Did someone mention Southern Strategy?
If the parties had in some meaningful way flipped on civil rights, one would expect that to show up in the electoral results in the years following the Democrats’ 1964 about-face on the issue. Nothing of the sort happened: Of the 21 Democratic senators who opposed the 1964 act, only one would ever change parties. Nor did the segregationist constituencies that elected these Democrats throw them out in favor of Republicans: The remaining 20 continued to be elected as Democrats or were replaced by Democrats. It was, on average, nearly a quarter of a century before those seats went Republican. If southern rednecks ditched the Democrats because of a civil-rights law passed in 1964, it is strange that they waited until the late 1980s and early 1990s to do so.
Here's how propagandists construct the Big Lie. They take some facts, overlook others, and the actually outright lie about the conclusions. What is the Big Lie about the Southern Strategy? Nixon did it. He flipped the South by appealing to their racism. Most of the South went for Wallace in 1968. The traditionally liberal parts of the country went for Humphrey and the rest of the nation went for Nixon. When the rest of the nation supports Nixon there are no nefarious motives assigned, but when a few Southern states follow the lead of the rest of the nation then they're doing it for the wrong reasons. What was their alternative, vote for Wallace or Humphrey and neither of those was palatable. Nixon didn't do anything.
Come 1972, the Big Lie has us believe that Nixon clamped a lock-down on the South. Well, he did the same everywhere except in Massachusetts. Now what happened in 1976, did that lock-down hold? Nope, look at all of those Democratic electoral votes in the South - a solid Democratic victory through every state which should be impossible if the Republicans had a lock on the Southern vote.
Jump forward to the Clinton years and let's see how much of a lock the Republicans have on the South. After the Reagan years, it should have been impossible for Clinton to win many of those states, remember the Southern Democrats were all Republicans now, except for the fact that evidence shows this not to be the case.
So what did happen in the South? This:
The Republican ascendancy in Dixie is associated with the rise of the southern middle class, the increasingly trenchant conservative critique of Communism and the welfare state, the Vietnam controversy and the rise of the counterculture, law-and-order concerns rooted in the urban chaos that ran rampant from the late 1960s to the late 1980s, and the incorporation of the radical Left into the Democratic party. Individual events, especially the freak show that was the 1968 Democratic convention, helped solidify conservatives’ affiliation with the Republican party. Democrats might argue that some of these concerns — especially welfare and crime — are “dog whistles” or “code” for race and racism, but this criticism is shallow in light of the evidence and the real saliency of those issues among U.S. voters of all backgrounds and both parties for decades. Indeed, Democrats who argue that the best policies for black Americans are those that are soft on crime and generous with welfare are engaged in much the same sort of cynical racial calculation President Johnson was practicing when he informed skeptical southern governors that his plan for the Great Society was “to have them niggers voting Democratic for the next two hundred years.” Johnson’s crude racism is, happily, largely a relic of the past, but his strategy endures.