National Review is Trying to Rewrite its Own Racist HistoryBreaking News
tags: conservatism, racism, William F. Buckley
Most students of American political history are probably scratching their heads at how Scully could attempt to deny that Republicans exploited racial grievance to build its base of white voters in the South. Here, again, the real history of the National Review is instructive. Linking the business wing of the GOP with the racist wing of Democratic Party was not the easy task it seems in hindsight, but required decades of effort to help these disparate camps find their shared interests and fuse together.
Scully is right that Black Americans’ drift away from the GOP began long before the Civil Rights Act. A majority of Black voters went for virulent racist Woodrow Wilson in 1912, attracted by his progressive economic platform, the first time since winning the right to vote that Black voters had cast it for a Democrat for president. That trend continued over the next several decades. In 1948, Harry Truman insisted on including a strong civil rights plank in the party’s platform. Southerners walked out of the Democratic National Convention in protest and ran Strom Thurmond as their “Dixiecrat” nominee.
Voters, even white ones in the South, reacted to Thurmond with a yawn. He won 2.4 percent of the vote, just over a million, which was roughly what the Populist Party’s candidate had won in the 1890s. Truman won Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas and the rest of the South and border states other than the four most hardcore: South Carolina, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. The Dixiecrat revolt was crushed.
It was clear that the South couldn’t win the fight alone, and for that, needed conservative allies in the North. The problem was that the rest of the country, Northern Republican conservatives included, wanted nothing to do with the explicit, raw racism on display in the South, preferring the more subtle kind that is more familiar today.
But those Republicans did want something else: an end to the New Deal. In order to forge the alliance between the racist Democrats in the South, then, and the business wing of the Republicans in the North, they had to fuse two, unlinked political movements — the drive for segregation and the rollback of the New Deal. That required the South to go along with attacking programs that were extremely popular with the people of the South, and for Northern Republicans to get behind segregation and the preservation of the white Southern way of life.
Getting each to accept the other was not inevitable, nor was it easy. That’s where the National Review comes in.