The Ku Klux Klan has been discovered as being a highly influential voter constituency by converting white, southern Democrats into Republican voters, reported Raw Story. The information in this study strongly supports the existence of Lee Atwater’s Southern Strategy.
The American Sociological Association released a study that found in the presidential elections from 1960 to 2000, counties with an established KKK presence experienced a surge in Republican votes beginning in 1960, which was the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. The data from 10 southern US states was accumulated by researchers from Brandeis University, the University of Notre Dame, and Yale.
“It encouraged white voters to prioritize the defense of white supremacy when making voting decisions, upending long-standing Democratic Party allegiances,” wrote the researchers. They also found that, according to a 1992 poll, “decades after the Klan’s decline, conservative racial attitudes strongly predict southerners’ Republican voting, but only in counties where the Klan was organized in the 1960s.”
During the second emergence of the KKK in the 1920s, the Klan chapters were more likely to establish themselves in staunchly Democratic counties, as that party was once the conservative party. However, when the KKK gained traction once again in the 60s, that constituency changed.
The Democratic party associated itself with and supported the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s, and those once-Democratic voters began to vote Republican. The researchers contend that the switch was made because white, southern Democrats felt threatened by the emergence of equal rights for African Americans.
“Given the barriers to voting still in place in the South for blacks in 1964, prior to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, this finding reflects high support among white voters in counties where the perceived threat posed by African-Americans to white interests was greatest,” wrote the researchers.
Some believe that the Southern Strategy was a myth. A highly contentious subject, being debunked and re-proven time and again, the evidence brought forth by the researchers does seem like an effect of a Southern Strategy. Even the words of political strategist Lee Atwater point to the existence of the Southern Strategy.
A report by The Nation examines Atwaters’ 1981 interview where he discusses how he apparently helped Republicans take racist, political stances in a sneaky and indirect way. Below, Atwater explains how to disguise racial issues by concealing them inside of economic issues:
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
Other than shamelessly blurting out racial epithets, Atwater is clearly articulating what seems to be the very basis of the Southern Strategy. Religion was also a key factor in appealing to the southern voters and was also the linchpin justification of the KKK’s actions through history.
Ku Klux Klan principles are still alive and well in America after existing for over a century. From its conception, to the second reemergence in the 20s through the Civil Rights Movement, and today, those racist attitudes unfortunately still have a pulse. If research shows those attitudes still affected politics as recently as the year 2000, then who’s to say they don’t have influence now?
Below are video clips of a Discovery Channel documentary that highlights the Klan’s existence and political influence through history: