White Identity and the Emergence of the Republican Party in the Early-20th Century South

by Casey Fischl

Jeffery A. Jenkins discussed his research paper, White Identity and the Emergence of the Republican Party in the Early-20th Century South, co-authored with Boris Heersink (Fordham University). The paper explores the relationship between white identity, the GOP, and the South. This topic is particularly timely considering Donald Trump’s victory in ten of the eleven ex-Confederate states and the GOP’s electoral dominance in the South. Prior research on the role of white identity in the Republican Party’s emergence in the South focuses primarily on the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. However, Jenkins argues that white identity was an important factor much earlier on during the Jim Crow Era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

White supremacists, known as the Lily Whites, used Jim Crow laws to their advantage to effectively “whiten” the party. Members of this political movement believed that Democrats would continue to control the South if the Republican party continued to include Blacks. To examine the role of white identity in the Republican Party, Jenkins utilizes statistical analysis to create a White Identity Index. Based on his findings, Jenkins asserts that the Republican political strategy of appealing to Southern whites is based on white identity and the disenfranchisement of Blacks.

Jenkins is a Provost Professor of Public Policy, Political Science, and Law at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy. He is also the Judith & John Bedrosian Chair of Governance and the Public Enterprise, the Director of the Bedrosian Center, and the Director of the Political Institutions and Political Economy (PIPE) Collaborative. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an MS in mathematical methods for the social sciences from Northwestern University. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University and Michigan State University.