Just as Phillips predicted, the strategy delivered federal electoral dominance to Republicans through the start of the 21st century. But now it is on life support, courtesy of Barack Obama.
When Chicago’s first black mayor Harold Washington figured out how to assemble a progressive coalition of wealthy Chicago whites and people of color to win his office, he created a blueprint that Obama has used to fundamentally alter the political playing field of this country.
Twice now, the President has won office while losing virtually every Southern state, proving that his 2008 triumph over the Southern strategy was not a fluke. The progressive, multi-racial political coalition that delivered him his victory could enjoy several decades of electoral dominance because the browning of America will only strengthen it.
The Southern strategy is all but dead. Like the Wicked Witch of the East, she is lying under a giant house that fell on her during last night’s electoral tornado, her feet visible, possibly twitching, but soon to lie motionless. As Thomas Schaller, a political scientist, who the New York Times reported, prophesied America’s new political alignment said of the Southern strategy, “I think that’s absolutely over.”
I don’t care how Republicans try to spin this victory, because I’m done trying to rationally explain to them why we matter and why racism is wrong. If they choose to continue the race-baiting tactics that are driving them out of power, it will only accelerate their demise. The faster their party perishes, the better.
When Obama won the election in 2008, I really wasn’t that excited.
Part of me didn’t want to invest too much emotion in him, because I didn’t know what it meant. I thought he might be quickly assassinated and I suspected that he would govern much further to the right than I’d like. He seemed like a good man, and I recognized that he broke an important racial barrier. But I thought the 2008 election was mostly a victory for him, one that raised his star and earned him a place in history books. I feared that his victory came from a once in a life-time political alignment, a sort of political Haley’s Comet, consisting of an unstable multi-racial coalition forged by a weak Republican candidate John McCain.
Last night’s victory proved that I was wrong.
Obama’s most important contribution to American history won’t be that he broke a racial barrier by being the first black President. It will be that he broke the back of a vicious racist political strategy, by showing lovers of truth and justice a path for uniting. We aren’t singing Kumbaya, because the work that we must do — the laws we must change — hasn’t even begun. But we are saluting the President and saying well done.