The “Southern Strategy” has become Holy Writ on the left. Yes, it was talked about. Yes, it was heinous and cynical. But no, it never affected our politics in the way it was designed. There was no abrupt shift of seats or legislators at any time during the 60's–1994 period.
The least sane usages of the Southern Strategy conspiracy theory are the ones where they attempt to tie racism to conservationism. That theory goes like this:
Well, in the 60’s, the conservatives were all in the Democrat party. After the Civil Rights Act, all the conservatives moved to the Republicans.
That is insane on so many levels:
- The data does not show any “movement” of anyone between parties at the time. There was no massive change of party identification from the Dems to the GOP. The Dems that voted against the CRA stayed Democrats until they retired.
- It implies that the reforms of FDR were in fact “conservative”. What, was FDR and his party liberal in the 30’s and 40’s, suddenly became conservative in the 60’s, and then became liberal again in the 70's? :)
- It ignores the fact that Nixon was to the left of most politicians in the Dem party at the time.
Reality is that civil rights legislation for decades was blocked by politicians who were economically liberal and socially conservative, both. And they were democrats. If you wish to argue that there was a contingent of social conservative voters who moved to the GOP side during the Reagan years, that’s quite true; but the “dog whistles” that Reagan used were to religion, not racism; it’s easily forgotten that there were THREE MAJOR EVENTS in the 60’s that caused social conservatives to rethink their party alliance, and two of those events had to do with religion, not racism.
And it should be noted that up until 2008 or so, one of the fault lines within the GOP was that the social conservative bloc was not economically conservative.