Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Today’s Defeat May Be Tomorrow’s Victory

The Democratic party has suffered a long slow drain of white Southern support since World War II. The “Solid South” that voted overwhelmingly Democratic between the end of the Civil War and World War II is now Republican territory.

Gains Democrats made by the enfranchisement of blacks in the South have been more than offset by the defection of whites. 

Some white Southerners left the Democrats in 1948 to support “Dixiecrat” Strom Thurmond for President against Harry Truman. They were angry with Truman because he had desegregated the army and supported some Civil Rights measures. More white Southerners switched parties in response to, among other things, the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s and President Lyndon Johnson’s support of Civil Rights’ legislation. 

Since the landslide GOP win in the 1994 mid-term elections, the large numbers of white Southerners voting Republican has been critical to Republican success. Many political observers say Democrats must find ways to reconnect with white Southerners.

I believe a different interpretation is possible. 

Democratic majorities of the New Deal era were based on a pact with the Devil. Segregationists were to the Democratic party what heroin is to a junkie. White Southerners needed the relief the New Deal provided and F.D.R needed Southern support. Sacrificed in all of this were black Americans.

The Democratic party could not have retained the votes of a majority of white Southerners while keeping a soul. Given the ongoing deep conservatism of many white Southerners, the same may still hold true.  Democrats have not found their way back to majority status since 1994. Yet Republican margins in Congress have been small and the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 were close.

The electoral map is always shifting. A state or region that seems firm on one side now may vote quite differently a few years later. While many, though not all, white southerners stay far to the right, the rest of the country may shift another way.

What may emerge is a coalition of Western, Great Lakes and Northeastern voters who will shift Congress and the White House back to the Democrats.  Democrats have recently made gains in, among other places, Colorado, Nevada and Montana.

Nothing is ever settled. The ebbing of white Southern support has done a lot of damage to Democrats at the polls. However, the end result may be a party more ideologically coherent and better able to represent the needs of Americans who share a commitment to basic fairness and decency and Americans in need of some help from their government.   

August 16, 2006 Posted by | Elections, Political History, Politics | 3 Comments