The Southern Strategy is dead. Does the Republican Party have an alternative?

Haley's announcement on the Confederate flag marks a turning point, but does the GOP know where it's going?

American flag
(Image credit: AP Photo/David Goldman)

On Monday afternoon, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) announced that she now supports removing the Confederate flag from the grounds of the statehouse in Columbia. While the reaction of the Republican presidential candidates to the terrorist attack last week in Charleston and the subsequent debate about the flag has been cowardly at best, this is nevertheless a significant moment, with broad implications for the place of race in American politics. To put it simply, the GOP's "Southern Strategy" is all but dead.

As political strategies go, it had a good run — nearly half a century. In 1968, Richard Nixon campaigned on behalf of the "silent majority" who wanted nothing of civil rights protests and uppity young people; he told them he'd deliver the "law and order" they craved, and there was little question who they were afraid of. It was called the Southern Strategy because while the South had been firmly Democratic since the Civil War, Lyndon Johnson's signing of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act initiated an exodus of Southern whites to the Republican Party, enabling them to build an electoral college majority with the South as its foundation. They would win five of the next six presidential elections with that strategy.

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Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a senior writer with The American Prospect magazine and a blogger for The Washington Post. His writing has appeared in dozens of newspapers, magazines, and web sites, and he is the author or co-author of four books on media and politics.