Donald Trump’s Southern Strategy

Arturo Dominguez
5 min readJul 20, 2019
KKK Billboard from the 1970s saying, “This is Klan country. Love it or leave it.”
Source: 1972 Howler yearbook at Wake Forest via Winston Salem Journal

The Southern Strategy is a Republican electoral strategy designed to increase political support among white voters by appealing to their racism and bigotry. Likewise, the Trump administration’s electoral approach has adopted the same divisive ideology — which has been quite useful thus far. By playing on those same racial tensions, Trump has been successful in driving a wedge between rural white voters and people of color.

As I’ve discussed many times in my work, the racially-charged, divisive approach to politics that we see today isn’t new. Much of the language that is a constant in our society became popularized with the Southern Strategy employed by Republicans in the 1960s. It’s not hard to notice the similarities in the rhetoric as the motivations behind the rhetoric are also similarly clear.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the civil rights movement and the dismantling of many Jim Crow laws deepened the existing racial tensions in much of the Southern United States — later spreading among rural voters nationally. At the time, Republicans such as Senator Barry Goldwater and then-presidential candidate Richard Nixon developed region-specific strategies that contributed to the political realignment of a large portion of white conservative voters who had traditionally supported the Democratic Party. It also helped push the Republican party further to the right. A push that continues today.

As with the Trump administration, the Southern Strategy presented narratives that suggest Republican leaders consciously appeal to the racial grievances of white voters. This top-down strategy is generally believed to be the driving force that transformed Republican politics during the civil rights era. While others challenge this narrative, suggesting a more bottom-up strategy — which recognizes the centrality of the racial backlash in the South that contributed to party realignment — thus proposing that the backlash was a defense of de facto segregation in the suburbs rather than overt resistance to racial integration. Either way, the racial backlash in America at the time was a story where both narratives fueled the flames of racial tensions respectively.

Because of this electoral strategy, the Republican Party has continuously failed to fight off the image that they are the party of White Supremacy. This…

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Arturo Dominguez

Journalist covering Congress, Racial Justice, Human Rights, Cuba, Texas | Editor: The Antagonist Magazine |