Have you seen the British Petroleum (BP) produced ads extolling tourism in the Gulf? They’re actually done quite well and make the region from the Florida panhandle, across Alabama and Mississippi, and ending in Louisiana look pretty appealing. After despoiling the gulf with their oil spill, I assume the ads are part of BP’s payback.
Many years ago, I spent a little time in Louisiana, home to an aunt and cousins, but the rest of the region could as well be a foreign country, as far as I know. I hear they play really good college football down there, and the ads make the beaches appear attractive and the cuisine sounds delicious. However, the politics and the religion down there scare the beejeebers out of me.
For a century, this was the “solid south” for the Democratic Party, the days of segregation and Jim Crow, and the Republicans were remembered as the party of Lincoln, the Union Army, and carpetbaggers. That began to change at the 1948 Democratic Convention when Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey offered a stirring speech promoting civil rights, and the “Dixiecrats” led by Strom Thurmond stalked out, determined to protect what they portrayed as the southern way of life beset by an oppressive federal government while proclaiming “segregation forever.”
The circle was completed in 1968 when Richard Nixon recognized that he could turn the south into the Republican promised land by exploiting racism. This “Southern Strategy” has defined the last forty plus years of American politics.
Tonight, the Republicans of Alabama and Mississippi hold their primaries, and the eyes of the nation are again focused on the politics of the region. The pollsters tell us that not much has changed.
- Interracial marriage ought to be illegal according to roughly a quarter of the Republican voters.
- Three to four times as many think President Obama is a Muslim compared to those who think he’s Christian.
- Two to three times as many do not believe in evolution compared to those that do.
- Twice as many in ‘Bama prefer the Crimson Tide football team to the Auburn Tigers. Ok, I guess that’s irrelevant.
Despite those appealing ads, I don’t think I’ll be heading southeast anytime soon. I admit it, I’ve got prejudices of my own.