PUB OPIN AMER DEMO
PUB OPIN AMER DEMO POLS 4510
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The Transformation of the Southern Democratic Party Merle Black Emory University The transformation of the Democratic party during the past century is an important institutional change in southern politics Once the unchallenged majority party of the region Democrats have declined to the level of a competitive minority party in the South as majorities of white conserva tives and many white moderates have abandoned it Even more consequential changes have occurred in its racial ethnic and gender composition A party originally created by racist southern white men to enhance and mainmin their perceived interests has now become the political home of African Americans liberal and moderate whites and Hispanics During the past halfcentury few institutions in the United States have changed as fundamentally as the Democratic party in the South Tumultuous changes in southern society culture economy and polity combined with equally important changes in the ideological positioning of the national political parties have destroyed the Democratic party s monopoly of voters and leaders in the nation s largest region Aistrup 1996 Black and Black 1987 1992 Bullock 1988 Bullock and Rozell 2003 Carey Ransom and Woodard 2002 Lamis 1999 A party created and used by conservative southern whites to defend and enhance their perceived interests in local state regional and national politics Heard 1952 Key 1949 has become the political home of African Americans liberal and mod erate whites and Hispanics Conservative whites have less and less influencei and interestiin the new southern Democratic party with each passing decade The emergence of the Republican party as a realistic alternative to the Democ rats is the most dramatic story in southern politics during the late twentieth and early twenty rst centuries Black and Black 2002 Rhodes 2000 A Republican advantage in federal elections and gubernatorial contests combined with the party s increasingly competitive position in contests for other state of ces and many local positions in the 1 1 states of the former Confederacy are hugely impor tant breaks with the historical Democratic juggernaut Southern Republican gains in of ceholders have been grounded in a trans formed electorate A party that claimed merely 11 of the region s voters in 1952 had climbed to 44 of its voters by 2002 Even more fundamental change of course had occurred among southern white voters a maj ority753iwere Republicans in 2002 In that election 75 of conservative white voters thought THE JOURNAL OF POLITICS Vol 66 N0 4 November 2004 Pp 100171017 2004 Southern Pollllcal Sclence Assoclallon 1002 Merle Black of themselves as Republicans while only 10 were Democrats Republicans also held a smaller lead over Democrats 39 to 30 among the South s moderate white voters The realignment of conservative white voters into the Republican party combined with the shift of smaller numbers of moderate whites into the GOP has created a large and potent grassroots base of supporters activists contribu tors and candidates in the regional electorate Black and Black 2002 20540 Southern Republicans can now raise money wage serious campaigns and often defeat Democrats for many national state and local of ces White men traditionally the backbone of the southern Democratic party are now far more likely to be Republicans than Democrats Southern white women once nearly as monolithically Democratic as white men are also more likely to be Republicans than Democrats African Americans long subject to racism and exclusion from the ballot in the South began to reenter the electorate in large numbers as Democrats during the 1960s and they have emerged as the largest group of reliably Democratic voters in the region More recently growing numbers of Hispanic voters primarily in Florida and Texas have entered the elec torate and have contributed to partisan diversity My subject is the reshaping of the southern Democratic party as a competitive political institution The relative size of the Democratic party in the southern elec torate has clearly shrunk during the past 50 years The emergence of African American and Hispanic voters combined with the partisan realignment of white voters has also transformed the racial ethnic and gender composition of the southern Democratic party in the electorate The party of white supremacy has become the party of racial inclusion and ethnic diversity A party originally created by white men has become a party numerically dominated at the grass roots by white black and Hispanic women The southern Democratic party in the government however only partially re ects these changes in its mass base Most of the Democrats elected to statewide o ice in the South continue to be white men although to a lesser extent than in the past Congressional and legislative seats held by southern Democrats show a rather different pattern White male domination is much less marked and African Americans and Hispanics hold sizeable minorities of these positions White women however remain far underrepresented among Democraticelected of cials in proportion to their size in the Democratic electorate Shrinking Democrats in the Southern Electorate A good way to understand the challenges facing the contemporary Democra tic party in the South is to examine the tremendous erosion of its electoral base during the past halfcentury Figure 1 which plots the percentages of southern voters who identi ed as Democrats or Republicans from 1952 to 2002 shows the transformation of the southern oneparty system into a competitive twoparty system The data for 1952 to 1974 are from the National Election Study 11state sample of southern respondents who claimed to have voted in the year they were The Transformation of the Southern Democratic Party 1003 FIGURE 1 Party Identification A Southerners 807 Democrats x e 70 7 c i i O I O 60 I v o o l iquot V 507 39 l 1 0 Percent identifying as b O Republicans 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 surveyed The 1976 to 2002 results come from the much larger samples of south ern voters in the network exit polls The results from 1976 to 1982 are based upon a slightly larger regional sample Oklahoma and Kentucky in addition to the 11 states of the old Confederacy The presence of a state variable in the exit polls from 1984 to the present allows an llstate sample to be constructed for the sub sequent elections Tn 1952 the South was the most important example of a oneparty political system in the United States The Democratic party claimed 77 of southern 1004 Merle Black voters Democratic identi cation functioned as a cultural norm Any wavering from this identity any willingness to think of oneself as an independent or scarcely imaginable to conceive of oneself as a Republican were signs of devi ation from regional orthodoxy For a variety of reasonsithe rise of an urbanized middle class the growth of the civil rights movement and federal intervention in civil rights during the administration of President Lyndon B Johnson the activation of conservative white religious groups and increased campaigning by Republican candidates in the Southithe size of the Democratic majority among southern voters contracted enormously during the next three decades Bass and DeVries 1976 Beck 1977 Black 1976 Black and Black 1987 Even with the addition of hundreds of thousands of newly mobilized African Americans by the end of the turbulent 1960s fewer than three of every ve southern voters were Democ rats The presidential election of 1976 when Georgia Democrat Jimmy Carter carried 10 of the 11 southern states was the last occasion in which the Democratic party claimed support from a comfortable majority 55 of southern voters Republican Ronald Reagan s presidency drove the Democrats into permanent minority status in the southern electorate When Reagan easily defeated liberal northern Democrat Walter Mondale in 1984 only 37 of southern voters called themselves Democrats Since then the Democratic party has never come close to a majority of southern voters In the 2002 exit poll Democrats claimed 36 of the region s voters Democrats clearly constitute a minority party in the modern southern electorate Democratic losses during the Reagan era were accompanied for the rst time by sharply rising numbers of southern voters who actually identi ed as Repub licans The GOP of course had always been a minority party in the South and even after the surge of the 1980s it has remained a minority Before Reagan s presidency made Republicanism socially respectable for many white southem ers the size of the party s base in the southern electorate had always been too small to support sustained serious and nancially viable challengers in most statewide and local elections In the 1984 election Republican identi cation among southern voters according to the exit poll increased sharply to 36 only one point below Democratic strength In the 2002 exit poll 44 of southern voters were Republicans eight percentage points higher than the southerners who still called themselves Democrats The Democratic party s biggest problem in the modern South is its weakness among white voters Figure 2 charts the changing percentages of southern white voters who have identi ed as Democrats or Republicans from 1952 to 2002 It documents the demise of Democratic identi cation as a cultural norm among southern white voters A substantial Democratic advantage in partisanship per sisted through the 1982 election Beginning in 1984 however and continuing in every subsequent presidential election more southern white voters have identi ed as Republicans than Democrats By 1990 the rst offyear election a er The Transformation of the Southern Democratic Party 1005 FIGURE 2 Party Identification White Southerners 807 Democrats 0 7o 7 V D l 60 Republican white target I l I 039 o g 50 I Republicans U I E o 0 3 l39 o A 5 4o 7 39 3 Democratic white target quot Y 2 0 o quot I o D o b 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 Reagan s presidency had ended Republicans were essentially even with Democ rats in the white southern electorate In the subsequent offyear elections Repub licans have opened up increasingly wide margins over Democrats The Republican party strengthened and consolidated its lead among white southern ers in the 1990s Bullock Gaddie and Hoffman 2002 Knuckey 2001 By 2002 according to the exit poll merely 26 of white southern voters were Democrats the lowest level of identi cation ever observed in the region 1006 Merle Black The Collapsing Monopoly of Democratic Officials These partisan changes in the electorate both in uenced and acted upon by Republican candidates have destroyed the Democratic party s complete control of southern o iceholding Table 1 contrasts the Democrats virtual monopoly of political o ices in the South in 195L1951 with the party s greatly reduced strength among elected public of cials in 2003 In 1950 all of the region s 22 US senators were Democrats as were 103 of its 105 members in the House of Representatives Every public of cial elected to a statewide of ce was a Demo crat and members of the majority party accounted for 97 of the region s state legislators in 1951 Finally Democrats dominated the bottom of the regional of ceholding hierarchy While the absence of of cial records of partisanship for many of the region s counties and parishes makes an exact count impossible Democratsiwhite men for the most partisurely held almost all locally elected o ices in the South Fifty years later the Democratic monopoly of o ices has vanished The party s grip on political power now varies by of ce Republican politicians hold majori ties of the South s most highly prized public of cesigovemorships and seats in the United States Senate and House of Representatives Black 1998 Sizeable Democratic majorities still persist in local of ces as well as smaller Democratic majorities in state legislatures and statewide of ces below the level of governor Indeed because of persisting Democratic strength in the vast number of local of ces a majority of the region s elected public of cials are still Democrats Elections to federal of ce involve the widest range of domestic and foreign policy issues and Democrats have experienced their greatest losses in contests for these positions In 2003 Democrats held only nine of the region s 22 Senate seats 55 of its 131 seats in the House of Representatives and four of the 11 gov ernorships Democrats did considerably better 57 in the other statewide exec utive of ces but they had declined to only 52 of the region s state legislative seats in 2003 The Democrats greatest continuity as a regional majority party appears in local of ces The absence of complete evidence however makes precise generaliza TABLE 1 Percent Democratic of Elected Officials in South 195 071951 200272003 US Senators 100 41 Governors 100 36 Other Statewide Of ces 100 57 US House of Represenmtives 98 42 Smte Legislators 97 52 Sources Congressional Quarterlys Guide to US Elections Third Edition and relevant of cial smte web sites The Transformation of the Southern Democratic Party 1007 tion dii cult about past and current partisan control of these positions Scattered evidence across the region shows Democrats still in control of most county of ces o en with commanding leads though surely by less lopsided margms than in the past For example in 1991 according to a study by Charles S Bullock TIT Democrats accounted for 88 of Georgia s county commissioners 1993 4 A decade later in 2001 68 of the state s county commissioners were still Democrats H Gibbs Knotts s study of the partisanship of North Carolina county commissioners found that Republicans increased local of ceholding in North Carolina during the 1990s The Republicans averaged 31 of the membership of county commissions in 1992 and by 2000 had increased to 42 2003 6 Democrats still outnumbered Republicans in North Carolina local of ces but their majority was considerably smaller edge than in the past Although reduced to the status of a competitive minority party in the elec torate the southern Democratic party is still capable of elding quality candi dates and winning many federal state and local elections It does so however by mobilizing a very different electoral coalition than in the past The mass base of the modern Democratic party in the South has been reshaped by the entry of new groups and the exit of old groups Race Ethnicity and Gender The Legacy of the Founding The oneparty South solidi ed during the last decade of the nineteenth century and the rst decade of the twentieth century Using violence and intimidation as well as writing new constitutions and suffrage laws racist white males ruthlessly eliminated virtually all black men and many lowerstatus white men from the southern electorate In The Shaping afSauthern Politics J Morgan Kousser inter preted these developments as a reactionary revolution 1974 261765 More recently in Strugglefar Mastery Michael Perman characterized the period as a Restoration of white rule based on techniques of voter elimination Perman 2001 11 Political power in the shrunken southern electorate became completely lodged among white male Democrats Throughout much of the twentieth century white men dominated the preeminent political party in the most transparently undemocratic region of the nation Eliminating from the electorate a group that constituted nearly a third of the region s entire population a er women had gained the right to vote in 1920 deprived millions of black citizens of any representation in the South s elective institutions for generations Bunche 1973 Kluger 1976 Litwack 1998 Racial segregation and the systematic restriction of opportunities for blacks became even more entrenched in the region While racial matters were not the only priorities and concerns of southern Democrats preserving white power by concentrating all their resources in the Democratic party was their abiding interest in local state and national politics At the midpoint of the twentieth century many of the original political devices and techniques that supported the institutions of southern racism were still in 1008 Merle Black place African Americans made up 25 of the region s population but only 5 of its voters The most interesting change in the southern electorate by 1952 was the growing importance of white female voters According to the 1952 National Election Study survey white women 48 were essentially at parity with white men 47 in the southern electorate The southern oneparty political culture created by conservative white men remained intact Among southern white men who said they had voted in 1952 Democrats outnumbered Republicans 79 to 7 Southern white women were only slightly less Democratic 75 and somewhat more Republican 15 By the 1950s little remained of historical black Republicanism Most of the very small number of southern black voters sampled in the NES surveys during this decade were already Democrats During the last halfcentury the Democratic party s declining strength in the region has been strongly affected by the vastly different partisan preferences of white black and Hispanic voters Due to the small numbers among the various subgroups in each survey we have averaged by decade the percentages of south ern white men southern white women southern AfricanAmerican men south ern AfricanAmerican women and Hispanics who have identi ed as Democrats Because so few blacks voted in the South in the 1950s Democratic identi ca tion among black male and female voters begins in the 1960s Even smaller numbers of Hispanics appear in these surveys This group is not presented by gender and tracking begins in the 1970s Figure 3 shows average Democratic party identi cation by race and gender in each decade from the 1950s through 200L2002 In the 1950s virtually all votes cast in the South came from white men and women With so little of the regional vote cast by blacks successful statewide election strategy nearly always required Democratic candidates to win majorities of the white vote The civil rights movement and national civil rights legislation during the 1960s brought hundreds of thousands of African Americans into the active electorate As Figure 3 shows the vast majority of southern black votersi male and femaleiwere Democrats By the 1970s black women became slightly more Democratic than black men a pattern that has persisted over time In the 2000 presidential election 90 of female black voters in the region were Democ rats compared to 82 of male AfricanAmerican voters At the end of the twen tieth century AfricanAmerican voters in the South as a group were even more monolithically Democratic 87 than southern white voters had been 77 fty years earlier The mobilization of black voters during the 1960s fundamentally altered the electoral strategy of southern Democrats Democratic candidates in the South who could attract substantial black support no longer needed to win majorities of the vote cast by whites The exact size of the white and black targets in the Democratic biracial strategy has varied in different racial contexts but at the regional level the conventional minimumwinning Democratic targets have been about 90 of the black vote combined with about 40 of the white vote Black The Transformation of the Southern Democratic Party 1009 FIGURE 3 Democratic Party Identification in the South 1007 907 Blackwomen 39 39 39 39 39 39 80 i39 Black men m 70 7 5 E Hispanics a 60 e 10 quot 0 x E 8h o 1 2 40 Democratic white target 3 White women 8 E 30 e White men 20 e 10 e 0 19508 19608 19708 19808 19908 20008 and Black 1987 138412 Glaser 1996 28731 The percentage ofsouthem whites identifying as Democrats began to decline in the 1950s By 1968 the rst elec tion in which majorities of African Americans were registered to vote in every southern state only a small majority of southern white voters still identi ed as Democrats The signi cance of this decline becomes clear when the number of white Democrats in the South is examined in relation to the party s regional imperative of two hs of the white vote 1010 Merle Black In his last major analysis of trends in the South V 0 Key Jr conjectured that southern Democratic party unity probably could not survive another New Deal 1955 165 Even more devastating for the southern party was a national agenda that added racial liberalism to economic liberalism President Lyndon B Johnson s Great Society programs encompassed racial liberalismithe Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 19657as well as economic lib eralismiMedicare the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 the War on Poverty and a host of other expanded governmental programs As Earl Black and I argued in 1987 If southern Democratic solidarity could not survive another New Deal how could it possibly survive the Great Society Black and Black 1987 236 How could it also survive the Democratic party s 1968 nomination of liberal Minnesota Democrat Hubert Humphrey the champion of the 1948 ght to change the party s civil rights position at the national convention as its presidential can didate Former Alabama Governor George Wallace scorned Republicans and Democrats alike in his thirdparty campaign across the region in 1968 Carter 1995 334 Although for the entire decade of the 1960s an average of 58 of southern white men still remained Democrats in 1968 only 47 of southern white male voters identi ed as Democrats Beginning in that yeariand persist ing in every subsequent election yearimajorities of white male voters in the South have rejected the Democratic label Thinking of oneself as a Democrat a belief that had been normative in southern white male culture for generations had clearly collapsed after President Johnson s Great Society programs went into effect During the 1970s Democratic identi cation among southern white male voters averaged 43 well below a large majority but still above the party s regional target More drastic changes occurred in the 1980s when the percentage of white men identifying as Democrats dropped below 40 The crucial turning point was the 1984 presidential election between Reagan and Walter Mondale a liberal Minnesota Democrat only 28 of southern white male voters identi ed as Democrats Reagan took conservative positions on a wide range of issues civil rights the role and size of the federal government tax cuts a stronger military and national defense and conservative cultural and religious issues Never again according to the subsequent exit polls in presidential contests have as much as two hs of southern white male voters called themselves Democrats The party averaged only 28 from this group during the 1990s and fell to 23 in the 200L2002 elections Democratic identi cation has also declined among southern white female voters although they remained loyal to the party longer than did white men By the 1960s southern white female voters were more Democratic than white male voters and even as late as the 1970s majorities of white female voters in the South were Democrats In the 1980s however their average level of Democratic party identi cation dropped to 41 In the 1990s Democratic identi cation fell below the 40 target among this important group of voters In the 2000 and 2002 The Transformation of the Southern Democratic Party 1011 exit polls only onethird of southern white female voters identi ed as Democrats The modern southern Democratic party s weakness with white voters clearly includes women as well as men What has been the impact of these changes in mass partisanship upon the racial and gender composition of the modern southern Democratic party Figure 4 shows the changing relative size of four important subgroups of the Democratic party from the 1950s to 200072002 white men white women African Ameri cans and Hispanics In the 1950s white men comprised a majority of southern voters who called themselves Democrats White women made up more than two FIGURE 4 The Changing Composition of the Southern Democratic Party 60 White men 50 AWhte women 4o 7 Blacks 0 30 Percent of all Democrats 1 x Hispanics X 19508 19608 19708 19808 19908 20008 1012 Merle Black fths of southern Democratic voters African Americans made up only 5 of the region s Democrats Since the 1950s the racial ethnic and gender characteristics of the southern Democratic party have been transformed In every subsequent decade white men have declined in size and African Americans have increased in size in the party Southern white men dropped below southern white women in the 1960s were about equal in size with African Americans in the 1980s and fell well below both of these groups in the 1990s In the 200072002 elections white men comprised on average only 21 of southern voters who called themselves Democrats White men are now the third largest group in the grassroots southern Democra tic party Southern white men had once employed the Democratic party as their exclu sive instrument for controlling local state and national of ces A group that had made up all of the region s Democrats at the beginning of the twentieth century and more than half of southern Democratic voters in the 1950s now accounted for only a h of the party s adherents at the beginning of the twenty rst century As white men began to decline in size in the party white women initially became the largest group of southern Democrats However white women peaked in absolute size during the 1960s and they have since declined to about onethird of the party s identi ers In every decade since the 1960s African Americans have increased their weight among southern Democrats By the 1970s blacks accounted for nearly one of every four southern Democratic voters As African Americans increased in impor tance southern Democratic politicians began to construct winning biracial coali tions in party primaries and general elections Bass and DeVries 1976 Black 1976 By the 1980s African Americans were equal in size to white men in the southern Democratic party Even more consequential changes emerged during the 1990s when African Americans surpassed both white men and white women In the rst two elections of the twenty rst century African Americans made up on average 38 of the southern voters who identi ed as Democrats The growing size of African Americans in the mass base of the southern Demo cratic party has been paralleled in the last decade by increases in the size of black activists in local Democratic parties Summarizing the conclusions of the South ern Grassroots Party Activists 2001 Project which surveyed more than 7000 party activists in southern states Charles Prysby and John A Clark emphasize the increasing presence of blacks as important activists within the local Demo cratic organizations In 1991 blacks were poorly represented among the leader ship of the county Democratic Party organizations in most states Much has changed in ten years Every state analysis reports an increase in black Democra tic activists In most cases the increase is large 2003 217 see also Hadley and Stanley 1998 Steed et al 1998 The rest of the southern Democratic party s adherents were Hispanics and members of other ethnic groups Hispanics are especially important in the Texas Democratic party and constitute a group of increasing importance among Florida The Transformation of the Southern Democratic Party 1013 Democrats They are much less visible in the Democratic parties of the other southern states a situation which will surely change in the future Over the past halfcentury the mass base of the Democratic party in the South has been transformed Whites have declined from 95 to 52 of the regional Democratic party in the electorate blacks have increased from 5 to 38 and Hispanics and other ethnic groups have grown to about 10 Meniwhite men of courseihad dominated the old southern Democratic party The new center of political gravity now rests with women who comprise a substantial majority of the party s identi ers Consequences for Elected Democratic Officials To what extent are these changes in the racial ethnic and gender composition of Democrats in the regional electorate re ected in the characteristics of Democ rats who hold elective o ice Table 2 shows the social characteristics of south ern Democratic elected of cials in 2003 for US senators governors other state executive of cials members of the House of Representatives and prior to the 2003 elections state legislators White men still comprise most of the Democrats elected to statewide of ce in the South although not to the same extent as in the past In 2003 seven of the region s nine Democratic Senators were white men while the other two southern Democrats Mary Landrieu Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln Arkansas were white women After the 2003 elections in Mississippi and Louisiana Democrats continued to hold only four of the region s eleven governorships Three Democ ratic governors were white men In 2003 Kathleen Blanco became the rst white female ever to be elected governor of Louisiana White men also accounted for a large majority of the region s Democrats elected to the other statewide execu tive of ces A fth of these Democratic of cials were white women but only 7 were African Americans White men continue to be overrepresented among elected southern Dem ocratic of ceholders Seventy percent of all southern Democratic statewide TABLE 2 Diversity in the New Southern Democratic Party Racial Ethnic and Gender Composition of Elected Democratic Officials in 2003 White Men White Women African Americans Hispanics US Senate 78 22 0 0 Governors 75 25 0 0 Other Smte O icers 70 22 8 0 US House 60 0 31 9 Smte Legislators 53 ll 32 4 Sources Calculated from relevant o icial smte Web sites and Politicslcom 1014 Merle Black of ceholders in 2003 were white men even though they comprised only 21 of the party in the electorate White women and African Americans men and women continued to be greatly underrepresented among Democrats elected to statewide of ces in comparison to their contributions to the grassroots southern Democratic party The full impact of these changes in the mass base of the south ern Democratic party has yet to emerge but in the iture more white women black women and black men are likely to win Democratic party nominations for statewide of ce and to compete aggressively for general election victories The persisting challenge for AfricanAmerican Democratic candidates in the Southi as well as elsewhere in the nationiis to win statewide elections for the most powerful of ces The new racial and ethnic diversity of the southern Democratic party s mass base is more apparent among the Democrats who represent constituencies smaller than entire states the US House of Representatives and state legislatures The biggest declines in white male domination of Democratic of ceholders have occurred in the smaller constituencies of legislative bodies In 1950 all of the region s 103 Democrats in the House of Representatives were white men by 2003 they accounted for only 33 of the 55 southern Democrats in Congress Seventeen African Americans from the South including ve females sat in Congress and made up 31 of the region s Democratic delegation Five Texas Hispanics all males were the remaining southern House Democrats Yet there was an important link with the past the absence of any white female Democrats inthe southern congressional delegation A few southern white female Democrats have served in the House of Representatives in recent decades but the defeat in 2002 of Democrat Karen Thurmond by a white female Republican Ginny BrownWaite in a redrawn Florida district removed the only white female Democrat in the southern Democratic congressional delegation State legislative seats in the South held by Democrats show an even greater reduction in the dominance of white men In 2003 before the legislative elec tions in Louisiana Mississippi and Virginia white men comprised barely half 53 of the Democrats serving in southern state legislatures a huge decline from their historical monopoly As in the congressional delegation African Amer icans comprised the second largest group of Democratic lawmakers There were more white female Democrats than in the past but only one in nine Democratic state legislators in the South was a white woman Hispanic Democrats were largely limited to Texas The southern Democratic party has been reshaped in the electorate and to a lesser extent in its of ceholders over the past 50 years White men remain vastly overrepresented among elected Democratic of cials in comparison with their diminished role in generating votes for southern Democratic candidates White women are underrepresented at every level of of ce holding Blacks and His panics rarely win statewide o ice as Democrats but members of these groups have been able to win larger shares of seats in the more narrowly drawn con stituencies for the US House of Representatives and state legislative seats The Transformation of the Southern Democratic Party 1015 Conclusion The modern southern Democratic party at the beginning of the twenty rst century has been transformed from its earlier role in American politics Repudi ating its heritage of white supremacy it has become the institution with which huge majorities of African Americans identify and through which nearly all AfricanAmerican politicians seek of ce Based on the state exit polls in the 2000 election African Americans made up 32 of the Upper South Democratic party Arkansas North Carolina Tennessee and Virginia and 30 of the Mega South Democratic party Florida and Texas In the Deep South Alabama Georgia Louisiana Mississippi and South Carolina African Americans accounted for a majority 52 of Democrats a development unique in American history Southern Democrats must now learn to compete effectively as a biracial party attractive to only a minority of whites The party faces two major challenges in the modern South Democratic candidates for statewide o ices will need to be liberal enough to motivate AfricanAmerican and liberal white Democrats but moderate enough to rally the remaining moderate white Democrats and enough white voters who no longer identify with the party The iture competitiveness of the southern Democratic party may hinge upon how well it is able to attract support from white voters who think of themselves as political moderates Here a generational cleavage in partisan identi cation threatens iture Democratic competitiveness While older white moderates are still more likely to be Democrats than Republicans younger white moderates have shown over the last four elections an increasing tendency to identify as Republicans rather than as Democrats According to the most recent 2002 exit poll of southern voters the oldest white moderates 60 and older were still more Democratic than Republican 45 to 31 White moderates aged 45 to 59 however showed a slight Republican advantage 38 to 31 The real problem facing Democrats appeared among the youngest white moderates those aged 18 to 44 Among this crucial segment of the southern electorate Republicans overwhelmed Democrats by 26 percentage points 49 to 23 A GOP advantage among the youngest southern moderate white voters had also appeared in the previous three elections six points in 1996 16 points in 1998 and 18 points in 2000 Whether or not this Republican edge among the youngest white moderates per sists is of course unknowable At the very least though low levels of Democ ratic identi cation among this group combined with the gradual departure of the older more proDemocratic white moderates should greatly concern Democra tic politicians and strategists in the South If this pattern of generational replace ment among white moderate voters continues the consequences for the southern party system would be immense The Democratic party s reliable base of white support would drop even further below the 40 target needed to construct winning regional coalitions whereas the Republican party s base of support 1016 Merle Black mightiat some point in the futureiapproach or exceed its regional target of three hs of southern white voters These developments should they come to pass would link the South s party system even more rmly with its racial cleavages The future southern party system might display even greater racial polarization than in recent decades a truly melancholy outcome for a region in which racial con ict in countless forms has been its principal distinguishing characteristic for nearly four centuries Acknowledgment 1 wish to thank Earl Black for valuable comments and for making the gures Thanks also to Jennifer Nolder for research assistance and to Matthew Gunning Brad Alexander and Terry Chapman for technical assistance References Aistrup Joseph A 1996 The Southern Strategy Revisited Republican TopDown Advancement in the South Lexington University Press of Kentucky Bass Jack and Walter DeVries 1976 The Trans 7rmation ofSouthern Politics New York Basic Books Beck Paul Allen 1977 Partisan Dealignment in the Postwar South American Political Science Review 712 477795 Black Earl 1976 Southern Governors and Civil Rights Cambridge Harvard University Press Black Earl 1998 The Newest Southern Politics Journal ofPolitics 603 59112 Black Earl and Merle Black 1987 Politics and Society in the South Cambridge Harvard Univer sity ress Black Earl and Merle Black 1992 The Vital South How Presidents are Elected Cambridge Harvard University Press Black Earl and Merle Black 2002 The Rise ofSouthern Republicans Cambridge The Belknap Pres of Harvard University Press Bullock 111 Charles S 1988 Regional Realignment from an O 39lceholding Perspective Journal of Politics 503 553774 Bullock 111 Charles S 1993 The Partisan Racial and Gender Makeup ofGeorgia County O ices Athens Carl Vinson Institute of Government The University of Georgia Bullock 111 Charles S and Mark J Rozell eds 2003 The New Poli ics ofthe Old South 2nd ed Lanham Rowman amp Little eld Bullock 111 Charles S Ronald Keith Gaddie and Donna R Hoffman 2002 The Consolidation of the White Southern Congressional Vote Presented at the annual meeting of the American Polit ical Science Association Bunche Ralph J 1973 The Political Status ofthe Negro in the Age ofFDR Chicago University of Chicago Press Carey Robert T Bruce W Ransom and J David Woodard 2002 Growth in Party Competition and the Transformation of Southern Politics Presented at the Cimdel Symposium on Southern Politics Carter Dan T 1995 The Politics ofRage Baton Rouge Louisiana Smte University Press Glaser James M 1996 Race Campaign Politics and the Realignment in the South New Haven Yale University Press Hadley Charles D and Harold W Smnley 1998 Race and the Democratic Biracial Coalition In Party Activists in Southern Politics eds Charles D Hadley and Lewis Bowman Knoxville Uni versity ofTennessee Press pp 3723
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