White Supremacy as a Political Doctrine

Currently, Hillary Clinton leads POTUS-delictum Donald J. Trump by 1,677,000 votes. As we know, though, Trump has an overwhelming electoral college advantage. The original intent of the electoral college, according to Hamilton — the politician, not the Broadway musical — was to thwart the possibility of interference by a foreign power in choosing the chief executive.

Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union? But the convention have guarded against all danger of this sort, with the most provident and judicious attention.

According to NSA Director, Admiral Michael Rogers, that is exactly what happened this time around,  “There shouldn’t be any doubt in anybody’s mind,” Rogers said. “This was not something that was done casually. This was not something that was done by chance. This was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily. This was a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.” Fortunately, the electoral college was there to spare us from the election of that foreign power’s creature (sarcasm).

Be that as it may, I would like to distinguish between the original design and intent of the electoral college and the strategic preservation and capture of that admittedly flawed institution by proponents of white supremacy. It was no accident that attempts to amend the constitution to abolish the electoral college system were abortive. An important part of the story behind the white supremacist abuse of the electoral college has been outlined in Joseph Lowndes’s From the New Deal to the New Right and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism and in a 1996 Yale Law Journal article by Matthew Hoffman, “The Illegitimate President: Minority Vote Dilution and the Electoral College.

As teasers, I am presenting, below, an excerpt from chapter two of Lowndes’s book –“‘White Supremacy is a Political Doctrine’: Charles Wallace Collins and the Dixiecrat revolt of 1948” — and a section from Hoffman’s article — “Race, Presidential Politics and the Winner-Take-All Rule” — in a subsequent series of separate posts. White supremacist manipulation of the electoral college was intimately related to efforts to dismantle the collective bargaining framework established by the FDR New Deal. I hope to write on that issue later, after I have obtained more of the formative documents and analysis. But first, an excerpt from the chapter,”White Supremacy is a Political Doctrine”:

On November 8, 1944, one day after Franklin Roosevelt was elected to his fourth presidential term [and 72 years, to the day, before the election of Donald J. Trump], southern attorney Charles Wallace Collins retired from his legal practice to write a book that would, he states, “rationalize and strengthen the position of the orthodox Southerner and . . . arouse him to action in the face of organized hostility to Southern States.” Finally published in 1947, Collins’s book Whither Solid South? A Study in Politics and Race Relations became both manifesto and blueprint for the states’ rights—soon nicknamed the “Dixiecrat”— Revolt. Although Collins’s intellectual guidance is generally acknowledged in accounts of the Dixiecrats, there have been no sustained analyses of his ideas, nor examinations of the political substance of his influence.

Collins’s writings and political biography offer an essential perspective for understanding the origins and development not only of the states’ rights movement but also of the role of race in the evolution of the modern Right. Collins’s writings demonstrate how southern elites began to link racism and free market conservatism in theory, and began the first steps to break with the Democratic political order in practice. This process of forging new political identifications and severing old ones involved ideas, long- term strategies, and improvised tactics. Viewing the complex matrix of theory, strategy, and implementation of the Dixiecrat Revolt and its aftermath in massive resistance through one of its central figures, we see that there was nothing automatic or natural about the political changes that came to pass in the 1960s. …

Race, Presidential Politics, and the Winner-Take-All Rule (links)

  1. Strom Thurmond and the “Dixiecrat” Campaign of 1948
  2. The Free Elector Movement of 1960
  3. The Wallace Campaign of 1968 and the Rise of the Republican South
  4. Racial Politics and Present-Day Campaigns