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Assistant Professor of Political Science Steven White Offers Perspective on Jan. 6 Events in Washington, D.C.
Steven White, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of political science at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs who has studied Southern politics. White specializes in American politics, American political development, race and politics collectively.
White provided remarks regarding the events in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021:
“A pro-Trump mob—some carrying Confederate flags—breaking into the Capitol and stopping the Electoral College proceedings reflects longer-term trends in the Republican Party finally reaching a breaking point. The GOP has always been primarily the party of business interests, but since that’s not a large enough group to win elections, they always needed other coalition partners. In the 19th century, that coalition included Black voters, especially in the South. Indeed, for a long time, Southern whites were the most anti-Republican voters in the entire country.
That changed over the course of the 20th century. The New Deal expanded the Democratic Party’s fortunes in the North, turning it into the more politically liberal, multiracial party that we know today. As Black voters started changing their political affiliations and becoming Democrats, some Republicans fought to keep the party as the party of Lincoln. Many more, though, saw the appeal of reaching out to Southern whites disenchanted with the Democratic Party’s more liberal—and increasingly racially inclusive—positions.
By the 1960s, Republican presidential candidates were selling a conservative anti-government message to Southern whites and finding immense success. Many of the Republican elites were concerned first and foremost with economic conservatism. But many of the new Republican voters interpreted the anti-government message as being one about preserving the racial status quo of midcentury America.
In the past few decades, ambitious Republican politicians have increasingly made appeals to the latent illiberalism of white voters around the country, not just the South. Many probably thought they could rile people up for votes but manage to keep things under control. What I think we saw on Jan. 6 is that they might have finally lost control of it.”