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james_nicoll
Ever wonder how it was back before the Southern Strategy, when the hard-core racist Dixiecrats were still Democrats, the Republican Party managed to lose the Black vote? And by "managed to lose", I mean "actively drove off".

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.

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I ascribe it to information technology.

Back in Reagan's day and earlier, a politician could hit areas and do the required speaking notes and not have to worry about people outside the area paying much attention to what was said, and they could change what was said to suit the audience without being hurt saying something different elsewhere. Even when a speech was covered by a paper or clips seen on the news, with only a few channels on TV covering the news in the evening, and not much interaction in newspapers, the odds were pretty good not many people would pick up on the changing message. Reagan could come across as more inclusive in the north and the west while at the same time using the proper racial codewords and dogwhistles in the south.

You can't get away with that nearly as much these days, because word of what you do in one place is infinitely easier to find out about somewhere else. Trent Lott got nailed because of the comments he made at Stom Thurmond's birthday party and forced out of his leadership position in 2003 in large part because Duncan Black publicized those remarks on his blog. A politician says something different than he did last week, someone will have a YouTube clip showing the difference within minutes (which led to the "Mitt Romney debates himself" videos seen this year).

What it's done for the Republicans is that they've been caught in an untenable situation: the things they do to suck up to a large portion of their base is looked at askance by other voters--who now are much more aware of it--while at the same time anything they say to more moderate voters is instantly known by the rabid base and they respond in opposition. So to make sure they get their base votes, they have to go more extreme which is instantly known to the moderates...

The changing demographic profile in the US ("You mean more than white people vote?") certainly hasn't helped them at all.

Edited at 2012-12-09 08:28 pm (UTC)

I'd never considered this as a general case, but it makes sense. Certainly we've seen a rise in stuff like what happened to Trent Lott and like ex-Senator George Allen's "macaca" comment, which effectively ended his political career.

As a side-note, this sort of thing is essentially a more detailed and constant version of what happened with the rise of interviews and debates on national television for presidential candidates, and got me thinking about how different pre-tv US politics must have been (especially on a national level), where it would have been trivially easy to give different messages to different locations, with very little risk of anyone even noticing.

I came to the idea when you kept seeing politicians (mostly Republican, but some Democrats have been caught on it as well) saying things in public and then being shocked that word got around, especially when they were surprised it happened at events that had no obvious news coverage.

Apparently they never clued into the fact that there's no such thing as public-but-closed-to-the-press events any more. Everyone has a cell that can record video or just the sound recording and upload it immediately. People in the audience are tweeting and blogging and commenting about what you say as you say it. You have to expect that everything you say in public is public.

I ran into this old-fashioned way of thinking a few years ago when a regulatory board was considering whether there might be situations where, during a public hearing, they might ask reporters to leave the room. I pointed out the issue that anyone could record what was said and upload it to the net, even by taking a camera and transferring the video to their computer, so the only way to keep it from appearing in the news was to make the hearing closed to the entire public. Which they couldn't. At least they agreed with me and dropped the idea.

Edited at 2012-12-09 10:03 pm (UTC)

That didn't end Allen's political career, actually; he made a credible run for the Senate in 2012. Didn't win, but he was the Republican nominee.

Ended in the sense that he's now lost twice for the Senate, and at this point I rather doubt he'll get much support for a third try. The fact that GOP voters are willing to nominate an avowed racist doesn't change the fact that the full range of voters (even in a relatively conservative state like Virginia) aren't willing to elect him.

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