The Party of Lincoln has learned a thing or two about the politics of cynicism. Their credentials are on full display in southern statehouses where the party’s brand dominates with super majorities; but then, they had good teachers. Their political predecessors were adept in using legislative tactics to perpetuate a status quo favorable to elite, special interests, too. Before the modern ascendance of the Republican Party in the states of the old Confederacy, the then “Solid South” was emblematic of single-party rule by Democrats. For 70 years, they manipulated the levers of government almost at will. They turned white defiance of the rule of law into the threat of a hangman’s noose, challenging racial equity and perpetuating with White Citizens Councils the enforcement of Jim Crow. As a governing majority, they had a policy checklist that included segregation; systemic disenfranchisement of legitimate voters; and discriminatory practices that sentenced both blacks and poor whites to decades of peonage and illiteracy.
In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a fatal blow to southern Democrats’ “separate but equal” obsession. The Brown v. Board of Education ruling put an end to its racial subterfuge, and affirmed educational equity for all children as a national imperative. The decision blew open the doors of justice in every schoolhouse in Dixie. Still, metaphorically speaking, the party was not over. Defy and delay became the rallying cry; and the party was eager to lead the vanguard of white resistance toward a morally bankrupt abyss. The tide went out for the Democrats when its leadership at the national level threw its support behind the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Soon after, the Republican presidential candidate, Richard Nixon, came to town. It was the beginning of game over for the Democrats’ Solid South.