You may have heard the phrase “Southern Strategy” bandied about in discussions about presidential election strategy. Given that those states — from Texas to North Carolina and from Tennessee to Florida — carry a combined total of close to 150 electoral votes it is important to have some kind of plan for winning them. However, the approach to winning them has changed over time and so must the definition of the phrase.
For starters you have to accept the musings of Shelby Foote, a pre-eminent Civil War historian, when he says that to understand the United States you have to understand the Civil War. The former Confederate states have generally voted as a bloc ever since the end of that conflict. During the Reconstruction period and while under Federal mandate Republican politicians held sway in the South. As soon as Federal forces withdrew, however, Democrats swept into office and stayed there for almost 100 years. And that century was marked by forceful efforts to keep blacks out of the voting booth.