Why the Southern Strategy Works

Talking Points Memo reports on a new Public Policy Polling survey of Alabama and Mississippi that demonstrates perfectly why the Republican party’s southern strategy is so effective — because their target audience (Republican voters) is about equal parts ignorant and bigoted.

Alabama and Mississippi Republicans are evenly divided on whether President Obama is Muslim and are still working out their feelings on the legality of interracial marriage, according to new numbers by Democratic pollster PPP. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are currently locked in a close battle in the two states, which hold primaries this week.

Asked whether Obama is Christian or Muslim, some 45 percent of Alabama Republican respondents picked Muslim; 14 percent correctly identified him as Christian. Another 41 percent said they were unsure. In Mississippi, a majority of Republicans, 52 percent, identified Obama as Muslim; 12 percent said he was Christian and 36 percent were undecided.

The southern strategy works because apparently a sizable percentage of the population are ignorant bigots.

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  • Gregory

    Studying Republican voters and finding that they are ignorant and bigoted is like studying water and finding that it is wet.

  • Mr Ed

    You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West olde South. You know… morons.

  • Tualha

    Yeah, and they cain’t stand it when those East-coast librul elitists make fun o’ them…oh wait.

    Guess maybe they have a point there. Eh?

  • Who Knows?

    Guess maybe they have a point there. Eh?

    Maybe, if you count being an ignorant bigot an inalienable right.

  • doktorzoom

    Mr. Ed @ 2: Actually, that’s morans.

  • Trebuchet

    The Democrats, of course, happily (ab)used this same demographic for around 100 years, into the 1960’s. It wasn’t right then, either.

  • Abby Normal

    RE: Mr Ed @2

    Southerner 1: Hey! The president’s a nig… [Clock bell chimes]

    Southerner 2: What did he say?

    Southerner 3: He said the president’s near.

    Southerner 1: No, gone blame it dang blammit! The president is a nig… [Clock bell chimes again]

  • timothyyoung

    I think people down there are still upset by the Civil War. It sounds crazy to those who are not from the region. But it’s kind of a unique thing to live in this country and call yourself American, and at the same time live in a region that has suffered military conquest. And when you live in a culture that otherwise has no historical memory whatsoever the very idea that there are those who cling to this event that happened 150 years ago is just not something that can be grasped.

  • Scott Hanley

    Another interesting pol on conservatives’ misunderstanding about religion: 35% of white evangelicals think Rick Santorum is an evangelical Protestant, rather than a Catholic. Although to be fair, if you’ve never met one of the Catholic laity, it’s an easy mistake to make.

  • baal

    You’d think people who value bigotry and ignorance would be against effective education…ooops, they are.

  • kermit.

    The poll from 2010


    showed that one in three Republicans nationwide thought he was Muslim. In fact, less than half of Democrats or black Americans would assert that he was Christian.

    Just for a little perspective. Yeah, it’s worse in the rural south, but it’s not like it’s orders of magnitude different.

  • janine

    One has to keep in mind that many southern leaders are just as upset that the rabble (poor whites) have been educated beyond their allotted station in life as their are that they lost their human property. But enough of the rabble can be made to support the oligarchy by use of racial fears.

    Just remember one of Trent Lott’s best line: “The spirit of Jefferson Davis lives in the 1984 Republican platform.”

    Evil fucker.

  • typecaster

    What’s that old line? Something to the effect that it’s not at all true that all conservatives are stupid and bigoted – but if it happens that someone IS stupid and bigoted, then it’s much more likely that they’ll be a conservative.

  • grendelsfather

    What kermit said.

    I am from the south, and while somethings here are indefensible, Santorum winning three states in the region is not one of them.

    Santorum has won 10 states overall, including Minnesota, which is about as far as you can get from the south, both physically and metaphysically. Two states of the old confederacy, Virginia and Florida, went for Romney. Two more went for Gingrich. I am not a big fan of the Newt, but at least he is very different from Santorum.

  • They needed a study for this?

  • demonhauntedworld

    The frustrating thing about a lot of these polls is that they don’t provide (or don’t gather) the numbers for Democrats/non-Republicans for comparison. It makes it hard to actually cite them as evidence in a debate. It’s a sloppy polling methodology.

  • Doug Little

    Tualha @3


    Ha Ha, you just invented a new contraction for Republican candidates with no chance of getting the party nomination.

    Santorum and Newt cain’t gonna win.

  • aerie

    As a native southerner, I agree.

    We’re doomed.

  • exdrone

    So it’s been nearly 150 years. When is it that the Confederate sleeper cells are going to be activated?

  • Aquaria

    And when you live in a culture that otherwise has no historical memory whatsoever, the very idea that there are those who cling to this event that happened 150 years ago is just not something that can be grasped.

    1) The film Gone with the Wind has made more dumbass Southerners embrace their stupid and glorify the antebellum south than anything else. Never mind that most white people didn’t have plantations, and didn’t own slaves. Never mind that most of those who could afford them had only two or three, if that many, and frequently worked their asses off alongside those slaves unless they lived in the city.

    But these dumb hicks think that, were it not for the war, they’d all be Scarlett and Rhett at Twelve Oaks. Ask them to talk about the “old south” and you’ll hear that theme song from GwtW and get an immediate image in your mind of that sweeping double staircase at Twelve Oaks, Rhett leering up at Scarlett. Or you’ll see Scarlett sitting under that shade tree, six deep in men. Or Melanie and Ashley stepping onto that balcony to overlook the frolics of their genteel friends. Isn’t it romantic?


    2) Most of the battles were fought in the south, and have become national monuments. You don’t have to drive very far in most of the south to find one. So southerners are reminded that the war was in their backyard, all the time.

    4) Several towns or cities had some kind of significant event related to the Civil War that are still commemorated or at least that have become major historical sites. For instance, secessionists ran the US Army out of San Antonio in February of 1861, and they took over the federal arsenal there, too. The north doesn’t have as many of these events as the south.

    4) A lot of towns in the south still have their Confederate war dead memorials and other commemorations glorifying the Confederate side of the war. “Glorious” is a frequent descriptor.

    5) Plenty of southern families have passed down idiotic stories about their ancestors who fought for the Confederacy. With each generation, the tales get embroidered a little more, and more Yankees killed by that one scrawny kid than there were Union Army members. Some people in the north do this, but not in the sheer numbers to the degree that southerners do. It’s almost like, if they glorify the Confederate idiots enough, it will make it all right to have not only been a traitor to the country, but also losing the war in the process.

  • F

    Abby Normal @ 7

    Makes me wonder whether that narrative could possibly continue with the president taking himself hostage and forcing all moron southern strategy victims to back down from their ridiculous and dangerous idiocy. Nobody move or the president gets it!

  • laurentweppe

    But it’s kind of a unique thing to live in this country and call yourself American, and at the same time live in a region that has suffered military conquest

    They did not suffer millitary conquest: they ruled the US for the first 84 years of its history (and dominated the english colonies prior to that), and when public opinion started to show early signs of disagreement with the parasitic lifestyle of their aristocracy, they tried to militarily crush opposition in the bud, not realizing that the Yankees had already become stronger than them. A bully who misestimate the strenght of his target and gets his ass kicked as a result is still a bully.


    Anyway, I’m not convinced that the stated belief of right-wing southerner is sincere: much more probable is that they know that Obama is a Christian, but since overt hostility to Muslims is nowadays more socially acceptable than overt hostility toward blacks, they play pretend in order to expres their animosity whithout creating too strong a backslash.