- Solid South
Democrats won by large margins in the South in every presidential election from 1876 to 1948 except for 1928, when candidate
Al Smith, a Catholic and a New Yorker, ran on the Democratic ticket; even in that election, the divided South provided Smith with nearly three-fourths of his electoral votes. Beginning in about 1950, the national Democratic Party's support of the civil rights movementsignificantly reduced Southern support for the Democratic Party and allowed the Republican Party to make gains in the South by way of its " Southern strategy". Today, the South is considered a stronghold of the Republican Party.
The Democratic dominance originated in many white Southerners' animosity towards the Republican Party's stance in favor of political rights for Blacks during Reconstruction. It was maintained by the Democratic Party's willingness to back
Jim Crow lawsand racial segregation. Conversely, black voters, who usually preferred the Republicans until the 1930s, have voted Democratic at about a 90 percent rate ever since (for example, John Kerrycarried 89% of the black vote in the 2004 presidential election). [ [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4172453 Connie Rice: Top 10 Election Myths to Get Rid Of : NPR ] ]
Democratic factionalization over the Civil Rights Movement
The "Solid South" began to erode when Democratic President
Harry S. Trumanbegan supporting the civil rights movement. His policies, combined with the adoption of a civil rights plank in the 1948 Democratic platform, prompted many Southerners to walk out of the Democratic National Convention and form the DixiecratParty. This splinter party played a significant role in the 1948 election; the Dixiecrat candidate, Strom Thurmond, carried Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. In the elections of 1952 and 1956, the popular Republican Dwight D. Eisenhowercarried several border southern states, with especially strong showings in the new suburbs. In 1956, Eisenhower also carried Louisiana, becoming the first Republican to win the state since Rutherford B. Hayesin 1876, but the rest of the Deep South was still the bastion for Eisenhower's Democratic opponent, Adlai Stevenson.
In the 1960 election, the Democratic nominee,
John F. Kennedy, continued his party's tradition of selecting a Southerner as the vice presidential candidate (in this case, Senator Lyndon B. Johnsonof Texas). Kennedy, however, supported civil rights. In October 1960, when Martin Luther King, Jr.was arrested at a peaceful sit-inin Atlanta, Georgia, Kennedy placed a sympathetic phone call to King's wife, Coretta Scott King, and Robert Kennedy helped secure King's release. King expressed his appreciation for these calls. Although King himself made no endorsement, his father, who had previously endorsed Republican Richard Nixon, switched his support to Kennedy.
Due to these and other events, the Democrats lost ground with white voters in the South. The 1960 election was the first in which a Republican presidential candidate received electoral votes in the South while losing nationally. Nixon carried
Virginia, Tennessee, and Florida. In addition, slates of unpledged electors, representing Democratic segregationists, won the election in Mississippi and Alabama.
The parties' positions on civil rights continued to evolve in the run up to the 1964 election. The Democratic candidate, Johnson, who had become president after Kennedy's assassination, spared no effort to win passage of a strong
Civil Rights Act. After signing the landmark legislation, Johnson said to his aide, Bill Moyers, "I think we just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come." [http://www.digitalnpq.org/archive/1987_winter/second.html] In contrast, Johnson's Republican opponent, Senator Barry Goldwaterof Arizona, voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, believing it gave too much power to the federal government (Goldwater did in fact support civil rights in general; for example the 1957 and 1960 Civil Rights Acts as well as the 24th Amendmentbanning the poll tax).
That November, Johnson won a landslide electoral victory, and the Republicans suffered significant losses in Congress. Goldwater, however, besides carrying his home state of Arizona, carried the deep South: the South had switched parties for the first time. Prior to 1956, the region had almost always provided the only victories for Democratic challengers to popular Republican incumbent presidents. Now, however, the South had provided a Republican challenger with electoral victories against a popular Democratic incumbent.
The "Southern Strategy" and the end of the Solid South
In the 1968 election, the Republican candidate,
Richard Nixon, saw and capitalized on this trend with his " Southern strategy." The new method of campaigning was designed to appeal to white Southerners who were more conservative and more segregationist than the national Democratic Party. As a result of the strategy, the Democratic candidate, Hubert Humphrey, was almost shut out in the South; he only carried Texas. The rest of the region was divided between Nixon and the American Independent Partycandidate George C. Wallace, the governor of Alabama, who had gained fame for opposing integration. Nationwide, Nixon won a decisive Electoral College victory, although he received only a plurality of the popular vote.
After Nixon's landslide re-election in 1972, the election of
Jimmy Carter, a southern governor, gave Democrats a short-lived comeback in the South in 1976, but in his unsuccessful re-election bid, the only Southern states he won were his native state of Georgia and West Virginia. The year 1976 was the last year a Democratic presidential candidate won a majority of Southern electoral votes. The Republicans took all the region's electoral votes in 1984 and 1988. In 1992 and 1996, when the Democratic ticket consisted of two Southerners, ( Bill Clintonand Al Gore), the Democrats and Republicans split the region. In 2000, however, Gore received no electoral votes from the South, even from his home state of Tennessee, though the popular vote in Florida was extraordinarily close in awarding the state's electoral votes to George W. Bush. This pattern continued in the 2004 election; the Democratic ticket of John Kerryand John Edwardsreceived no electoral votes from the South, even though Edwards was from North Carolina.
While the South was shifting from the Democrats to the Republicans, the
Northeastern United Stateswent the other way. Well into the 1900s, the Northeast was a bastion of the Republican Party. The Democratic Party made steady gains there, however, and in 2004 all nine Northeastern states, from Marylandto Maine, voted for Kerry.
The "Southern strategy" today
Today, the South has a mix of Republican and Democratic officeholders (Senators, Representatives and state governors). In presidential elections, however, the region is a Republican stronghold, with few exceptions. Florida, home to many immigrants and retirees from elsewhere in the country, is considered to be "in play" between the major parties.
Louisiana, Arkansasand Tennesseeas well tend to vote more Democratic than other southern states, although Democratic presidential candidates rarely win in those states. Many major corporations are franchising or relocating to southern states such as North Carolina, Georgia, and Texasbecause of favorable banking laws and "right to work" attitudes. Democrats hope that the resulting change in the traditional southern demographicwill help their party.
* Border States
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