Dixiecrat: Wikis

  
  

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States' Rights Democratic Party (Dixiecrats)
Founded 1948 (1948)
Dissolved 1948 (1948)
Preceded by Democratic Party
Succeeded by American Independent Party
Ideology States' rights,
Social conservatism,
Racial segregation
Politics of the United States
Political parties
Elections

The States' Rights Democratic Party (commonly known as the Dixiecrats) was a segregationist, socially conservative political party in the United States. The term Dixiecrat is a portmanteau of Dixie, referring to the Southern United States, and Democrat, referring to the United States Democratic Party. It split with the Democratic Party in the mid-20th century determined to protect what they saw as the Southern way of life against an oppressive federal government.[1]

During the Reconstruction period following the Civil War, the Union Army occupied the states of the former Confederacy, and enforced federal law protecting the rights of blacks, many of whom were freed slaves. Reconstruction abruptly ended in 1877, obliterating many of the gains that had been made in securing political and civil rights for blacks. When Reconstruction ended, the so-called "Redemption" occurred, disenfranchisement began anew, and the region gave its political allegiance almost entirely to the Democratic Party, giving it the name the "Solid South."

In the 1930s, after the New Deal under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a realignment occurred. Much of the Democratic Party shifted towards economic intervention and support for civil rights and liberties. After the crises of the Great Depression, World War II, and the beginning of the Cold War, Southern Democrats began to drift from the mainstream of the party. The formation of the Dixiecrat movement heralded an end to the New Deal coalition. For more than a century, white Southerners had overwhelmingly been Democrats, but in 1948 many bolted from the party, angered by Harry Truman's efforts to abolish or ameliorate the effects of racial segregation, and supported Strom Thurmond's third-party candidacy for president.

Over the next several decades, as the white South slowly realigned from the Democrats to the Republicans, the term came to have a broader usage. For example, it was used to refer to those members of the Electoral College who voted for Harry F. Byrd rather than John F. Kennedy in the 1960 election, and to the white Southern voters and electors who supported George C. Wallace in 1968.

Contents

1948 presidential election

1948 electoral votes by state. The Dixiecrats carried Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina, and received one additional electoral vote in Tennessee.
See also main article, U.S. presidential election, 1948

The States' Rights Democratic Party was a short-lived splinter group that broke from the Democratic Party in 1948. The States' Rights Democratic Party opposed racial integration and wanted to retain Jim Crow laws and white supremacy. The party's slogan was "Segregation Forever!" Members of the States' Rights Democratic Party were often known as Dixiecrats.

During the 1948 Democratic National Convention, Southern delegates were upset by President Harry S. Truman's executive order to racially integrate the armed forces. The Mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota Hubert Humphrey gave a speech urging the party to adopt an anti-segregationist plank, causing thirty five delegates from Mississippi and Alabama to walk out. When President Truman endorsed the civil rights plank, South Carolina governor Strom Thurmond helped organize the walkout delegates into a separate party, whose platform was concerned with states' rights.

The Dixiecrats held their convention in Birmingham, Alabama, where they nominated Thurmond for president and Fielding L. Wright, governor of Mississippi, for vice president. The Dixiecrats did not expect to win the presidency outright, rather they thought that if they could win enough Southern states then they would have a good chance of forcing the election into the House of Representatives where they believed Southern bargaining power could determine the winner. To this end Dixiecrat leaders worked to have Thurmond-Wright declared the official Democratic Party ticket in Southern states. They succeeded only in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. In other states, they were forced to run as a third-party ticket. These included Arkansas, whose governor-elect, Sid McMath, a young prosecutor and decorated World War II Marine veteran, vigorously supported Truman in speeches across the region, much to the consternation of the sitting governor, Benjamin Travis Laney, an ardent Thurmond supporter. Laney later used McMath's pro-Truman stance against him in the 1950 gubernatorial election, but McMath won the position handily.

Efforts by Dixiecrats to paint other Truman loyalists as turncoats generally failed, although the seeds of discontent were planted which in years to come took their toll on Southern moderates. Among these moderates was Rep. Brooks Hays of the 2nd District of Arkansas, whose efforts at reconciliation during the 1957 Little Rock School Crisis made him vulnerable to defeat in 1958 by a segregationist surrogate fielded by forces loyal to then-Governor Orval Faubus. Faubus had previously used the National Guard to bar entry to black pupils in defiance of a Federal court order.

On election day 1948, the Thurmond-Wright ticket carried the previously solid Democratic states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina, as well as Alabama (whose Democratic party refused to recognize the Truman-Barkley ticket and had Thurmond on the ballot as its nominee), receiving 1,169,021 popular votes and 39 electoral votes. Henry A. Wallace drew off a nearly equal number of popular votes (1,157,172) from the Democrats' left wing, although he did not carry any states. The split in the Democratic party in the 1948 election was seen as virtually guaranteeing a victory by the Republican nominee, Thomas E. Dewey of New York, yet Truman was able to narrowly win election.

Subsequent elections

The States' Rights Democratic Party dissolved after the 1948 election, although some diehards such as Leander Perez attempted to keep it in existence.[2]

Regardless of the power struggle within the Democratic Party concerning segregation policy, the South remained a strongly Democratic voting bloc for local, state, and federal Congressional elections. This was not true of Presidential elections.

In 1960, Democratic electors in Alabama and Mississippi appeared on the ballot as "unpledged electors" instead of as electors pledged to Democratic nominee John F. Kennedy. All 8 of Mississippi's electors, 6 of Alabama's 11 electors, and one stray elector from Oklahoma (a state carried by Richard Nixon) cast their votes for Senator Harry F. Byrd of Virginia. Alabama's remaining 5 electors voted for Kennedy.

In 1968, Alabama's Democratic former governor George C. Wallace ran for President on the American Independent Party ticket, and swept the electoral votes of the Deep South. The American Independent Party failed to keep its foothold in the South. Its 1972 candidate was John G. Schmitz, a John Bircher from California, whose strongest showing in the 1972 election was 10% in Idaho, but who did poorly in the South. Subsequent southern Dixiecrats running on the American Independent Party ticket included Lester Maddox and John Rarick, but these campaigns did not succeed either.

In the 1960s, the courting of white Southern Democratic voters was the basis of the "southern strategy" of the Republican Party's Presidential Campaigns. Republican Presidential Candidate Barry Goldwater carried the Deep South in 1964, despite losing in a landslide in the rest of the nation to President Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas. Johnson surmised that his advocacy behind passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would lose the South for the Democratic party and it did. The only Democratic presidential candidate after 1956 to solidly carry the Deep South was President Jimmy Carter in the 1976 election.

Senator Strom Thurmond switched parties and became a Republican as a result of his support for the Barry Goldwater campaign in 1964. Jesse Helms also switched his party registration to Republican in 1970 and won a Senate seat in North Carolina in 1972. Several other Southern senators, such as Richard Russell, Jr. of Georgia and James Eastland and John Stennis of Mississippi remained in the Democratic Party. They went on to become prominent senators who served multiple terms in the service of their respective states. These long careers in the Senate elevated their seniority and put them in positions of power and prestige.

Into the late 20th century, the South changed from a Democratic monolith to a majority Republican sector of the country with GOP gains in state legislatures. This change, which became quite evident in 1972 with the electoral success of Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy", peaked with the elections of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and George H. W. Bush in 1988. It was consolidated in 1994 when Republicans gained a majority in the House of Representatives under the leadership of Newt Gingrich.

Notable members

Senators

State governors

Others

  • Floyd Spence state representative from South Carolina (subsequently elected to U.S. House of Representatives)
  • Albert Watson while U.S. Representative from South Carolina
  • Walter Sillers Jr. Mississippi Speaker of the House
  • Thomas P. Brady, Associate Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court
  • Gessner T. McCorvey, Alabama state Democratic Executive Committee Chairman
  • Leander Perez, Parish Judge in St. Bernard Parish and political boss of the parish.
  • Horace C. Wilkinson, Birmingham attorney defender of the Klan and political "leader"
  • Ross Lillard
  • Tommy Irvin, Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture since 1972
  • John Kasper
  • Mrs. Anna B. Korn
  • Mrs. Ruth Lackey
  • Clark Hurd
  • William E. Jenner
  • Francis Haskell
  • John Oliver Emmerich, Speech writer
  • Hugh Roy Cullen
  • T. Coleman Andrews
  • John Steel Baston
  • Dr. Frazier
  • O. L. Penny
  • Clifton Ratlift
  • M. F. Ray
  • Howell Tankerbell
  • Thomas Jefferson Tubb
  • J.K. Wells
  • Barney Wolverton
  • Governor White
  • Thomas H. Werdel

See also

References

  1. ^ Gunther, J.Inside USA. London: Hamish Hamilton1947) pp 675-678
  2. ^ Jeansonne, Glen. Leander Perez: Boss of the Delta Jackson, MS:University Press of Mississippi, 1977; pp. 185-189.

External links








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