Playing on racial hatred is nothing new for the Republican Party. It has been part of their electoral strategy from the days of Nixon and the early 70’s. The Republicans adopted racial polarization as an electoral strategy.
The Southern Strategy:
We all love to tell the story of how LBJ recognized that with his championing of non white peoples civil rights he was giving up the south to the racist. He stated we have given up the south for a generation. However the Republican Party did not have to use racial animosity as a way to pick up votes. The Republican Party had at the time the only non white Senator elected since reconstruction in Senator Edward Brooke. It did not have to make political hay with civil rights it could have allowed the racist block to break off in the form of the George Wallace party, and allowed racist to be a fringe in American society. They made a different calculation instead.
Although the phrase "Southern strategy" is often attributed to Nixon political strategist Kevin Phillips, he did not originate it, but merely popularized it. In an interview included in a 1970 New York Times article, he touched on its essence:
From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don't need any more than that... but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That's where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.
While Phillips sought to polarize ethnic voting in general, and not just to win the white South, the South was by far the biggest prize yielded by his approach. Its success began at the presidential level, gradually trickling down to statewide offices, the Senate and House, as some legacy segregationist Democrats retired or switched to the GOP. In addition, the Republican Party worked for years to develop grassroots political organizations across the South, supporting candidates for local school boards and offices, for instance
Using racism to win elections is no secret weapon to the Republicans here's where wiki talks about it.
Republicans began using the dog whistle. They began advocating for “states rights” and the 10th amendment much the same way the anti civil rights forces had done during the 50’s and 60’s
In 1980 Republican candidate Ronald Reagan's proclaiming support for "states' rights" at his first Southern campaign stop was cited as evidence that the Republican Party was building upon the Southern Strategy again. The location was significant - Reagan spoke at the Neshoba County Fair near Philadelphia, Mississippi, the county where the three civil rights workers were murdered during 1964's Freedom Summer, even though political speeches from local, state, and national politicians at the fair had been a long-standing tradition at the Fair dating back to 1896.
What did you think St. Ronnie didn't do it?
The solid South used to be Democratic and for one reason. The Democrats of the time supported segregation and racism. When the national party through the leadership of LBJ changed the trajectory of the party and left many racist disaffected there was a choice. The Republicans could have chosen not to use racial hatred as an electoral tool. They chose to do so anyway.
Lest you think that the Republicans were unaware of what they had done and were merely playing for the votes of a legitimate constituency as all good politicians would do you would be mistaken. The Republican Party has recognized the role it has played in hyping racial animosity as a negative campaigning tactic. Let's hear from former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman.
By the '70s and into the '80s and '90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out," Mehlman says in his prepared text. "Some Republicans gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong."
Always tripped me out how a gay man led the Republican Party, but he spoke the truth here
Thanks Ken you were wrong very glad you were able to express yourself, however, why didn’t you get your party to stop, and where are responsible Republicans today?
We’ve had governors Mcdonnell, and Barbour sound the siren. We’ve had Governor Rick Perry call for the 10th amendment and threaten secession. We’ve had calls for interposition, and poll tests just like the 50’s and why are republicans touting these people as leaders? Because racial animosity has been one of their clear keys to victory since they decided to make racism one of their planks.
They wonder why non white people find it hard to vote for them, it’s the same reason a chicken wont vote for Colonel Sanders. The same as it ever was they cater to the votes of those who hate us. Remember that the next time a progressive thinks it’s a good idea to find common cause with the Tea Party.