The Neocons and Nixon’s Southern Strategy

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by Patrick J. Buchanan – December 30, 2002

How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is
To have a thankless child.

Lear’s reflection upon ingratitude comes to mind as one reads of the squabble among neoconservatives over who among them was first to stick his nail file in the back of Trent Lott.

Charles Krauthammer enters a claim for the Kristol-Bennett crowd, while Jonah Goldberg of National Review and cashiered Bush speech-writer David Frum insist they, too, played supporting roles.

Whether Lott may have been innocent of any hate crime, or whether they might have had a moral duty to step in to stop a lynching of one of their own – even had Lott blundered – seem to be thoughts that never once intruded upon these tiny minds. Yet their collusion in ruining Lott, their relish in the pats on the head they are receiving from the left, confirm the suspicion: Neoconservatives are the useful idiots of the liberal establishment.

With Lott gone, Bill Kristol is now collaborating with the New York Times in its rewrite of the history of the 1960s, a decade of liberal debacles, to credit racism for the Republicans’ success.

“Lott is really virtually the last of the products of Richard Nixon’s ‘Southern Strategy’ to be in major positions of power in the Congress,” Kristol assures the Times. “With his leaving, you will have cleared out people who … have a somewhat compromised image to the country as a whole.”

Now, as a co-architect of the Nixon strategy that gave the GOP a lock on the White House for a quarter century, let me say that Kristol’s opportunism is matched only by his ignorance. Richard Nixon kicked off his historic comeback in 1966 with a column on the South (by this writer) that declared we would build our Republican Party on a foundation of states rights, human rights, small government and a strong national defense, and leave it to the “party of Maddox, Mahoney and Wallace to squeeze the last ounces of political juice out of the rotting fruit of racial injustice.”

In that ’66 campaign, Nixon – who had been thanked personally by Dr. King for his help in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1957 – endorsed all Republicans, except members of the John Birch Society.

In 1968, Nixon chose Spiro Agnew for vice president. Why? Agnew had routed George (“Your home is your castle!”) Mahoney for governor of Maryland but had also criticized civil-rights leaders who failed to condemn the riots that erupted after the assassination of King. The Agnew of 1968 was both pro-civil rights and pro-law and order.

When the ’68 campaign began, Nixon was at 42 percent, Humphrey at 29 percent, Wallace at 22 percent. When it ended, Nixon and Humphrey were tied at 43 percent, with Wallace at 13 percent. The 9 percent of the national vote that had been peeled off from Wallace had gone to Humphrey.

Between 1969 and 1974, Nixon – who believed that blacks had gotten a raw deal in America and wanted to extend a helping hand:

* raised the civil rights enforcement budget 800 percent;

* doubled the budget for black colleges;

* appointed more blacks to federal posts and high positions
than any president, including LBJ;

* adopted the Philadelphia Plan mandating quotas for blacks
in unions, and for black scholars in colleges and

* invented “Black Capitalism” (the Office of Minority Business
Enterprise), raised U.S. purchases from black businesses
from $9 million to $153 million, increased small business
loans to minorities 1,000 percent, increased U.S. deposits
in minority-owned banks 4,000 percent;

* raised the share of Southern schools that were
desegregated from 10 percent to 70 percent. Wrote the
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 1975, “It has only been
since 1968 that substantial reduction of racial segregation
has taken place in the South.”

The charge that we built our Republican coalition on race is a lie. Nixon routed the left because it had shown itself incompetent to win or end a war into which it had plunged the United States and too befuddled or cowardly to denounce the rioters burning our cities or the brats rampaging on our campuses.

Nixon led America out of a dismal decade and was rewarded with a 49-state landslide. By one estimate, he carried 18 percent of the black vote in 1972 and 25 percent in the South. No Republican has since matched that. To see Kristol colluding with the Times to rewrite that history to make liberals heroes and Republicans villains tells us more about him than about the era.

And where were the necons, when Goldwaterites and Nixonites were building the New Majority? Going all the way with LBJ.

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