Here's Kevin D. Williamson at National Review complaining about the Republican party's image as the white people's party. Naturally he protests that the Republicans are victims, yes VICTIMS of a nefarious conspiracy by the Democrats to ... make ... them ... look ... BAD!
This magazine has long specialized in debunking pernicious political myths ... but worse than the myth and the cliché is the outright lie, the utter fabrication with malice aforethought, and my nominee for the worst of them is the popular but indefensible belief that the two major U.S. political parties somehow “switched places” vis-à-vis protecting the rights of black Americans, a development believed to be roughly concurrent with the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the rise of Richard Nixon.Williamson goes on to point out that back in the early 1960s, there were plenty of racist Democrats and many decent and honorable Republicans. He criticizes the Republican Party for not reminding people about this.
Now, Williamson is completely correct that the hard core of opposition to the 1964 Voting Rights Act came from Democrats, and that the south was ruled by Democrats. And there were many, many decent Republicans back in the day. Jacob Javits comes immediately to mind, but also so does George Romney.
What occurred in the south is that the whites switched from the Democrats to the Republican party. This was occasioned and encouraged by Nixon's famous Southern Strategy.
But more than that, there was also a purge in the Republican party, which jettisoned its liberal wing. I mentioned Jacob Javits -- this fine man was defeated for renomination in 1980 by the declassé Alponse D'Amato.
In states such as Oregon, Washington, and California, where a moderate brand of Republicanism had once been dominant, the local R parties gradually lurched to the right, nominating, and, it must be said, electing increasingly polarizing R candidates such as Pete Wilson, with his anti-Hispanic 1994 Proposition 187, until the voters simply rejected the Rs, and these west coast states came to be strongly associated with the Democratic Party. They have given their electoral votes solidly for the Ds in the last 5 elections, (California) and six elections (Oregon and Washington.)
Williamson wanders around for four pages trying to finger out some other explanation for why the Republican Party is the favored party among white southerners, but ultimately he can only come up with the dubious proposition that it was the Democrats seeking black votes through expanded welfare programs (no dog whistle there!), and not the Republicans seeking white votes, that flipped the South Republican.
But Williamson provides no explanation for the Pacific Coast states, including the largely white Oregon and Washington, becoming solid for the Ds. Washington, except for the New Deal and the 1948, 1964 and 1968 elections, was a good reliable state for the Republicans, where they won in 1972, 1976, 1980, and 1984. But they haven't won one since. Oregon was even more reliably Republican, Outside of the New Deal, the Democrats won the presidential election in Oregon just three times from 1860 to 1984. After that, the Ds have never lost. California presents a similar history. Together these states, plus Hawaii, will deliver 88 electoral votes to the Democrats in 2012.
Williamson provides no explanation for this, but back in 1981, Lee Atwater did. From the Wiki quoting Atwater:
You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger"—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.The problem for the Republicans is that they don't do abstract very well. When they start talking about "state's rights", we know exactly what they mean, especially since the whole state's rights idea, for the Republicans is the Procrustean bed of constitutional principles.
And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger".
Similarly, when we hear the Republicans talking about President Obama as a foreigner, not really an American, "arrogant" etc., we know exactly what they mean.
So let me proffer this explanation: the same racist appeals, whether you call them "coded", "dog whistles" or what have you, that bought the Republican party the south as their base of operations, also forfeited the west coast states, and may indeed cause the Rs to lose Arizona and Texas depending on how rapidly the whites are supplanted in those states by Hispanics. Now we find the Republican party scrabbling to find a way out of the box they've painted themselves into.