The New Politics of the Old South
The book, The New Politics of the Old South, edited by Charles S. Bulluck III and Mark J. Rozella provides a comprehensive history and analysis of the political behaviors in the Southern electorate. The editors have made suggestions that these southern states which comprise of Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Florida, Texas, Arkansas, North Carolina and Virginia have diverged from the rest of the nation. They have explained the manner in which these states have lost their position which was once cherished in the American political system. The book is divided into various chapters which highlights the ways in which southern political systems have been responding to change in the US and among the states itself. The book has provided a rich and timely analysis that helps the readers to have a clear understanding of the Old South politics.
Chapter Summaries and Analysis
According to the authors the Southern partisan had divergence preferences for the last century and a half compared to the other states across the nation. They withdrew from federal troops to compromise the 1876 presidential election that had been resolved. To make matters worse, in the twentieth century, only one Southern state, Tennessee elected a Republican executive. There were also no Republican chief executives elected in these states. It means that the Southern States mainly provided the foundation the Democratic Party to thrive and rest in the nation. It means that they displayed a high sense of partisan preferences despite winning only few seats in the Congress. The same pattern was experienced in the twenty-first century whereby the South remained more Republican while the non-Southern states were dominated by the Democrats. The authors claim that the reason the South states are Republicans is because of the strong influence of the “Negro” who dominates and influence politics in these regions. However, their failure to thrive in occupying senate positions and Electoral College votes is because of the political capital had been expended to keep the blacks away from leveraging power. On the other hand, they were limited by the barriers that were placed by the constitution to prevent black people from taking part in elections.
However, ever since the removal of the barriers, black politicians have won positions as governors, as legislators and local officials plus Barack Obama’s election of president. In regards to presidency, only Obama and Ronald Reagan managed to succeed to become president of US minus having any strong ties with the Southerners. It is only in 1876 and 1948 when the Republican presidential nominees who managed to carry the Southern state votes. However, there was a change experienced in the Deep South after the Civil Rights Acts was passed that protected the blacks and gave them access to public accommodations, employment opportunities and school desegregation. The tradition of voting changed as the nation saw the Deep South voting for President Johnson a Republican because he promised to pass the legislation that would give blacks more rights. This led to the Southerner’s faithfulness and loyalty towards the Republican candidates continuing with the same pattern of voting for a long period. However, not all the southerners were faithful because in the 1990s, Tenesse and Arkansas voted for a Democrat while in 1992, Louisiana and Georgia voted for Clinton-Gore and lastly Florida voted Democrats in 1996. Later, these Southern states began to shift back and vote for Republican candidates as seen in 2002. The number of blacks holding offices increased because of black electorate and their support for the white Democrats. This contributed to an increase in South legislators from thirty five to more than 350 blacks holding office. Currently, with the support of white Republicans has enabled the blacks to succeed in acquiring Congressional districts. This shows that the South has experienced demographic diversity and change which continue to affect the different beat in the political system of these Southern states. On the other hand, their uniqueness in terms of policy preferences and partisan has made the Southerners solid and different from other citizens and non-south states.
Chapter 1: The Deep South States
- South Carolina Change
South Carolina has gone through political change and transformation which became invisible on the eyes of many observers for a long period especially during postwar era. Initially, the state was democratic supporters but governor Brynes helped in pushing the state towards Republican column. In the year 1950s, Republican Party achieved the greatest support from South Carolina State despite the fact that the blacks did not vote because the constitution denied them the opportunity. By 1964, the Republicans continued to win greatly especially in the congressional and presidential levels. However, after the passing the law that allowed blacks to vote, the Democratic Party began to talk more regarding racial issues by becoming more moderate to win over the black votes which comprised of the largest population in the state. This caused a shift in elections as the Democrats won elections in South Carolina because of the strong coalition between the blacks and white voters. The Democrats took control of all the three state branches of government.
However, the politics in this region was racially motivated which led to the transformation and change in political party shifts among the residence of this state. In the twenty first century, there was varied landscape between the democrats and republicans with the democrats concentrating in Midlands, western and northern edges while the Republicans acquired votes from rich nations of Upstate and along the coast of South Carolina. However, the legislature power in this state mainly revolves around its budget which was meant to enhance the powers of the governors. It is anticipated that the increase in population in Upstate and the coast region will make South Carolina have more supporters of Republicans leaving the Democrats fighting for their votes.
- Georgia: The Taking Over by the GOP
According the authors, transforming Georgia State from Democratic supporters to Republican did not take long like South Carolina; it took less than a decade. In the year 2013, the Republicans in this state occupied partisan posts, congressional seats, Senate seats and super majority state House. The population growth to 9.7million people enhanced the republican support in Georgia. However, things were not always like this in the 20th century as Democrats dominated the rural areas in 1960s with each having at least one House seat in the 159 counties in Georgia. The rural area not only had legislature influence but also great control of voters. This made it hard for any Republican to win election in this state until 1980. The decisions by the courts to establish a one-person, one vote legislative in the district changed things in the nation. It triggered racial influence in this state more than any other Southern states in the country. The black population occupied majority of the legislative seats making the district to have equal populations. On the other hand, the Republicans found a chance to win over the people of Georgia. However, Bo Callaway refusal to reach out to the black people frustrated several Republican advisers with the fear of losing the black votes and support. The GOP struggle became real when Georgia Republicans won the sub-presidential election in the year 1980. This victory of Mattingly was seen as a bright GOP spot. It brought back hope for the Democrats showing that the Republicans were still weakest in the state. After Bill Clinton won over the Georgian votes, the Republicans decided to conduct a runoff as some sort of revenge. The new legislative maps provided the Republicans with a super majority enabling them to win many of the Senate seats and later statewide offices making GOP dominant in Georgia. It was evident that the Democrats were not able to stem the Georgian GOP tide giving a chance to the Republicans to hold the state offices.
- Alabama One Party
Alabama politics was mainly dominated by racial issues whereby the African-American were totally excluded from taking part in state elections. On the other hand, it has a multi-factional Democratic Party which is disorganized but dominates the state. All the democratic candidates have managed to win support from the large majorities of voters. Contrary, the Republicans clinching only a small number of voters in Alabama showing that they are not totally absent in the political system of the state. However, unlike the other states, Alabama’s politics is different because of the larger electorate representation with majority of African Americans taking part in the politics. Political change has also been evident in Alabama especially the level of participation in elections. In the mid twentieth century, voting turnout was law when compared to the other southern states. This was attributed by low education levels and income among the citizens while at the same time there were no competitive parties around making Alabama a one party state. The removal of the structural barriers on voting and registration helped to minimize voting barriers which increased the rate of voting in the state. Currently, the voting participation in Alabama is in similar range to the national average. The African Americans holds 25 percent state legislature seats in Alabama. There was a turn in politics in the year 2000 when the Republican managed to acquire strength in Alabama as a result of the GOP victories. The Republican only comprised of a narrow majority which had no impact on election turnout for legislator, governor, senator or even the presidential race.
- Mississippi Two-party State
When federal elections are taken into consideration, the Republicans in Mississippi have the strongest voters winning majority of the statewide elected offices. However, the partisan identity caused other people to shift toward GOP which is the reason Mississippi is considered as a two-party state. The democrats are not fully eliminated in their politics because they are more powerful in offices which are less visible. Things turned out differently after Civil War and Reconstruction as the citizens of Mississippi decided to vote for Democratic Party because of the anger from these wars. Since 1932-1944, for the four consecutive elections more than 90 percent of the Mississippians voted for a Democratic president. In regards to the gubernatorial race, the citizens decided to back the socially and racially conservative Independent party. The racial voting style ended with the reelection of President Richard Nixon. The people were willing to embrace the conservative majority party and GOP congressmen. At the same time, the votes were divided between the Republican congressmen and Democratic congressmen showing evidently that Mississippi did not have one line of voting. However, despite of this many of the voters were driven by racial issues which were a major deciding factor on whom they were voting for during elections. The Republicans could gain the conservative whites votes while the Democrats assembled biracial diverse coalition for them to win the several local and state elections. Each of these two parties fought to retain majority votes in the state as some of the parties such as Republicans had to deal with intraparty conflicts. Currently, there are no signs that Mississippi State will become a one-party state or retain back its Democratic heritage or become a full supporter of Republican Party. The scenario that people expect is the intense competitive two-party politics.
- Louisiana Party Competition
Louisiana politics has revolutionized over the last half-century in two ways. The Republican Party has become as competitive as the Democratic Party which was the dominant party in this state. On the other hand, the black influence on the elections is high because they make one-third of the entire population and also risen to positions of power. The strong competition has seen the Republicans winning several statewide officers such as governorship, legislature and congressional delegation. On the other hand, the African Americans have broken the registration barriers by winning the congressional seats and local offices but not the statewide office.
Chapter 2: The Rim South States
- Virginia: New Politics
Virginia was once a Democratic State but things changed in 1990s when it turns to become a Republican dominated state. There is also a point when the GOP had taken control of the state legislature taking statewide office positions of the Attorney general, governor and lieutenant. For several years, the Democrats were organizing a centrist philosophy which would promote their party and provide them with a chance to win the presidency post. They decided to realign with the white GOP making them the dominant party in Virginia. This made the Republican Party extraordinarily weak with fewer leaders. However, like the other states, political party competition was evident in Virginia too as they transformed from being Republicans to Democratic supporters. One thing that is evident from the southern states is the inconsistency in voter’s choice which depends on various state and nation factors.
- North Carolina: Two-Party state
In North Carolina, things were not different; the war between the GOP and the Democrats was evident. In the twentieth century, the Democrats were winning the votes especially with the election of John F. Kennedy as the president of US which left the Republicans with nothing. The Democrats took all the state offices. However, in the twenty first century, the political landscape changed as the South Carolinas supported a GOP candidate for presidential position. George W. Bush managed to win the state with two-party vote from South Carolina both Democrats and the GOP.
- Tennessee: Reddish State
Tennessee has always been a Democratic Party State. The change was experienced after a long tension between the Republican Party contributed by the pro and anti-Clement factor which gave the GOP a chance to win the Senate seats. However, in 1994, there was a shift in political party preferences as the first GOP senator and Governor were selected in Tennessee. The reason for the shift in party preference is because the Democratic politicians were focusing more on people of color, heterodoxies and women yet for a long period, it had been a party for the white working and middle class. This triggered the rich and wealthy to shift to the Republican Party where they thought that their values and wealth could be protected.
- Arkansas: GOP Growth
The one-party growth in Arkansas State has continued after the 2000 elections because of the religious and moral views that the people have towards the constitution of the US. This is a state that has always held high moral values thus the reason GOP is not only popular in the state but has continued to grow over time. Many of the voters are opposed to the Democratic laws regarding same-sex marriage. Many of the people are conservatives who believe that such kinds of laws deteriorate the moral values of the nation. To ensure that the moral values of the people are retained, the Arkansas people support the GOP with the hope of the party making the nation a better place for the people.
- Oklahoma: Secular and Evangelicals Realignment
Oklahoma has experienced both partisan realignment from the Republican and the Democratic Party. However, the majority party is the Republican because of the poverty related issues and leadership soul and values. The Democrats have been struggling to win the votes because of their predicated status of focusing on the wealthy especially the ability to offer access to services and goods. The Democrats also do not know how they can go past the strong religious values because of their same-sex marriage issues.
- Florida: Change in Politics
Florida like the other Southern States has experienced change in politics from Democratic Party support to Republican supporters. However, the race the legislative seats have not been competitive in this state after 1990s. Race issues are also evident when it comes to voter preferences. The Hispanics and the African Americans have played a great role in the outcome of voting in the state. Hispanics are mainly conservatives voting mainly Republicans. On the other hand, Democratic voters are mainly African Americans who are forced to vote in specific districts. In regards to presidential election, the Republicans have always won since the year 2004 in Florida because of their political strategy which seems effective. The Republicans appeal more to the religious rights of the conservatives in the nation who comprise of the majority of people in Florida.
- Texas: The Lone State
Politics of race has been an issue in Texas especially the Republican upsurge in the state. The demographic patterns also helped to spur the Republican growth in the state. The voting patterns have made the ideological and partisan trends paralleled. The editors found that the state is divided among class lines which track the political ideology. Ethnicity and race is seen as a neutral factor in the political chemistry in the state. The African American percentage has decreased for the last two decades with the highest concentration living in urban areas. The political power during election time therefore is high in metropolitan regions which comprise of 25 percent of black population in Texas. However, in the year 2006, Texas people changed their voting strategy especially the Mexicans and Latinos who decided to vote Democrats to secure their position in the nation. The GOP had made threats of deporting all the immigrants. This enabled the Democrats to hold strong grounds in the nation because of the racial purposes.
Conclusion: The twenty-first century politics
The southern states have undergone through tremendous political changes. In most cases, some are one party states while others two party states. However, one this that is evident from the book is that race plays an important role in the ways in which south states vote. Many of these states comprise black people whose interests play a huge role in the voting process. However, the whites have also played a role in determining the ways in which people vote in particular districts. One thing that is evident is that Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Florida, Texas, Arkansas, North Carolina and Virginia have diverged from the rest of the nation. These states have lost their position which was once cherished in the American political system.
Bulluck III, C. H. & Rozella, M. J. (2013). The New Politics of the Old South. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers