Jonah Goldberg really is an idiot. In this essay, he tries to debunk the idea that the GOP took advantage of how pissed off southerners were after the Democrats betrayed them on Civil Rights.
Here’s his premise:
"The line peddled by Paul Krugman and countless others, that the GOP majorities and victories of the last thirty years are all the poisoned fruit of the poisoned tree of Dixie is simply untrue. Whatever Helms' personal druthers, his political maneuvering room was constrained by the fact that the GOP is not a racist party."
I don’t know if anyone reckons that the so called "Southern Strategy" was the only arrow in the GOP quiver, but I don’t think that it is even debatable at this point that it was key to GOP gains in the last forty years. Add in pandering to the dumbasses in the religious right and the always ready to be lied to libertarians, and you’ve got yourself a nice little base there on which to build.
I don’t know if the Southern Strategy makes the GOP a "racist party", whatever the hell that would mean, but the GOP is more than willing to exploit race in its drive for power. What political machine is not?
The problem is that the racist yahoos in the South (and there were plenty of them, as I can attest as a Southron) are either dying off or getting over Civil Rights, and this means that the South is, or soon will be, in play. It won’t be enough to use code words ("states’ rights", anyone) or thinly veiled racist tropes (Willie Horton, anyone?) or even to have unapologetic racist asswipes (Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond, etc) in positions of power in the party. The GOP didn’t have to do anything overtly racist to win over racist voters in the South, or even in the North (remember the "Reagan Democrats"?); it just had to seem as if it might or that it wanted to.
Observing that southerners have issues with race is not a manifestation of anti-southern bigotry, as Jonah suggests. It’s historically true that southerners held on to slavery way longer than their northern counterparts and did not give it up willingly. It is also true that southerners continued to deny black people basic civil rights for over a century and held to a system of state enforced segregation and permissible racial discrimination. It’s a fact that this was a bigger problem in the south than in the north, although the record of the north is not altogether unblemished. I know from my own experience that racism was embedded in the culture of the south and that it was all but impossible to grow up southern and not have some deep seated racist memes in your brain just waiting to embarrass you. This does not make southerners worse than northerners as human beings. They are, as far as I can tell, making progress and acknowledging the legacy of racism.
Jonah might follow their example. He’s apparently in denial about racial issues, and if he doesn’t move on he’ll find himself behind the times even more than he already is.