 😉

    Alas, I can’t link any images or the main theme song here, because TurdPress won’t let me post any links on William’s threads.

    Seriously, I get frustrated with my tribe. I wised up; why can’t they? However, some of us do see reason; just, so far, not enough of us.

    • You do a great job, IBW, in standing up for the good people who do live in Arkansas. And there are indeed some in all of those states; just as you say, not enough yet. And Republicans see that, and are very worried, and so they will try to do what their ancestors did. The polling in Georgia indicates that most are against these new rules, but that never bothers Republicans; most people were against the tax cuts to wealthy people; and a majority did not want Barrett confirmed. Republicans just bludgeon their way to what they want, if they can.

  2. Well said. We need to vote them out.

    We also need to counter their messaging. I know people who are terrified of antifa, de-funding the police and immigrants. Yet most people are for the Biden agenda, when they understand what it is. We need to do a lot of work on messaging: government that works for everybody.

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