An Update to the Republican Southern Strategy

In addition to the excellent arguments Martin just made about Bill O’Reilly’s defense of the electoral college last night, a lot of people are suggesting that it was simply an embrace of white supremacy.

In response, we see things like this:

Headlines like this one from Katherine Krueger are also prevalent: “Bill O’Reilly is now just openly defending white supremacy.” You’ll find no disagreement from me. Just yesterday I pointed to a statement from the NYT’s editorial board about how the electoral college is “a living symbol of America’s original sin.”

It is important to keep in mind that Fox News (and Bill O’Reilly particularly) are masters of propaganda. So it’s interesting to think about the message they intended to send to their mostly white, elderly conservative audience. It is very reminiscent of how Kevin Phillips described the Republican Southern Strategy back in 1970.

From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that…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.

In other words, O’Reilly was making a play for what Phillips called “the Negrophobe whites.” He did so by updating it to address the current arguments against the electoral college. O’Reilly believes that his audience will respond to a suggestion that “Democrats are heavily reliant on the minority vote. Also the woman vote,” by rejecting their arguments against the electoral college. He assumes that is a winning play for conservatives…just as Phillips did back in 1970.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.