Demise of the Southern Democrat Is Now Nearly Complete

Senator Mary Landrieu’s widely expected defeat in her runoff Saturday would culminate 50 years of political realignment along racial and cultural lines.

Thank you for this very interesting comment.

6 2019-06-08 21:05:34 - NYMom
Racism determined the political coloration of the South before & racism determines it today. The legacy of slavery lives on & on. Nixon & the GOP take full advantage.
2 2017-03-07 04:43:43 - Raymond

I'm old enough to remember when the War on Poverty was first implemented. The media accounts emphasized poor people of all races, most notably poor whites in Appalachia, but also black people in the Mississippi Delta, white and Latino migrant workers, and Native Americans on desolate reservations.

After Reagan took office, the public discussion about poor people seemed to focus entirely on African-Americans, with snide remarks about "welfare queens" and "pimps and drug dealers living high on the taxpayers' money."

In this and other respects, especially their failure to help farmers besieged by falling crop prices and high interest rates, the Democrats gave the Republicans a pass, and the Democratic Leadership Council even aided and abetted the Republicans. Meanwhile, the mainstream Democrats seemed to focus exclusively on behavioral issues, especially the hot button issues of sexual behavior, reproduction, and guns, while trying to match the Republicans in proclamations of being "business friendly" and "for a strong defense."

Their losing ground in a region where many white people are socially conservative and economically distressed, with a touch of lingering resentment of the North, was inevitable. If the Republicans did nothing for poor whites, Southern voters could at least say, "They respect our values."

If the Democrats want to win back the South, they need to push economic issues in specific terms that ordinary people can understand.

11 2016-11-20 19:00:17 - pdxtran

I'm not sure I agree with the 'great' part, but Nixon certainly saw the opening for political gain and took it.

5 2016-11-06 20:32:42 - tom

Nixon saw it, planned it, executed it and won it. One of the great political figures in American history.

3 2016-10-01 10:12:19 - mahoneyct

Thankfully Nixon died ignominiously and generally vilified before being able to gloat about his "victory" in the south. Whether he will be regarded as, "One of the great political figures in American history" will be left to history to decide. However, I wouldn't be holding my breath too long in the hope of Nixon being rehabilitated in American political memory.

0 2016-08-16 14:56:53 - MaxtheSFCat

Forget trying to reason with the white bigots who draw up the gerrymandered maps and introduce measures to repress the black vote. Just convince most of the blacks and other minorities to get off the couch and go vote. Whites, most of whom are bigots, are the minority. But nearly all of them vote. Voting statistics for blacks are too sad to repeat here -- this whole topic is depressing enough already.

0 2016-08-15 20:23:35 - It'sAPity

I'm not convinced the change can be attributed to increasing liberalism in the Democratic party. Democrats have been the pro-choice party for decades. Obama is not especially liberal among Democratic presidents/nominees of the past 40 years.

I do think Democrats have made at least two mistakes that contribute to this decline among Southern whites. First, in the struggle against Southern Republican gerrymandering, the push-back by judges and activist groups has been almost exclusively focused on preventing *racial minority* under-representation (as opposed to overall party representation).

Imagine a state that is 60% white Republican, 20% white Democrat, and 20% black Democrat, with 10 House seats. Republicans have figured out that they can draw up districts that give black Democrats three seats and claim the remaining seven seats for themselves, thus making BOTH white Republicans AND black Democrats overrepresented. However, because this comes at the expense of white Democrats, it benefits Republicans overall.

The other issue is that Democrats have used language that over-emphasizes advocacy for specific groups rather than principles, like fairness and opportunity, that apply to everyone. I would argue that middle class white men (I am one) best serve their interests by voting Democrat. When many Southern whites hear Democrats talk about addressing income inequality, they incorrectly interpret this to mean helping blacks but not whites (or even at the expense of whites).

46 2016-05-27 07:49:55 - Edward Swing

We need to convince the South that funding Social Security and Medicare are in their best interest. Most of us will need both of those programs when we get old. If you look at how many people are served, the cost is well worth it. Securing our elderly is paramount, because we will all be old someday.

9 2016-05-12 03:46:37 - Eric

Southern and middle American voters prioritize social values over economic conditions, which is essentially the opposite of what happens on the two coasts. I can't imagine the evidence could be any clearer that they will consistently vote against their economic self-interest in favor of their social values. There is no use wringing hands about this.

The Democrats have zero chance of ever recapturing the South and the Middle via economic policy alone. If they continue their relentless march further and further to the left on social issues, it will simply be a march into oblivion, and support will eventually dissolve on the coasts as well.

Bill Clinton saw this happening, and he brought the party closer to the center. Since then, the Democrats have embarked on a steady march on which they now find themselves headed straight over the Left cliff.

1 2016-05-10 09:31:44 - rfj

Too many of us old white Southern men. But we're working on it.....

3 2016-04-18 22:03:36 - Lew Powell

It was Ronald Reagan, in 1980, in Philadelphia, Mississippi where the three freedom riders had been murdered, uttering his support for states' rights. The southerners got the message, and it's been GOP country ever since. To declare that this was devoid of racism is to be either delusional, mendacious, or clueless.

6 2015-12-17 07:09:04 - beaujames

This hegemony will not last due to changing demographics in Southern Cities.
If the Republicans keeping falling into the trap of ideology, and causes as the Democrats have, they will face the same fate. Getting things done counts in the South. The Victories of Senator Cochran were based on his effectiveness in meeting the concerns of his constituents.

1 2015-11-24 14:33:05 - Roach of Manassas

There is only one event that you need look towards for the catalyst of this trend: The Civil Rights Act of 1964. JFK, LBJ and the democrat-controlled senate have never been forgiven.

12 2015-11-07 08:23:28 - jack

How sadly fitting that the Republican resurgence in the South began with a Democratic president signing the Civil Rights Act and nears fulfillment after the first black president is elected. To say this is not about race is like saying the Civil War (i.e., for any native Southerners reading this, the War of Northern Aggression) was not about slavery.

19 2015-09-16 15:19:16 - rk

What has happened in the South is not revolutionary but evolutionary. Students of politics saw this coming. Democratic part paid a hefty price by doing what is right -- on cultural issues as well as economic and social ones. It essentially brought the country to a place where no other liberal democracy -- European or otherwise -- came closer. Our leadership in the world did not come easily.

But the Party did not do even a marginally decent job of selling that to the nation. Just as they didn't do a good job of what the Obama Administration did during the last election. The Part essentially tried to run away from all the right things it has done.

This too shall pass. But as any pregnant woman will eventually give birth to a child. But having proper care and a good midwife will make sure the process is safe and the mother will survive. So the Party needs to bring this to the American people, not just to the intellectuals and academics.

8 2015-08-30 14:51:31 - Ranjith Desilva

It seems that LBJ's prophecy has been fulfilled. The Democrats lost contact with their blue collar segment. The Clintons represent to many immorality, and elitism. The Democrats due to Reagan and the Bush Family got the label of "liberal ". This was fatal in the South. Wallace with all his nasty racism represented the common man, particularly the white farm worker, the factory hand, and mechanical trades. The Democrat party lost this luster. It became to party of abortion, militant feminism, and cyber elitism. This party is all about causes versus getting things done government as in LBJ, Eastland, Russell, Talmadge, Mansfield and many other great old bulls of the Senate.
Their racism obsurred their effectiveness in handling constituent needs and passing legislation. The downfall of Gephart is a classic story of why the Democrats have failed in the South.

4 2015-08-11 13:24:39 - Roach of Manassas

Interesting that Mr Cohn completely ignores the economic issues that may have caused the switch. The modern Republican Party has excelled at convincing people, mostly whites, to vote against our own interests. Once the results of this supply-side, tax cutting = jobs nonsense are in, (they already are, but apparently some people need yet more evidence) I hope the Republicans will pay the price for it electorally, and it shouldn't take a generation. It took Kansans exactly one election cycle to realize what a debacle this unfettered Republican orthodoxy actually is.

I only hope the Democrats position themselves in such a way to not be blamed when the Republicans' policies bring the economy to its knees. I can hear the right-wingers now: "Tax cuts for the rich and corporations, and zero public investment would have worked, but the problem is those lousy Democrats wouldn't let us be conservative ENOUGH!" At some point, this has to start ringing hollow, even in the modern South.

7 2015-08-02 17:24:32 - Matthew Rettig

Indeed, Nixon did this.

But, for those of us from the North who lived in the South at the time, the "Democrat" had two entirely different meanings -
1. The FDR New Deal Democrat (Northern/Western,etc..
2. The Southern Dixiecrat (Wallace, Thurmond, etc.)

Johnson realized, for better or worse, that endorsing Civil Rights eventually would be Pyrrhic victory.

Thus conflating the two "Democrats" is like comparing Republicans and the Whigs.

One survived, one died.

3 2015-07-08 20:06:43 - wsalomon

As a native of the deep south, I think you understate the impact of race in the region - race and political indifference. On many occasions, as a white persion, I endure racial slurs and jokes, because people just assume I share their bigotry.
The rise of the conservatives without conscience just may awake the sleeping minority who, together with the sizeable but inadequate white moderates could change the landscape. When this will happen is more uncertain after the midterms just passed.
So far, the poor white man has remained on the caboose of the train and still votes for Republican.

27 2015-06-21 05:51:02 - HamiltonAZ

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