Elections 2020: As the South Goes, so Goes the Nation
Both major political parties in the U.S. have had their own “Southern strategy.” It is the long-established formula for political power for the ruling class in this country. At the heart of the formula for political power is: first divide the Southern working class, employing the weapon of white supremacy, and then deliver the South to the ruling class as a reactionary political counter-balance.
By delivering a Solid South, the political party that won the South was assured of its victory. The openly white supremacist Southern Democratic party, throughout the era of Jim Crow, played exactly that role in the Roosevelt “New Deal” Democratic coalition. It ensured the Democratic party became the ruling party, while at the same time blocking progressive legislation such as universal healthcare (today called Medicare-for-All), and restricting union organizing in the South (through Right-to-Work laws).
In the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement, the Democratic party now included millions of Black voters in the South. Bill Clinton, in 1992, himself a Southerner from Arkansas, employed a new Southern strategy based upon a coalition of Blacks and enough whites to win the South and assure victory in the elections of that year. In the process, the liberal New Deal coalition lost its dominance and marked a shift to the right by the Party.
Now, in 2020, we have been witness in the Democratic party primaries to how the formula of “as the South goes, so goes the nation” is in play even now. In South Carolina, the Southern strategy was deployed. This time, though, a Black political elite in the South played its role in delivering the South to the ruling elements of the Democratic party. The Congressional Black Caucus co-hosted the debate held in Charleston, South Carolina, just before the primary. On the very next day, Jim Clyburn, a congressman from South Carolina and one of the most powerful leaders in the Congressional Black Caucus, endorsed Joe Biden.
With that, Biden won South Carolina, and in short order, every key Southern politician came out in endorsement of Biden. Biden swept the South and is now viewed as the presumptive nominee.
The Southern strategy is a formula for political power that no politician dare ignore. But two can play at that game. The impoverished and oppressed new class being thrown out of any place in the capitalist economy makes up a bigger share of the population in the South than in any other region.
Thousands of revolutionaries, propelled by this class, have no recourse but to fight for access to the vital needs of food, shelter, clean water, education, and healthcare. Many of these revolutionaries found themselves in the Sanders campaign in what they saw as a vehicle to make the fight to obtain their demands. Many more are making that fight on fronts across the country, and that is certainly the case in the South. Whether it is understood fully or not, they are all engaged in a fight for the political power to obtain their basic needs.
The formula for political power for the ruling class has been a divided working class, first in the South and then for the entire country. The formula for political power for the working class is a class united around a common program to reconstruct society in its own interests. Only then will the formula for political power work in our favor. RC
May/June 2020. vol.30. Ed3
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Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011