Between the end of the Civil War and 1964, the South was a stronghold of the Democratic Party. With the rise of the civil rights movement, white racial resentment flared—and our political parties shifted. The once-solid South cracked when Republican Barry Goldwater (who opposed the Civil Rights Act) shocked the country when he carried five Southern states in the 1964 presidential election.
Although Goldwater lost in a landslide to Texas Democrat Lyndon Johnson, using white voters’ anger to win votes—“the Southern Strategy”—spread like wildfire across the country. The Southern Strategy dramatically shifted the ideology and demographics our two major political parties and altered the U.S. political landscape in ways that persist today.
Using the words of GOP politicians and strategists verbatim, we trace the history of the Southern Strategy from its inception to 2005, when the Republican Party officially apologized for it.