Bill, I've just handed the South to the Republicans for fifty years.– President Lyndon Johnson talking with aide Bill Moyers right after the Voting Rights Act
In 1964, the Democratic Party dominated U.S. politics. Lyndon Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater with 64 percent of the vote. He had enormous filibuster-proof majorities in the House and Senate. The imprimatur of John Kennedy’s legacy hung solidly on LBJ. A majority of America’s governors and state legislatures were Democrat. The Civil Rights Act and the Great Society were ongoing accomplishments of massive impact on American life, on a scale that experts felt would approach FDR’s New Deal. LBJ had effectively erased the Democrats’ “soft on Communism” label, still resonant from the McCarthy era, by launching a bold war to stop the scourge of Red advance in Vietnam. This was a war that surely would be won in massive victorious fashion by the Hitler-conquering U.S. forces.
Goldwater and his party were out of the mainstream, a fringe element of the “extreme Right.” Furthermore, Goldwater’s refusal to back the Civil Rights Act had swung the black vote, already leaning toward the Democrats after JFK’s charismatic intervention in Dr. King’s 1960 Birmingham jailing, solidly into the Democrat column.
If politics could be explained through the metaphor of baseball, the Democrats were the 1964 world champion St. Louis Cardinals—young, hip, urban, mixed races, aggressive. The Republicans were the New York Yankees, so yesterday in their pinstripes, so token in their African American representation—country club Wall Street elites.
An attempt to make a similar metaphorical comparison to the USC and Alabama football teams of 1970 is not as easy. However, the aftermath of the games, as viewed through the prism of sports as a metaphor for a changing America, offers the opportunity for some comparison.
The Trojans could be seen as a successful coalition, like those of Nixon and Reagan, who had risen in the Golden State and were prominent in 1970. They were conservative, in that the school, the alumni, and the coaching staff were conservative, but their “new breed” of black athletes was something different. Alabama represented the elephant in the corner of the Democratic Party. For years, the party had tolerated the Jim Crow South because they reliably voted Democrat. But their ways, just like ’Bama’s old-style football, had no future.
Lost in the expert punditry of the time was the hopeful fact of Western political influence in confluence with growing migration to the wide-open spaces of Arizona, California, Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, and other states that had for so many years been looked upon as the frontier.
It was Richard Nixon who understood the power of the new West; he manipulated it, improvised it, and benefited from it. He had tapped into a seminal hatred of Communism that thrived in southern California. His constituency there was more conservative, more Christian, and, depending on one’s point of view, arguably more patriotic than the population of the San Francisco Bay Area, where the labor unions were being radicalized and the universities turned into hotbeds of anarchist dissent. His opponent in the 1946 Congressional race (covering an area ranging from Orange County into Whittier, Artesia, and parts of the city of Los Angeles proper) was the New Dealer Jerry Voorhis. In the 1950 Senate campaign, Nixon squared off against Helen Gahagan Douglas, the Hollywood wife of actor Melvyn Douglas. Nixon painted Voorhis and Douglas as so radically liberal as to be virtually sympathetic to Communism. He was one of the first Republican politicians, if not the first, to successfully paint Hollywood as being left of the mainstream, unpatriotic, and far too influential. He won both elections.
Nixon’s role in the House Un-American Activities Committee gave him this platform. He and the Republicans dragged Hollywood actors, directors, and producers before Congress, exposing and embarrassing many of them into detailing their flirtations with and sometimes even commitment to Communism and even Soviet espionage.
In 1952, anti-Communist fervor was at an all-time high. The Korean War was going badly in the wake of President Harry Truman’s firing of General Douglas MacArthur. Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy was one of the nation’s most popular figures, based on his attacks and investigations of American Communists. But it was not McCarthy whom Republican presidential candidate Dwight Eisenhower tapped as his vice presidential running mate. It was Nixon.
Aside from his anti-Communist credentials, Nixon represented that great new bastion of influence, postwar social change, and electoral votes—California, and with it the other growing, influential states. The Republicans had briefly captured the House in 1946 but were branded by Truman as the “do nothing” Congress during their losing 1948 elections. The victory by Eisenhower and Nixon (and for a few years Republican Congressional control) had revived a political party that some thought might splinter into some lesser version of itself.
Nixon actually defeated John Kennedy in 1960, but a cabal led by JFK’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy, stole the election from him. This cabal consisted mainly of the Chicago Democrat machine of Cook County, Illinois, controlled by Mayor William Daley and Johnson’s cronies in Texas. The main tactic of the Kennedy campaign was to register millions of dead citizens in Illinois and Chicago, having them vote for JFK “early and often.” It was a replay of Lyndon Johnson’s 1948 Texas Senate victory, which he had stolen using dead voters still on the rolls. In what was the tightest campaign in history until the 2000 George Bush–Al Gore race, however, Nixon still might have pulled it out had he not lost the black vote. The South was still solidly Jim Crow Democrat. Even Eisenhower had not been able to win there.
However, the black vote was migrating north. Blacks in Illinois, in particular, might have made the difference for Nixon. But Nixon’s decision not to interfere in Dr. King’s Birmingham jailing had killed him. When JFK stepped in, he secured the support of first a skeptical Coretta Scott King, then her grateful husband, and perhaps even more disastrously for Nixon, baseball great Jackie Robinson. The official “black leadership” became solidly Democrat, and now African Americans were a bloc constituency.
The conundrum of the 1960 and 1964 elections was that the Democrats had the solid Jim Crow South and the black vote. Much changed between 1964 and 1968, however. Under the radar screen of actual voting patterns was the emergence of conservatism, embodied less by Nixon and more by Goldwater and actor-turned-political-figure Ronald Reagan. Goldwater’s support was strongest, at least in a publicly identified way, in Orange County, California, just south of L.A.
Orange County, the home of Disneyland, was mostly white, mostly Christian, very capitalistic, completely suburban, totally anti-Communist, yet strangely moderate. It was a bastion of conservative Republicans, yes. The John Birch Society was strong there. But racism was strongly looked down upon. There was a substantial Latino population. Just a few miles to the north was the large black population of South L.A. Easy freeway access meant comingling in the new car-crazy commuter generation. People there were too beautiful, too tanned, too athletic, too laid back in a surfer kind of way; the women too pretty; and the weather too perfect to appeal to virulent racism, which seemed to emanate like rising hell in the sticky, humid muck of the angry South.
The man who embodied Orange County politics was Reagan. If Goldwater angered some black voters by playing to what he perceived as his constituency in not backing the Civil Rights Act (odd, since the solid antiblack Democrat South was off limits, especially against Johnson), Reagan’s easygoing charm made him palatable to a wider audience. It was this palatability that sowed the seeds of marriage between the South and what Orange County represented. This was, in essence, a “third way.” The liberals were pounding the Southerners over the head with incessant charges of racism, accusing the proud denizens of Dixie of activities tantamount to the hated Nazis so many of them had fought against in World War II. Reagan and the new conservatives wanted change and racial equality, but they recognized the contributions of the South. They respected its symbols, its rich heritage, its fight for freedom on the fields of military strife. Reagan and the Western conservatives noted Southern literature, instead of denigrating the area as incessantly downtrodden, rural, ignorant, and backward. It was a simple approach, based on the old maxim that “it is easier to catch a bee with honey than vinegar.” The protesters and shouters of the Left, many funded by Communist front groups, used only vinegar.
Waiting his turn (again) was Nixon. Goldwater had stirred a movement whose time would come. Reagan, after endorsing Goldwater at the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco (and another televised performance revered by history simply as “the Speech”), was statesmanlike, while sound bites only seemed to repeat Goldwater’s “extremism in the name of liberty is no vice” comment. But Reagan was not yet tested.
In 1966, the Right was organized. They ran Reagan for governor of California against the incumbent, Edmund “Pat” Brown. Two things drove conservative politics in California and, by reflection, nationally. These were the increasingly violent protests of free speech, civil rights, and, especially, anti–Vietnam War protesters. No place was more angry than the University of California, Berkeley, a state school funded by taxpayer dollars. The California citizenry wanted law ’n’ order. Reagan ran on this premise.
The other event that stirred the soul of America was the disturbing 1965 Watts riots in South Central L.A. This, combined with the rise (and assassination) of Malcolm X and the Black Muslim “nation,” along with the formation of the militant Black Panthers in Oakland, created fear in whites. They found comfort in Reagan’s promise to deal with these elements in a stern manner instead of the “wishy-washy psychobabble” offered by the likes of Brown and his party. The Left, for the first time, began to see that its solid black voting bloc could be an albatross around its neck. Brown, who had defeated former vice president Nixon in 1962, was beaten soundly by Reagan. Reagan now had his hands full reforming California, and suddenly Nixon emerged as a viable figure once more.
The Republicans outflanked LBJ’s Democrats in the 1966 midterms. They demanded a Douglas MacArthur–like resolution to the ongoing Vietnam conflict while expressing backlash against the Great Society. Nixon’s legendary work ethic paid off. He crisscrossed the country campaigning for Republicans, who were beginning to knock a few chinks in the Democrats’ Southern armor. Nixon then cashed in the chits he had earned with Republican elected officials and committeemen in 1966. In 1968, he outshined Nelson Rockefeller and the rest of the Republican field to earn the nomination.
What happened in 1968 will be debated forever. From a philosophical point of view, it was a year of irony, tragedy, karma, and horror, all wrapped up in nothing less than Shakespearean, maybe even Biblical, dimensions.
The year began in turmoil—race riots in Chicago, Newark, and other cities had continued from 1967 into the new year. The Tet Offensive turned the liberal media squarely against the Vietnam War, creating paradigms of confusing patriotism in a brave new world. The campuses were ablaze with hatred and protest. Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy entered the New Hampshire primary as an antiwar candidate and took more than one-third of Johnson’s vote. LBJ then announced he would not run. Robert Kennedy announced that he would. So did George Wallace.
In April, a white man assassinated Dr. King in Memphis. Black rage exploded throughout the country. Kennedy assumed the mantel of sainthood, and the Left willingly anointed him. He forged a giant shadow, as large as his martyred brother and the slain civil rights leader. He created a coalition of antiwar zealots and black and Chicano civil rights activists, along with traditional Democrats.
In June, after winning the California primary, RFK appeared unstoppable. A Nixon-Kennedy rematch had all the trappings of major political theater, but every indication, then and now, is that Nixon would have lost again; perhaps this defeat would have been too unbearable for him to overcome his dark inner demons. Then Sirhan Sirhan murdered RFK at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.
To say that Nixon benefited (in the short run) from this event is one of the great understatements of the twentieth century. When one examines the fourteen years between 1960 and 1974, it becomes hard to imagine that there is no God, or no devil, and that they do not interfere in the affairs of man, as Charle’ Young likes to point out. The implications of all the “what might have beens” that surround Nixon and the Kennedys—John, Robert, and Teddy—conjure wild imaginings of evil and goodness pulling the strings of historical irony. An entire book could be written about all the scenarios that connect in a spiderweb of possibilities.
Kennedy stole the 1960 election from Nixon. Had Nixon been president, there probably never would have been a Cuban Missile Crisis and very likely either no Vietnam War or the conflict would have been concluded in a show of force resulting in American victory and Southeast Asian hegemony. The Communists, led by Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev, concluded that JFK was a “rookie,” and therefore they were emboldened to test him in Cuba, Indochina, Africa, and Latin America. It may be revisionist at this point, but it is also not a stretch to determine that they feared Nixon and would not have tried any of this had he been in the White House.
First, Nixon was the former vice-president of the respected Dwight Eisenhower, a man nobody had wanted to challenge in his eight years as president. When the Communists defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, Nixon had very seriously recommended the use of “battlefield nuclear weapons.” This may sound crazy, but it frightened the Communists into halting major operations until JFK assumed office.
JFK either ordered or at least allowed a CIA-inspired coup to overthrow South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963. How much blood was on Kennedy’s hands is debatable. A little over a month later he was dead himself. His plans to de-escalate in Vietnam were completely destabilized by these events.
(In retrospect, JFK might have achieved success in Vietnam by orchestrating elections in South Vietnam in 1963–1964. Instead he “allowed” the assassination of an ally. The lesson of this event was seemingly learned by the George W. Bush Administration, where the election option was used in Iraq. However, elections held in South Vietnam after LBJ took office did not quell disaster. Iraqi elections did not lead to immediate freedom and democracy, either..)
Had JFK lived, Bobby might have succeeded him in 1968. Nixon might never have been a major player on the national stage. Of course, that means Watergate never would have occurred. Teddy Kennedy might not have been driving drunk at Martha’s Vineyard in 1969, and his viability as a presidential figure likely would have resulted in the family becoming what their father wanted them to be. They never got there. Almost as if to spite the Kennedy Left, the Bush family has assumed all the heights of power and prestige that seemed so destined for the so-called American royal family.
As it was, all the soaring rhetoric of King and RFK was replaced by naked political maneuverings. Wallace threatened to take not only the South but also a fair share of the West. But the Californian Nixon, who thwarted a native son bid from Reagan and picked up Goldwater’s constituency, cleaned up the region. In addition, he had in his Wall Street years made himself attractive to the East Coast establishment, once known as “Rockefeller Republicans.”
The Democrats were hamstrung. First Vice President Hubert Humphrey divided the party by waiting too long to distance himself from President Johnson’s Vietnam policy. Then, almost as if by karmic irony after the events of 1960, Mayor Daley’s heavy-handed response to protests during their convention turned the event into a war zone. Riots in Chicago doomed their chances.
Humphrey never looked like a winner. He appeared to have won the Democrat nomination by drawing straws. He never really rose above the other second-rate post-Kennedy candidates.
But the key to 1968 was not really Vietnam or Kennedy’s assassination. It was Wallace. Wallace, who was turned down by former USC-football-player-turned-actor John “Duke” Wayne for the running mate slot (Air Force general Curtis LeMay accepted the role), ran a wide swath through the South. For the first time since the Civil War, the South was not solidly Democrat. Nixon played it like the political genius he was. It was called the “Southern strategy.”
Nixon did not run a particularly strong campaign in Dixie, but he saw to it that Humphrey, a Minnesota liberal who was now fully willing to cut and run against the Communists in Southeast Asia, was weak there. Nixon never campaigned against Wallace, instead associating himself with the policies that they could find common ground on. Call it the “Orange Countification” of Southern politics.
Nixon had attended Duke University Law School in North Carolina. During his time at Duke, he had engaged in long, friendly arguments with his Southern classmates regarding racial issues. Nixon (like Eisenhower before him) understood the Southern mind-set. He admired their traits of loyalty, aristocracy, gentlemanly manners, chivalry towards women, military valor, and patriotism. He contrasted that with his disdain for the “elitism” of Harvard and Ivy League intellectuals. Unfortunately his somewhat negative attitude toward Jews was perhaps reinforced by the experience.
All in all, Nixon’s persona among the Southern electorate was a gentle agreement to disagree, but he refused to let the racial question overshadow his other traits, which were popular in the region. Nixon was a bona fide Commie hunter, a traditionalist, a huge football fan, and a believing Christian who had befriended the great Southern evangelist Billy Graham.
Over time, the “Southern strategy” has become vilified by blacks, who see in it a manipulation of white racism on the part of Nixon. In 2005, the Republicans themselves went so far as to apologize for engaging in such blatantly political maneuverings. However, this apology is much more about the attempt to swing modern twenty-first-century black voters into the Republican column than it is an honest historical appraisal of the strategy itself. The fact is that it swung Wallace voters away from Wallace and into a moderate political philosophy. The ensuing years, if one wishes to apply cause and effect, certainly indicate that it was successful not just for the GOP but also for blacks. Opportunities did open up. Racism did subside. Blacks did gain political power.
The Republicans have been frustrated in the succeeding decades by black refusal to vote their way. Blacks somehow have forgiven Democrats their Jim Crow legacy while allowing the “Southern strategy” to be defined as veiled Republican racism. What they have not understood in adopting this attitude is that the strategy was, like Bear Bryant’s approach to desegregation and the USC game, an incremental approach to a problem that, in the end, needed just such Lincolnian leadership.
After Nixon’s inauguration in 1969, oddly enough, many of his most popular achievements were unpopular in the South. Conversely, his most unpopular were popular down there. His handling of Vietnam, which included an escalation of bombing and aggressive action against Viet Cong sanctuaries, resulted in protests at Berkeley, Columbia, the Lincoln Memorial. . . .
In Birmingham, Oxford, Nashville, he was cheered.
Nixon’s decision to open talks with Red China had the Left in a euphoric tizzy. Southern businessmen could not believe it. They saw Nixon as “going soft” on Communism, they thought NSC advisor Henry Kissinger was just another East Coast Jew, and they were infuriated by activist judges ordering enforced busing, EPA regulations, and abortion on demand. They had no choice but to back him, however. If the South and, in a larger sense, the conservative movement were to throw their hats in with Wallace full bore, America would find itself helmed by the likes of George McGovern and Teddy Kennedy. All of this went for naught when Watergate hit.
When Democrat Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1976, the Left felt almost an “end of history” sense of victory—not just victory in the latest national campaign, but a feeling they were the winners of twentieth-century political theory. This attitude is rich with hubris and reminiscent of Caesar after he crossed the Rubicon, reunifying Rome in his image. Modern-day Republicans predicted the demise of the Democrat party as we know it, an event “planned” by Karl Rove to begin in 2008 and be in place by 2012. When the Iraq War did not result in easy victory followed by parades and speeches, the GOP watched their carefully-nurtured congressional majorities eliminated in the 2006 mid-terms. The 2008 presidential campaign promises to either fulfill the Rove strategy or reverse years of political groundlaying.
The Democrats of 1974–1976 and the Republicans of 2004–2006 would both have been wise to recall that Roman conquerors did understood the nature of hubris, at least to some limited extent. They employed slaves to walk in their shadows, at all times whispering in their ears, “You are mortal. All glory is fleeting.”
The modern Republicans were planning to rule the world as Alexander did, blithely ignoring unseen future events that could spin them off their axis: terrorist mega-attacks, economic disasters, scandal, Armageddon in the Middle East . . .
The Nixon lesson, which emanated on a much smaller scale (a third-rate burglary), seemingly set the GOP back twenty years. George W. Bush’s Texas cowboy image and Christianity seem to engender a similar loathing toward him. The liberal media tainted Nixon’s Vietnam record. The pullout of U.S. forces, followed by the slaughter of anti-Communist resistance, was depicted as a refutation of American militarism and exceptionalism.
The period from 1974 to 1976 remains a dark one in American history, but as the saying goes, all dark clouds have a silver lining. The American and world Left felt they had achieved “victory.” First, the hated Nixon, the slayer of Alger Hiss, had supposedly been brought down in a mountain of irony involving the “avenged” memories of the Kennedys and all the abused liberals in Nixon’s wake. It was a tale that made Macbeth look tame. The Democrats on the Watergate Committee; Archibald Cox, Bob Woodward, and Carl Bernstein), they were portrayed as Moseses leading theirpeople out of bondage from the “Pharaoh” Nixon.
One by one, Nixon and conservatism was deconstructed. The Soviet Union was now thought to be a nation we had to respect as an equal. The term Cold War was made passé. Enormous shifts in attitude toward race, sex, religion, drugs, morality, and patriotism took place, seemingly taking on a liberal image. In the late 1970s, Sam Cunningham’s performance would have been given little credence in comparison with the protest movements. It has only been the sands of time that have allowed us to correctly judge the true sweep of history.
However, Nixon’s own words still had resonance, in a phrase he had invented in 1968: the silent majority. Herein lies the effect of Sam Cunningham and the 1970 USC-Alabama game on America. It is intertwined with Ronald Reagan and the Orange Countification of the South, the husbanding of the a region into the mainstream via Nixon and the GOP. It helps explain the backlash against liberalism that gained its foothold in the Goldwater run and its power in Nixon’s presidency. In the wake of Gerald Ford’s loss, its voice was found in the Reagan revolution. After Reagan, the road to George W. Bush was paved by the Contract with America. Even Bill Clinton’s successes are attributed to Southern politics embodied by the post-Cunningham period.
One of Nixon’s closest friends and advisors was Billy Graham, who invited the president to speak at one of his outdoor sermons before a sellout football stadium crowd. The mainstream media treated the event in one of two ways. Either they ignored it as insignificant pandering to a no-longer significant constituency, or they criticized it as a violation of church and state.
But Nixon’s Christianity and his relationship with Graham are telling. This was Orange Countification. Nixon, despite his failure to come to King’s aid in 1960, had significant black support. There was still a semiconservative black minority. Basketball star Wilt Chamberlain was a Nixon man. So, too, were Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra’s “rat pack.” Nixon was as stiff as a board, but a fair number of “cool” Hollywood and entertainment types, such as Elvis Presley, rallied to him.
Presley, born in Mississippi and raised in Tennessee, was overtly paranoid about Communists in the entertainment industry, offering his services to the president to help root these elements out, not unlike the way Reagan had in early 1950s Hollywood. Southerners like Presley were emerging as the image of the New South. In the wake of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, blacks now had the vote in Dixie. The Atlanta Falcons and Houston Oilers were two of several top pro football squads that operated totally integrated operations, as did the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves baseball teams. Orange Countification was silently taking place. White racial moderates, conservative politically, Christian by religion, patriotic and respectful of Confederate Civil War valor, pro-family traditionalists who hated Communism and knew the way a military was supposed to be used. They were rugged Western individualists representing California’s electoral juggernaut. A marriage was being made, if not in Heaven then in the South. This was a region that had been marginalized and taken for granted by its uneasy Democrat sponsors. They now saw a chance to attain its rightful place via a new partnership, first with conservatism and eventually in official alliance with the Republican Party. This was not an uneasy “understanding” between Huey Long and Franklin Roosevelt, but rather trust and respect between Southern pols and their constituencies with Nixon, Reagan, and their growing followings. Amazingly, the American punditry either did not see it coming or mistook it for something else.
One reason for this was Jimmy Carter, the moderately conservative (liberal by Georgia standards) Southerner who succeeded the racist Lester Maddox as governor on the strength of the new black votes the 1965 legislation helped usher in. Carter was a hybrid of time and opportunity. He filled the Democrat vacuum still left open by Teddy Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick. His squeaky-clean evangelical Christianity was palatable to the South and seen not in religious terms but rather as a sign of honesty by the liberals and the electorate, begging for accountability after Watergate. Carter’s ascendancy was part of a trend, embodied by numerous national essays detailing how the “New South will rise again.” Included in this development were strange tales of a “new” Ku Klux Klan, led by an educated, telegenic man named David Duke. Even racism understood the growing dynamics of public relations.
From 1964 to 1980, every election cycle saw the Republicans slowly chipping away at the Southern Democrat base. This trend took evolving forms. First, there was the “Wallace factor,” in which the influence of Alabama’s maverick Democrat governor proved to hurt his own party and help the Republicans. This “revolt” against Democrat liberalism within the party was not limited to Wallace, and it resulted in growing GOP success through the 1960s and 1970s.
Second, emerging Republican enclaves took shape in the solid South. One of them was the wealthy Houston district represented by Congressman George H. W. Bush from 1967 to 1971 (the future president lost Senate races in 1964 and 1970).
Finally, there was the unkindest cut of all, the actual switching of parties by prominent Democrats to the Republicans. Trent Lott made his switch in 1972. Senator Strom Thurmond, who had splintered the “Dixiecrats” in 1948, also switched. But conservative Democrats, the likes of which in later years included Georgia senator Zell Miller, undercut the party’s base for years without actually leaving.
In 1980, America needed a change. Jimmy Carter had been bamboozled by the Communists, had allowed Islamo-Fascism to take root in Iran (with American hostages fueling the effort), and had created an economic “malaise” that allowed interest rates to climb to 25 percent, making home ownership extremely difficult to attain. Out of the Republican Party emerged Reagan. His detractors saw only an aging actor. His devoted followers remembered “the Speech” he made in 1964 and the way he righted California for eight years. They recalled the way he had almost nabbed the nomination from a sitting president in 1976, and now he was “the right man in the right place at the right time” (not unlike Cunningham ten years prior).
Reagan sent a message by starting his campaign, symbolically, in Mississippi. It was another example of the Orange Countification of the South. The Mississippians who supported Reagan had been supporting nearly a decade of integrated Ole Miss football. By 1980 the sight of black football players—not to mention basketball players, baseball players, cheerleaders, even fraternity brothers and professors—was, if not entirely commonplace, certainly no longer out of the question.
Reagan’s critics naturally tried to paint him as racist for making his announcement in Mississippi. They totally missed the point that Reagan was not racist, and he was still popular in that state.
George Wallace called civil rights leader John Lewis, asking if he could apologize for his segregationist past. He went to a black church and apologized to a roomful of African Americans. They told him that what he had done “was forgiven, but not forgotten.”
It should never be forgotten, but the power of Christianity is the power to forgive. It is not a power merely exercised by Christ, who sheds grace on sinful wretches. It is a power endowed to humans, who use this power to forge a better world. The mainstream of African American citizenry has, over time, forgiven the South for its sins. They have not forgotten, although too many young black people do not know the stories. They do not know about the sacrifices of Jackie Robinson or the accomplishments of Sam Cunningham.
Charles Scott, a close friend of baseball star Barry Bonds and a fellow African American, once said that being black in America meant “hearing the stories handed down, from aunts and uncles, grandfathers.” While this is generally true, too often millionaire black superstar athletes take their success for granted. They too often fail to recognize not just that their paths were paved for them by black pioneers but also that a generous, hopeful America gave them opportunities unavailable anywhere else in the world.
Reagan’s eight years in the White House are generally regarded by a circle of historians, who now have had time to assess his legacy, as the best of the twentieth century, and one of the best in American history. Had Reagan failed, much of the conservative revolution would have faltered. The nexus between the 1970 USC-Alabama game and the husbanding of the American South into the mainstream, thus setting the stage for Republican electoral hegemony, would not be told, at least in such startling terms, had Reagan not achieved what he did.
The success of the 1970 USC-Alabama game; the near-seamless transition of blacks not only into the SEC but into Southern society; the continual economic, cultural and political advancement of blacks in America; much of this can be attributed to the conditions that embody this game.
Bryant and his team succeeded in large measure because white hearts softened. On a larger scale, America succeeded because white hearts (and not just in Dixie) softened. Considering what the streets of Birmingham, Selma and Montgomery looked like in 1963-1965, and what Legion Field looked like in 1970 and beyond, the prospect that a Christian miracle is responsible must be considered a valid possibility. From a more earthly perspective, it appears to be the success, in large measure, of a political philosophy espoused by Ronald Reagan, given the moniker conservatism, and embodied by a more succinct phrase herein called Orange Countification. The philosophies of Orange County adapted by the formerly hard-line South. Somehow, a football team just north of Orange County, helps to symbolize, 37 years after the fact, how it all came about.
The region was officially Democrat but conservative to the extreme. Conservatism found its conscience, which moderated its extremist tendencies to more fittingly adapt to its natural Christian instincts. In so doing, conservatism moderated to better fit the Western model of Reagan, of California, and of Orange County. Instead of racism and resentment, rugged individualism, entrepreneurial spirit, and religious morality inculcated conservatism in the South. Its white citizens began to see as plain as day that Christianity did not mean white supremacy or separatism.
Herein lies a conundrum for liberals. Whites came to see that the Christian phraseology of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was as right as rain. Dr. King was a liberal, at least by standards of the 1960s. It always seemed that, to the extent a “winner” would emerge from the civil rights struggle, it would be the “liberals,” the Democrats, the Left. No so. It was the conservatives and the Republicans.
This fact has caused more than a little bit of angst among modern black leaders and Democrats, who instead of accepting the tenets of this self-evident truth often try to deny it, call it something else, accuse it of being a cynical ploy by the Right. In the mean time, as the old song says, “the truth is marching on.”
This has a familiar ring to it, though. Some call this political phenomenon the “Nixon goes to China” syndrome. Nixon was the most vehement of all anti-Communists, yet he went against his own constituency to open diplomatic relations with Red China, which history judges to have been a smart move. “Only Nixon,” it was said, could do this. A liberal would have been excoriated as being “soft on Communism.”
Similarly, the Democrat Bill Clinton reformed welfare. A conservative would have been burned had he tried such a thing. These are just two examples of the “Nixon goes to China” theory.
Reagain’s vice president, George Herbert Walker Bush, succeeded him. In theory, he was a Southerner. It was just a theory. Bush was a Northeast Rockefeller Republican. It was true that he earned his spurs wildcatting the Texas oil patch in the 1950s, but his Yale frat image was too ingrained. He was old money. A blue blood.
Reagan had taken major hits from the Democrats and the media. They pounded him during the failed Robert Bork nomination to the Supreme Court and the Iran-Contra scandal. What the liberals failed to realize was that the Bork and Iran-Contra events were viewed differently by conservatives, particularly in the South. Bork had argued against the constitutional legitimacy ofRoe v. Wade. Southerners were just itching to overturn the questionable 1973 abortion ruling.
Marine lieutenant colonel Oliver North became a star defending Reagan during the Iran-Contra hearings. Southern anti-Communists were all for backing the rebels fighting an illegitimate Marxist cabal in Nicaragua.
Bush came on promising a “kinder, gentler” presidency. Bush tried to make friends with Democrats, to cut deals with them, to reach out. These efforts left him vulnerable to the campaigns of not one but two Southerners who, while not members of the Republican Party, had some conservative credentials.
Ross Perot ran as an independent. He was a billionaire Texas business mogul who had graduated from the Naval Academy. Bill Clinton claimed to be Baptist, and in an effort to right a floundering Democratic Party, he had helped found the Southern Democratic Leadership Council. These were moderately conservative Southern Democrats who recognized that the South was the key to electoral success.
Perot took an enormous bloc of votes away from Bush. Clinton painted a moderate downturn as “the worst economy of the twentieth century” and slickly got away with it. Bush lost because he did not appeal to the blue-collar, conservative, and Christian elements not only in the South but also throughout Republican heartlands.
His defeat was not lost on his son, who had had an epiphany leading to sobriety, had become a born-again Christian, and already had made contacts with the Christian Right. That Bush was a different kind of conservative. He does not fit the mold of Orange Countification reflected by Nixon and Reagan, but he is certainly closer to it than his father.
Bush, despite sporting the same blue-blood credentials as his father, was all Midland, Texas. He serves as a perfect example of the New South. The man does not have a racist bone in his body. Two of his top aides were African Americans. Secretary of State Colin Powell and his successor, former NSC advisor Condoleezza Rice, were (and in Rice’s case, still is) two of his most trusted advisors. Their jobs are the furthest possible jobs in America from “token.”
Rice is particularly symbolic in reflecting upon the 1970 USC-Alabama game. She grew up in segregated Birmingham and knew some of the little black girls killed when the KKK blew up a church there in the early 1960s.
Bush rode to success on the heels of successful Republican Congressional strategies and Clinton’s personal immorality. The Contract with America was orchestrated in 1994 by Georgia’s Newt Gingrich, the Speaker of the House. It was a brilliant campaign that completely devastated the Democratic Party.
Bush’s presidency, beginning in 2001, benefited from the Republican majorities birthed by the Contract with America. After some party switching that briefly gave the Senate to the Democrats, Bush presided over historic Republican midterm victories in 2002, and in 2004 he won reelection with the largest vote count in history, in the election with the highest turnout ever. The Republicans dominated every level of U.S. politics—the House, the Senate, governors’ races, and state legislatures. The key was “moral values” in the heartland, and the South was solidly behind Bush and his party. No American president, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln’s Northern backers during the Civil War, has been more popular in a region than Bush in the South.
Republican hegemony in the twenty-first-century South has given rise to some telling observations. After the 2004 elections, Democrats in the “blue states” complained that “banjo pickers” and “crossbreeders” had decided the White House. This unfortunate statement, made en masse by a huge portion of the Left, is not only a lie but also the height of hypocrisy. Using the legal “but for” method of proximate causation, an examination of the facts reveals just how hypocritical. In so doing, it demonstrates almost as scientific fact the superiority of conservatism over liberalism, Republicans over Democrats. This is the kind of thing Plato would have made use of, since he sought not political advantage, the majority or opinion, but rather scientific truths to guide public administration. This is the birth of the phrase “political science.”
For many decades, the South was backward. Their rural counties often lacked running water, electricity, and indoor plumbing, much less cable TV or computers. For all the decades in which a large swath of the South actually was ignorant, two constants remained:
1. They were racist.
2. They were Democrats.
After the Tennessee Valley Authority was established, federal works projects brought modernity. Over time, these modernities effectuated an educated, informed populace that was no longer ignorant. Along came cable TV, the Internet, talk radio. The following came about as a direct result:
1. They are no longer racists.
2. They are now Republicans.
A couple of things. The following and others are sections that may be of concern, and I think you know what I am talking about. This concerns my political opinion/commentary, which is very patriotic to the point of jingoistic. I am extremely patriotic and believe every word of what I write as pure truth even if the cynic might think I do not. I truly believe the hand of God has guided this nation throughout. I do not state this as a theory or philosophy but as something I truly believe is real and actual. That said, I realize this may not be on-point with this book; it could be too controversial; it could be subject to liberal criticism. I have read and re-read all of this many times before sending it in. I include it with a caveat. Edit as you see fit. If you want to change it to lighten it up, do so. If you need me to do so, let me know. I am not “married” to this and do not want it to distract from the themes of this book. I believe in it but think I can use a good editor on it.>
Conservatism and Christianity, working hand in hand in America, have proven themselves to be the winning ideology of 2000 years of history. In the immediate here and now, there are variations on the theme. Had the United States gotten the same results in Iraq in 2003-2007 as they did in 1991, the Karl Rove strategy of a “permanent” GOP majority may well have been realized. The Democrat Party might not have survived such a thing, splintering into something else, possibly two parties independent of the traditional party of FDR and JFK.
The faults and blame the Bush Administration has received – much of it well deserved – when Iraq ‘03 did not resemble Iraq ’91, emboldened the Democrats to mid-term wins in 2006. Behind the likely banner of Hillary Clinton, they enter the 2008 presidential year with high hopes. However, this is a smokescreen diverting attention from the ultimate historical success of conservatism over liberalism.
“When I got started in the movement,” columnist William F. Buckley, considered by some not to have been part of the movement but the founder of it, told Human Events magazine, “the Republican Party was a Northeast liberal party. Our ideas were considered to be fringe elements of society. But today I look about the political landscape and I see international Soviet Communism on the ‘ash heap of history.’ I see old-style socialism to be a thing of the past in this country; the New Deal and the Great Society discredited. I see conservatives proudly wearing their banner while nobody calls themselves liberal and expects to win elections under that moniker. I see a refutation of Keynesian economic theory in favor of that of Hayek or Friedman. I see losses but many more victories. Sure we won.”
Indeed, even the 2006 congressional victories were achieved in large part by conservative Democrats taking advantage of an electorate, much of it in the South, frustrated that the Republicans were not conservative enough!
The prospects of a Northeastern liberal like Hillary are not good. Her husband, Bill Clinton, ran as a Southern moderate-to-conservative Democrat. He was raked over the coals when, beholden to liberal money interests he veered to the left. He achieved successes when the Republican Congress came on, held his feat to the fire, and “helped” him enact relatively conservative policies. The South continues to be the rock of Republican electoral prospects for years to come.
The world currently faces a new crisis in the form of Islamo-Fascist terror. Any long term hopes the Democrats have will not reach fruition as a result of their response to terror. When they were elected by surly voters, frustrated by lack of progress in Iraq, they had the unique opportunity to join the fight and, when victory is attained, share in the plaudits just as history tells us the Cold War was won not just by Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, but also by Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. So far, no Democrat has appeared on the horizon to do now what Truman or JFK clearly saw needed to be done in their day. Instead, the party has for all practical purposes assumed the role of de facto public relations wing for Al Qaeda, just as UC-Berkeley once allowed its campus to be the staging grounds of American Communism.
There are people on the Left; elected Democrats, media commentators, columnists, Hollywood actors, entertainers, “comics,” who are so unpatriotic that it appears they are on Osama Bin Laden’s payroll. Unfunny comedians like Bill Maher and Rosie O’Donnell, just to name two, give the appearance of people who traveled to Afghanistan; met with bin Laden; asked him, “What is it you would like me to do to help your cause, to hurt America?; were told, “Do precisely, exactly, and continuously, that with which you have been doing.”; and followed those orders to the letter.
Was it any surprise that Al Qaeda in Iraq advised America to “vote Democrat” prior to the 2006 mid-terms? Democrats did do that with which the terrorists thus advised. Conservatism is far from perfect, but to paraphrase Winston Churchill, it may be “the worst political philosophy known to man, with the exception of all other political philosophies known to man.” The Republicans have consistently shot themselves in the foot. Their biggest mistake has been, despite being given the bully pulpit of the winning ideology of conservatism, to keep trying to make friends with Democrats by adopting psuedo-Democrat ideas. The result: Democrats stab them in the back anyway, and the ideas are bad.
Whether conservatism’s ultimate victory will manifest itself in Republican sweeps in 2008, resulting in Karl Rove actually getting his wish – the break-up of the Democrats in 2012 not unlike the nineteenth century Whigs – is immaterial to the movement’s place in history. Individual candidates, public opinion and external political factors – war, the economy, scandal – will swing individual elections to one side or another based on peculiarities of the moment. There have been times when conservatism had the mandate, the votes, the majority; and other times it has not. For the most part, even when it wins elections, it will always be a minority because to be a conservative requires courage, historical knowledge and a willingness to buck easy public opinion.
Therefore, its adherents even when a minority in number, shall remain in an evil world the “thin red line” separating civilization from anarchy; right from wrong, order from chaos. George Washington standing up to the British Empire; Abraham Lincoln standing up to slavery; Winston Churchill standing up to Nazism; Ronald Reagan standing up to Communism; and George W. Bush standing up to terrorism.
A recent documentary called In the Face of Evil outlines the lonely, brave role of conservatism in a world of unimpressives. It tells the story of Reagan’s often lonely fight against Soviet expansion and influence. While Reagan saw the Cold War won, the documentary does not declare “victory” as such. It describes “the Beast,” a metaphor for the devil, Satan, evil, which simply changes form over generations: religious intolerance, despotism, racism, slavery, nationalism, Nazism, Communism, terrorism . . . and the seeming inability of supposedly well meaning people to see that with which is placed before thine eyes.
The Left has either failed to see evil in the past, or worse, been part and parcel of it (Communism most obviously). Communism may be dead; that is, there may be no Soviet Union. There may be no “hammer and sickle.” One million Chinese regulars many not be crossing the Yalu River. But it is still alive as an idea; something that is against religion, especially Judeo-Christianity; against family values, tradition, manly courage, military valor, and other things that mark America. It is, therefore, against America, and it manifests itself in the form of – take your pick – Leftism or liberalism. The worst part about it is that it camouflages itself as something righteous, something for the environment, the planet, the children, the poor. It lies.
Its current failure to either oppose evil or do its bidding is not new. In 1972-73, Republican President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger crafted a hard-won peace with the North Vietnamese Communists. It was based on Kissinger’s realpolitik, a European concept outlined in post-Napoleonic peace treaties, using the interests of rival Communist states, the U.S.S.R. and China, against each other in favor of American global interests.
Then Watergate hit. The Democrats, after having suffered a massive loss in the 1972 blowout to Nixon, saw political opportunism. They challenged Nixon on the issue. The Communists, seeing American military will weakened by Democrat gains, attacked South Vietnam, which had been maintained as a sanctuary not unlike South Korea. With Democrats in power after the 1974 mid-terms, Nixon weakened, then resigned. Gerald Ford, unable to get Democrats to oppose the Communists, was thus unable to stop the North Vietnamese Army from invading the south.
It would be moral relativism to blame it all on Ted Kennedy, who led the Democrats at that time. After all, it was Communist leaders and soldiers who ordered and carried out the killings. Nevertheless Kennedy, being an intelligent man, could reasonably see it coming, yet still he did not oppose it. None in his party did. The result? Estimates vary, but the results of all this add to up to about 1 million South Vietnamese dead, 1.5 million Cambodians dead, multiple thousands of Laotians and others dead, and millions of refugees.
That is what “the Beast” looked like between 1975 and 1979. Democrats, as if having made a deal with the devil, won the White House in 1976. By 1980, these and other events were no longer murky, hidden behind Democrat allies in the liberal media. Millions by now had seen and understand what occurred. The result? Ronald Reagan in two landslides.
When faced with the “the Beast” in its 1980s form – nuclear weapons, threats against western Europe, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, adventurism in Africa and Latin America – Reagan chose not the Kennedy strategy (3 million dead) but victory.
“Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot,” declared British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Today, “the Beast” is Islamo-Fascist terror. The Democrats are advocating a replay of the Ted Kennedy strategy of 1973-75, for pure naked, short-term political gain. Whether the results would be 1 million dead, 3 million dead, or more, in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, none of these scenarios are worthy to conservatives. The Democrats find themselves between a rock and a hard place. If the Kennedy strategy – now outlined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (R.-California) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nevada) – is implemented, with the result a repeat of Cambodia’s “killing fields,” at some point Democrat responsibility for the carnage will again seep through the liberal media (which is now countered by conservative talk radio, meaning it will happen much faster). The electorate will react against the Democrats as they did in 1980, and the Republicans will go on another winning streak.
If, however, George Bush and his backers succeed first in fending off Democrat cowardice, then win, all credit will go to the Republicans. There will be no sharing of the credit, as in the Cold War. It will be the end of the Democrat Party, and not merely another Republican winning streak. It will be that “permanent majority” Karl Rove is seaking.
This great nation is built on a two-party system. “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Pure Republican hegemony would not be good for the world. Despite its inherent ideological advantages, the party is run by human beings and therefore subject to human flaw. It is obvious by the writing in this book that an opinion has been made advocating for Republicans and conservatives, but it does not advocate for one-party Republican rule. A “loyal opposition” is needed. At this point, however, only the Democrats can save themselves and there do not appear to be any modern Lancelots on white steeds riding to their rescue.
It might seem incongruous that a book describing how the cherished liberal view of racial equality somehow sparked the political fire that led to liberal failure and conservative triumph. It would also be a mistake to assume that the opinions expressed herein advocate a “liberalism is all bad” philosophy. America needs liberalism. Conservatism, left to run amok, would screw up too. Liberalism is the bulwark of Western Civilization. Many of its best tenets are found in Greek Philosophy, Christian teachings, the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment, and the American Revolution.
It was liberalism that sparked the civil rights movement, and thank God for it. But it was only when conservatism met it half-way that the movement succeeded. Embodied by the modern South, symbolized by the 1970 USC-Alabama football game, it has been the impetus for monumental political change favoring the Right.
But the prospect of a Republican recovery resulting in the ultimate demise of the Democrat Party foretells potential doom, too. Not just political doom, but a larger kind of Doom, with a capital “D.”
“Pride goeth before the fall,” as former USC All-American tight end Charles “Tree” Young likes to quote from Scripture. There are preachers, many on the radio, who believe that the world is in the End Times. Call it what you like – the Great Tribulation, Apocalype, Armageddon – but polls show that in America a remarkable 30 to 40 percent of the population holds to the evangelical Christian view that the Lord Jesus Christ is Coming . . . soon!
Some say the end of the “church age” began in 1988. The Book of Revelations describes events eerily similar to our world; the creation of national Israel, wars, rumors of wars, plus a population explosion matching the Biblical statement that there will be saved more than “any man can number.” “Signs and wonders” abound in the form of global climate change. Radio, TV, the Internet, modern communication and travel have made the spreading of the Gospel possible in ways man never could contemplate for the previous two thousand years.
The Bible describes the fall of great empires; Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. Today, America is the greatest world empire in the history of human existence. While we appear to have our hands full with terrorists, the fact is that the U.S. could wipe all enemies off the planet through nuclear weapons. China and Russia, among others, may pose a threat and probably would get a few off in retaliation, but the only factors preventing the U.S. from utter global domination are two things: (1) the U.S. decision not to do so, (2) because the U.S. knows God would not look favorably upon such an act. So we instead fight our human enemies with one hand tied behind our back. His will be done.
Beyond our military, American dominance manifests itself in the form of pop culture, Hollywood, music, fashion, sports, and most importantly, the spread of Christianity through the freedoms advanced by this great nation.
Since great empires have all fallen in Biblical times, followed by the rise and fall of Spain, France, Great Britain, Germany and the Soviet Union, if one takes Revelations to its logical conclusion, would it not make sense that the “last empire,” its strongest and most righteous – America – would be at its most impregnable when He returns in judgment?
Furthermore, would it not make sense that the truly good empire that is America would not be in place to free the most people, allowing the most souls to hear the Gospel, at a time of the world’s greatest population explosion (roughly 2 billion to 6 billion in 50 years)?
Lastly, is it not logical (at least as far as such things go) that the last great political philosophy – the uniquely American form of conservatism astride evangelical Christianity – officially cloaked in Republican victory, would be standing alone fighting “the Beast” in its death throes in the Last Days; and finally that Republican hubris, vanity and pride would be man’s final insult against God before the return of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Of course, if all of this is to happen in our time, an Anti-Christ is required. An American political figure? Does anybody come to mind? Somebody out of the Middle East? The Bible tell us that all of this shall happen like “a thief in the night,” except for those who are standing in metaphorical watchtowers, waiting.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism