The Deep South has always been a pivotal voice in American politics. Recent changes in voting patterns have made things more complicated.


South holds the answer

Donald Trump’s impeachment trial is over with an acquittal. His charge was inciting the Capitol Hill riots. Not enough Republican Senators turned on him. A two-thirds majority was needed to get a conviction, only seven Republicans voted in favour of the guilty verdict. But the question is why, despite all that has happened, have so many Republicans stood by Trump?

The answer, I am afraid, is painfully simple. Trump is still extremely popular with a crucial section of the Republican base. One survey showed that nearly half of Republican voters supported the storming of the Capitol. What is more, 52 per cent of Republicans believe that the election was stolen. This presents a huge dilemma for the GOP. Do they continue to pander to Trump’s radicalised base, as politicians such as Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley have? Or do they re-engage with moderate Republicans, and try to build on the gains they have made with ethnic minorities?

There is one region of the United States that perfectly encapsulates this conundrum; the American South. This is a region that has historically been associated with racism. It is the land of the Ku Klux Klan and the Jim Crow Laws. It is also the America memorably portrayed in To Kill a Mockingbird. But recently, we have seen a different side of the South. A huge turnout by Black voters in Georgia helped turn the state blue in 2020 and helped Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff win in the 2021 runoff. After decades of voter suppression, these Southern voters are finally making their voices heard. And there is every reason to believe that (with a similar turnout by African American voters) a state like Louisiana could go to the Democrats too. This represents a clear challenge to the Republicans, as they used to be able to count on these Southern states.

Southern problems

But the old prejudices of the South are still alive and well. The arrival of Georgia congresswoman, Marjorie Taylor Greene is a sobering reminder of this. Greene was a QAnon supporter (though she claims she no longer is), and has, among other things, suggested that Muslims should not be allowed to swear on the Quran in Congress; that the Sandy Hook and Parkland massacres were a hoax; and liked a Facebook post suggesting that Nancy Pelosi should be shot. And, of course, she thinks that Trump won the election. Last week, the House of Representatives voted to strip her of her committee assignments. The issue is not Greene herself, but what she represents. One statement that she keeps repeating on Twitter is: ‘I’m not one of them, I’m one of you’. By ‘you’ she clearly means Trump’s base. And she may be right.

This is a problem not just for the Democrats, but for the Republicans as well, and not just in the Deep South. Trump’s radicalised base is worryingly big, but it is still far from a majority of Americans. If the GOP keeps pandering to them, they risk alienating people they need to win an election, such as Black and Hispanic voters. But the problem is, they also cannot win without the roughly 30 per cent of hardcore Trump supporters. The fact that only 11 Republicans voted with the Democrats to remove Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committees, shows that they are acutely aware of this. And with Trump floating the idea of a new party called ‘The Patriots’, which threatens to split the Republican vote, the only person this can possibly benefit is Joe Biden and the Democrats.