Monday, January 23, 2012

Newt gives new life to Southern strategy

Dear Newt:

Your victory in South Carolina has made me proud. Though we have never met, I have come to think of you as my second son. You were floundering in the race for president until, wisely, you borrowed from my playbook. Some of them “elite” (heh, heh) commentators said my game plan had lost its clout, but you showed ’em. The Southern Strategy – that’s how the eggheads christened my playbook – still has some life in it.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore
The way you put that black journalist Juan Wiliams in his place – well, that was just masterful. He was calling you out on your use of the Southern Strategy by your implications that black people lack a work ethic. Not only did you stand your ground, but you also used the question as a platform to attack Barack Obama. The audience went wild. The idea of the Southern strategy is, of course, that you win votes by appealing to white prejudice against black people. Even the way you said “Juan” was masterful; it sounded almost like “Boy.” The audience got the message, if only subconsciously.Your labeling President Obama “the food-stamp president” was a coup. Amazingly, you may have even outdone me in sophistry. The cracks in the free enterprise system widen during bad times. Hence, regardless of who’s president, more people will fall through the cracks into the social safety net, of which food stamps are a part. But saying that Obama has broken records in putting people on food stamps feeds nicely into stereotypes many whites have of blacks.

You doubtless know the story of my first run for Alabama governor. It was 1958, and my Ku Klux Klan-backed opponent, John Patterson, portrayed me as a friend of the Negro, and I lost. With the bitter aftertaste of defeat in my mouth, I swore I would never, ever be outniggered again. And the rest is history. I became the symbol for defiance against integration.

The beauty was the strategy worked up North, too, when I ran for president. Of course, I couldn’t use the N-word, like politicians used to do in Alabama. I just talked about law and order and "sissy-britches welfare people." The audience got the code. I won a third of the vote in the Democratic primary in Wisconsin in 1964.
My playbook wasn’t copyrighted, and the Republicans stole it, making in short order the solidly Democratic South solidly Republican and making inroads into white, blue-collar neighborhoods up North.

Some in the media, doubtless old hippies, have said that my playbook will soon run its course because it will start turning off more voters than it turns on – thanks in large part to the dastardly Voting Rights Act and out-of-control immigration. Even Karl Rove, George Bush’s brain, subscribed to that theory. Well, your showing in South Carolina demonstrates the strategy still has juice. Of course, the Confederate flag still flies at the Statehouse. So Republican South Carolinians may be more susceptible to that strategy than their compatriots elsewhere.

I wish you well and will continue to watch with interest your race for the Republican nomination for president. We get Fox News down here. I hope to shake your hand soon. I know a tavern we can go to. The beer is not too horrible.

Yours sincerely,

George Corley Wallace

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