COLUMN: The Southern Strategy Redux

Courtesy: REUTERS/Jim Young

By Jerry Augustin, Contributing Writer
Posted 1:40 AM EST, Sat., March 11, 2017

At the 2017 Conservative Political Action Committee, Kellyanne Conway, who serves as counselor to President Donald Trump, had some glowing remarks about the commander-in-chief, arguing that Trump “went right to the grassroots and brought you along.”

The notion that Trump worked from the ground up to gain favor with his supporters is objectively false. One of the biggest effects of the Trump campaign is that it exposed the “covert” agenda of the Republican Party: An agenda full of racism, homophobia, among other various -isms and phobias. When it came to the campaign that Trump ran, it wasn’t the policies that he proposed that energized his supporters, it was the rhetoric that he used that had them racing to the polls. The language that Trump used during the election cycle was nothing new; the language was a recycling of talking points used by conservatives. This time around, the coded language that he used was directed and broadcasted like never before.

Coded language is nothing new to the world of politics. Republican tactics revolve around the use of coded language. Whether it be the Southern Strategy or Ronald Reagan’s use of the term “welfare queens,” conservatives use speech that is designed to portray minority groups as a burden to American society and a problem that needs to be dealt with.

For example, during one of his speeches, Trump said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best…they’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us.” By painting Latinos as problematic, he plants the idea that those groups do more harm than good to the country, giving the average, white American the impression that they are the gold standard and that if an immigrant does not assimilate to American culture, they have no business coming to the States.

Trump’s “grassroots” campaign was, as Danielle Moodie-Mills said after the night of the election, “white supremacy’s last stand.” His use of Southern Strategy tactics riled up his supporters and allowed him to emerge victorious over Hillary Clinton. The polarizing rhetoric Trump used, and continues to use into his presidency, has an effect on all different facets of American society.