Solid South: Wikis

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Solid South refers to the electoral support of the Southern United States for the Democratic Party candidates for nearly a century from 1877, the end of the Reconstruction, to 1964, during the middle of the Civil Rights era.

The first break in the "Solid South": Missouri goes for Republican Theodore Roosevelt in the 1904 election. (Cartoon by John T. McCutcheon.)

The Democratic Party was also a vehicle of segregation in the South during the time when whites fully controlled the Party, whose primaries were tantamount to election in most of the region. Erosion of the South's largely one-party apparatus, as blacks began regaining voting rights and identifying with the Democratic Party, rendered the region free to return to the two-party competition which characterizes the United States as a whole and which had even characterized the South prior to the American Civil War and Reconstruction.

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 movement significantly 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 at all levels above the local level, and even there Republicans have made generally increasing inroads. Political scientists have often cited a southernization of politics following the fall of the Solid South.

The Democratic dominance originated in many white Southerners' animosity towards the Republican Party's stance in favor of political rights for Blacks during Reconstruction and Republican economic policies such as the high tariff and the support for continuing the gold standard, both of which were seen as benefiting Northern industrial interests at the expense of the agrarian South in the 19th century. It was maintained by the Democratic Party's willingness to back Jim Crow laws and racial segregation.[1]

Contents

Democratic factionalization over the Civil Rights Movement

The "Solid South" had already begun to erode in the 1920s. Harding won two border Southern states (Missouri and Tennessee) and Coolidge also won two border states (Kentucky and Missouri). In 1928, Hoover, perhaps benefiting from bias against his Roman Catholic opponent Al Smith, won not only Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee, but also Florida, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.

The South appeared "solid" again during the period of Franklin D. Roosevelt's political dominance, but cracks began to appear in the following administration. Democratic President Harry S. Truman's support of the civil rights movement, 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 Dixiecrat Party. 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. Eisenhower carried 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. Hayes in 1876, but the rest of the Deep South was still a 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. Johnson of Texas). Kennedy, however, supported civil rights. In October 1960, when Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested at a peaceful sit-in in 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.

Because of these and other events, the Democrats lost ground with white voters in the South, as those same voters increasingly lost control what was once a whites-only Democratic Party in much of 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."[2] In contrast, Johnson's Republican opponent, Senator Barry Goldwater of 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 Amendment banning the poll tax) Additionally he was a member of the NAACP.

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. Goldwater notably won only in southern states that had voted against Republican Richard Nixon in 1960, while not winning a single state that Nixon had carried, a complete inversion of the electoral pattern of just four years earlier. 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.

"Southern Strategy": End of Solid South

In the 1968 election, the Republican candidate, Richard Nixon, saw this trend and capitalized on it with his "Southern strategy." The new method of campaigning was designed to appeal to white Southerners who were more conservative, racist, and 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 Party candidate 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 (winning every state in the Old Confederacy except for Virginia, which was narrowly lost) in 1976, but in his unsuccessful re-election bid, the only Southern state he won was his native state of Georgia. 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 1977 political scientist Larry Sabato analyzed the rise of two-party politics in the Southern United States, particularly with his 1977 publication of The Democratic Party Primary in Virginia: Tantamount to Election No Longer.[3] See also tantamount to election.

In 1992 and 1996, when the Democratic ticket consisted of two Southerners, (Bill Clinton and Al Gore), the Democrats and Republicans split the region. In both elections, Clinton won Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee, while the Republican won Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Bill Clinton won Georgia in 1992, but lost it in 1996 to Bob Dole. Conversely, Clinton lost Florida in 1992 to George Bush, but won it in 1996.

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 Kerry and John Edwards received 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 States went 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 Pennsylvania to Maine, voted for Kerry.

"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. In 2008, with no Southerner on either major party's national ticket (for the first time since 1972), Republican candidate John McCain won 98 of the 155 electoral votes from the states of the Confederacy, as well as the border states of Missouri and Kentucky. Democratic candidate Barack Obama did, however, win Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia, becoming the first non-Southern Democrat in forty years to win electoral votes in the region.

South in Presidential elections

Presidential electoral votes in southern states since 1876
Year Alabama Arkansas Florida Georgia Kentucky Louisiana Mississippi Missouri North Carolina South Carolina Tennessee Texas Virginia
1876 Tilden Tilden Hayes[4] Tilden Tilden Hayes[4] Tilden Tilden Tilden Hayes[4] Tilden Tilden Tilden
1880 Hancock Hancock Hancock Hancock Hancock Hancock Hancock Hancock Hancock Hancock Hancock Hancock Hancock
1884 Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland
1888 Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland
1892 Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland
1896 Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan McKinley Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan
1900 Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan
1904 Parker Parker Parker Parker Parker Parker Parker Roosevelt Parker Parker Parker Parker Parker
1908 Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan Taft Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan Bryan
1912 Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson
1916 Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson
1920 Cox Cox Cox Cox Cox Cox Cox Harding Cox Cox Harding Cox Cox
1924 Davis Davis Davis Davis Coolidge Davis Davis Coolidge Davis Davis Davis Davis Davis
1928 Smith Smith Hoover Smith Hoover Smith Smith Hoover Hoover Smith Hoover Hoover Hoover
1932 Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt
1936 Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt
1940 Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt
1944 Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt
1948 Thurmond Truman Truman Truman Truman Thurmond Thurmond Truman Truman Thurmond Truman Truman Truman
1952 Stevenson Stevenson Eisenhower Stevenson Stevenson Stevenson Stevenson Eisenhower Stevenson Stevenson Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower
1956 Stevenson Stevenson Eisenhower Stevenson Eisenhower Eisenhower Stevenson Stevenson Stevenson Stevenson Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower
1960 Byrd[5] Kennedy Nixon Kennedy Nixon Kennedy Byrd Kennedy Kennedy Kennedy Nixon Kennedy Nixon
1964 Goldwater Johnson Johnson Goldwater Johnson Goldwater Goldwater Johnson Johnson Goldwater Johnson Johnson Johnson
1968 Wallace Wallace Nixon Wallace Nixon Wallace Wallace Nixon Nixon[6] Nixon Nixon Humphrey Nixon
1972 Nixon Nixon Nixon Nixon Nixon Nixon Nixon Nixon Nixon Nixon Nixon Nixon Nixon
1976 Carter Carter Carter Carter Carter Carter Carter Carter Carter Carter Carter Carter Ford
1980 Reagan Reagan Reagan Carter Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan
1984 Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan
1988 Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush
1992 Bush Clinton Bush Clinton Clinton Clinton Bush Clinton Bush Bush Clinton Bush Bush
1996 Dole Clinton Clinton Dole Clinton Clinton Dole Clinton Dole Dole Clinton Dole Dole
2000 Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush
2004 Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush
2008 McCain McCain Obama McCain McCain McCain McCain McCain Obama McCain McCain McCain Obama
Year Alabama Arkansas Florida Georgia Kentucky Louisiana Mississippi Missouri North Carolina South Carolina Tennessee Texas Virginia

References

  1. ^ Connie Rice: Top 10 Election Myths to Get Rid Of : NPR The situation in Louisiana was an example--see John N. Pharr, Regular Democratic Organization#Reconstruction & aftermath, and the note to Murphy J. Foster (who served as governor of Louisiana from 1892 to 1900).
  2. ^ http://www.digitalnpq.org/archive/1987_winter/second.html
  3. ^ Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1977, ISBN 0813907268 and ISBN 978-0813907260.
  4. ^ a b c Electoral votes awarded by the Electoral Commission
  5. ^ Five of Alabama's electoral votes went to John F. Kennedy.
  6. ^ One North Carolina Republican elector switched his vote to Wallace.

Further reading

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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

English

Noun

Singular
Solid South

Plural
uncountable

Solid South (uncountable)

  1. (US) The electoral support of the Southern United States for Democratic Party candidates for nearly a century from 1877, the end of the Reconstruction, to 1964

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