To the Editor: Trump and the Dixiecrats 



To the Editor:  

I was thinking about Mark Twain’s famous quote, “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes,” as I considered the state of politics today. In 1948, many southern white politicians broke from the Democratic Party after Truman integrated the military and championed the civil rights of African Americans. Southern Senator Strom Thurmond ran against Truman on the States Rights Democratic Party, better known as the Dixiecrats. Despite Thurmond’s success in several states, Truman narrowly won reelection. 

Over the next couple of decades, Democrats, including Joe Biden, found ways to accommodate the Dixiecrats and keep them in the fold. Then, in 1964, at the beginning of the civil rights era, Thurmond and other Dixiecrats became Republicans as George Wallace founded the American Independent Party and campaigned for president in 1968 in favor of segregation. This was the last straw for the New Deal coalition of Democrats and Dixiecrats. 

The 1968 election was surprisingly close in terms of the popular vote. Nixon got 43.4 percent and Humphrey got 42.7 percent of the vote. Wallace, though, got 13.5 percent and almost 10,000,000 votes. Wallace won five states in the deep South and ran well in many Northern industrial districts. Nixon became the champion of the ‘silent majority’ and most of the Dixiecrats turned Republican. Nixon won in a landslide in 1972. Of course, Nixon had to resign in scandal in August 1974 after Watergate. However, the Dixiecrats never returned to the Democratic fold. 

The history of the Trump era appears to rhyme with the Wallace/Nixon period. Just as with Wallace and the Democrats, Republicans tried to pacify and accommodates the Trump supporters. But, unlike Wallace, Trump didn’t break away; he took over the Republican Party. Democrats were finally willing to cede the Dixiecrats to the Republicans and to build a new party dedicated to civil rights. 

At this present point, Republicans are trying to temporize. Many of the Establishment ones are appalled at what Trump has done, but they are not willing to denounce him for fear of his base support. They are trying to have it both ways. They say they will not vote for an impeachment conviction, not because they approve of Trump, but because it is unconstitutional to even have a Senate trial. Is this going to work? Well, the Establishment is certainly in crisis mode. If they desert Trump, he is likely to form a MAGA party or otherwise split the Republican Party. If they stick with him, they will alienate a large portion of the American people who detest him. Even so, Trump is not likely to appreciate their loyalty for very long. We may be looking at a time when the Republican party goes the way of the Whigs. I don’t see that they have a Lincoln on the horizon, though. 

 

Robert Gallon 

Bar Harbor  

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