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I just plowed through hundreds of comments to the Aethern "Truth about the South" diary and was surprised to see that no one made even a rudimentary stab at the obvious timeline of race and voting.

There is nothing mysterious about the big picture of Southern voting patterns.  (My apologies to all the well-informed people on this blog for whom the following is a simplistic rehash of history.)

This is quite long but I hope the middle of the night crowd will cut me some slack about that.

For decades after the Civil War (am I making a value judgment here by not calling it the War Between the States?) white Southerners voted Democrat because they were angry with the Party of Lincoln. Newly-enfranchised blacks voted Republican because they were happy with Lincoln (when they could manage to vote, which was sporadic for the first 100 years).  This black voting pattern lasted until the 1930s, with Hoover getting about 75% of the black vote over Roosevelt in 1932.

But the New Deal was the beginning of the realignment of the black vote.  By 1936 blacks were switching allegiance from the Republican to the Democratic Party in droves.  Roosevelt's overwhelming victory in 1936 was the natural result of economic policies that benefited otherwise conservative Southern whites and social policies that appealed to black and white northern liberals.  De facto and de jure conditions in the south prevented most Southern blacks from voting during these decades.  But blacks were extremely grateful for the New Deal, and those who could vote wanted to vote for FDR.  Eleanor was a big part of this too, as she openly supported equal education opportunity programs for blacks.  Although she did not take on the larger issue of segregation, her public stand against lynching and the highly symbolic gesture of inviting Marian Anderson to sing at the White House had tremendous impact on both sides.

Truman desegregated the military and supported other civil rights legislation in the late 40s.  This made a lot of white Southerners angry, but they couldn't bear to officially leave the Democratic party.   The South cherishes many old-school aristocratic values about heritage:  who your great-grandfather was is who you are, and if great-grandpa hated the Republicans then you have to hate them too.  Thus the Dixiecrats were born (officially known as the States Rights Democratic Party).   Many stayed officially registered as Dems, but sympathized with the Dixiecrats in their voting.  When Strom Thurmond ran for president as a Dixiecrat in 1948, he won 39 electoral votes, carrying Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and South Carolina. He also got one electoral vote from Tennessee.  (He got more electoral votes than McGovern and Mondale combined.)

These Dixiecrat years are one explanation for Condoleezza Rice--her father and grandfather had a lifelong negative reaction to the horrible treatment of blacks by people who called themselves Democrats. The only place they could get a fair shake in that place and time was from people calling themselves Republican.  But blacks who keep referring to the Republican party of the 21st century as the "Party of Lincoln" to explain their reversed racial identification with the GOP, are ignoring the very significant events that have happened since then with respect to party labels.

A few weeks before the 1960 election Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested and sent to prison in the aftermath of a "sit-in" to desegregate lunch counters.  Democratic nominee Jack Kennedy telephoned King's wife, Coretta, to offer his support, and Bobby and Jack worked together behind the scenes to try to get King released.  When MLK was released a few days later, he publicly thanked the Kennedys for their help.  Pro-segregation southern whites despised Kennedy for siding with King; blacks who supported King were thrilled; both sides expressed their feelings at the ballot box.  When Kennedy was assassinated, the black community was devastated as many had put their hopes in him, even though he had not given civil rights legislation a high priority during his truncated presidency.

It was a shock, pleasant or unpleasant depending on what side you were on, when Lyndon Johnson picked up JFK's unfinished business baton and got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed.  The day he signed it into law, Johnson reportedly told Bill Moyers "I've just handed the South to the Republican party for the next fifty years, certainly for the rest of our lifetimes."  Sure enough there was a march to the exits as people switched parties like mad in order to vote for Goldwater that Fall, who still lost, but swept the Deep South: carrying Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, Georgia and his home state of Arizona.

The Civil Rights Act of 64 and the Voting Rights Act of 65 were watershed events.  This is the time when blacks began to vote Democratic as a solid bloc, except for areas of the south where Dixiecrats by any other name were still running things (and areas where blacks still had trouble voting).  Southern whites on the fence until then about party identification were feeling a new pressure to choose sides.  During this odd period, the label "Democrat" by itself told you almost nothing about where someone stood on the liberal-conservative spectrum.

Nixon was smart enough to realize that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was his ticket to the Presidency.  Still feeling that the 1960 election had been stolen, and that any means necessary were justified to avenge his razor thin loss to Kennedy, Nixon launched the now famous "Southern Strategy" of speaking in code (and sometimes openly) about race to the white electorate in the South, building on the Goldwater vote and effectively exploiting Southern white fears that civil rights for blacks were moving too far too fast.

The only fly in the Southern Strategy ointment for Nixon in `68 was George Wallace, who ran as a third party candidate.  Wallace did not call himself a Dixiecrat, but he was nakedly pro-segregation.  Wallace got almost 10 million votes.  He carried Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and Arkansas, and got one electoral vote from North Carolina.  Wallace knew he couldn't win, but he hoped to get enough EVs to throw the race into the House of Representatives.  My mom was so scared of what this outcome would mean for the country that she planned a move to Canada if Wallace won.  I spoke a little French and she was completely serious.  The same mom, who disliked Nixon intensely and once said I was a Nixon-hater in the womb, was actually relieved when Nixon managed to win without the states won by Wallace.  To be fair, some pro-war whites in the North adopted the Nixon Democrat label too.  Widespread civil unrest following the April 4 assassination of MLK added fuel to the fire of Nixon's "law and order" appeal to fearful whites in all regions of the country.  Bobby Kennedy's eloquent speech the night of April 4 cemented his support in the black community.  Whites who feared Bobby might get the Democratic nomination were driven into the arms of the GOP.  As most of us know, Bobby's assassination was two months later, but he had still done a lot to reinforce the Dems as the liberal/anti-war/pro civil rights party.

Many southern whites who did not want to "throw their vote away" on an independent candidate in `68 voted for Nixon but called themselves "Nixon Democrats"--because 100 years after the Civil War the "Republican" label was still too hard to swallow.  By 1972 a lot of (in)famous GOP players who had been Democrats in the early 1960s had all switched to the Republican Party:  Ronald Reagan in 62, Strom Thurmond in 64, Jesse Helms and Trent Lott in 72, and countless lesser known names.  (I have to say that I have more respect for them for officially changing their party affiliation than I have for people like Zell Miller, who for incomprehensible reasons insisted on calling himself a Democrat to the bitter end.) Nixon in 72 was the first Republican to sweep the South, but that's a misleading way of putting it since he won 49 of the 50 states.

Roe v Wade was the straw that broke the camel's back for a lot of these Nixon Democrats, the "values voters" of their day.  At first blush this does not look like a racial issue, but it is easily connected to a general campaign of intolerance.  Dem support for civil rights was bad enough, but when wives get uppity as a result of women's rights, it pushes deep buttons among while male voters already fearing the loss of their former power and influence.

By the time we get around to "Reagan Democrats" in the 1980s, some of these so-called Democrats have been voting Republican for 20 years.  Republican nominees since then have started their electoral vote planning by being able to count on the Solid South.  Whether people were registered Republican or not was irrelevant, so long as they voted "R" at the top of the ticket.  Clinton and Carter benefited from Southern roots and won a few states, but we all know what happened to Mondale and Dukakis and Gore and Kerry.

When Condi et al. claim in 2004 that blacks should vote Republican because Republicans are responsible for the civil rights gains of the early 60s they are not entirely wrong.  Yes, it was Southern Democrats and unreconstructed Dixiecrats who filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Yes it was a Republican senator, Everett Dirksen, working with Hubert Humphrey, who pulled together key Republicans for that historic cloture vote.  But those Republicans are not the Republican Party of now.  Almost all the moderate/liberal Republicans who were able and willing to work both sides of the aisle in those days have been driven out of the party.  The power structure of the GOP in 2004 is thoroughly dominated by the white male Southern Democrats who switched parties in opposition to civil rights initiatives, and the younger Republicans who grew up admiring them.  When Strom Thurmond died he still held the personal filibuster record of 24 hours 18 minutes--he was trying to stop the Civil Rights Act of 1957.  And Trent Lott was unashamed to speculate that the country would have been better off if Thurmond had won the Presidency in 1948.

I find it really interesting that there was almost zero emphasis in 2004 on the concept of "Democrats for Bush".  There was no need.  It seems that a large segment of the people who have been voting Republican for the last 40 years have finally stopped calling themselves Democrats.  Finally.  Equally interesting but for sad and different reasons, some of the voter suppression activities outlawed by the Voting Rights Act of 65 appear to have reared their ugly heads again in 2004.  Plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose.

History lesson over, again with apologies to those who know/lived all this.

If Lyndon Johnson is right about his "fifty years" prediction, then perhaps we can hope for a natural realignment to occur sometime around 2014.  I hate to keep holding up Barack Obama as the great black hope, but he (or Harold Ford) might have a chance to reinstate the Roosevelt Coalition: Black and white liberals in the north, blacks in the South, and some Southern whites who will respond to his ability to talk about economic justice, social justice and other progressive values in terms of the gospel imperative. Obama also has the personality to draw in some non-voters and fire up the previously apathetic.  If a charismatic Southerner I've never heard of from the farm team is ready to run in '08 or '12, I wish s/he would step up pretty soon.

When Republicans tell me to "get over" the election(s) of 2000 (and 2004) because "you lost and we won and that's the end of it" I always ask them if they say the same thing to Southerners who are still licking their wounds almost 150 years after losing the Civil War.  Haven't met a GoOPer with an answer to that one yet.

My favorite post on the Aethern thread was when Rithmck said "Race explains voting patterns in the South.  Not sweet tea.  Deal with it.  Stop trying to obscure it."

My sentiments exactly.

If anyone has an explanation for all of the above Southern voting patterns that does not start and end with race, please share it with the rest of the class.

Originally posted to TrueBlueMajority on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 01:43 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  don't have an explaination, just a question (none)
    I should say that I have never lived in the South, and have only been south of the mason-dixon line twice, so I have very, very little understanding ot that with which I am so unfamiliar.  That being said, the population of some southern states is 45% african american, and as far as I know these people vote Democratic at the same rate as black people elsewhere in the country.  In fact, if you look at an election results map that goes county by county, there is a ribbon of blue that runs through the entire south that pretty much corilates with the 2000 census map showing where black people live. (I will look for a link to these maps.)  
    Anyway, I know several white liberal Democrats who live in the South, and they don't seem to consider themselves so politically out numbered by their neighbors as to be only 5% of the white people. (although they do see themselves as greatly outnumbered.)  And I agree with all you said in your post, and believe what you said is true of many if not most white southerners, but I just don't get how white people who don't vote based on race don't make up at least 15% of the population of Mississippi, or Georgia, or Louisiana, cause if they did, and we could take just sightly more than half of them along with the 90% or so of  the black vote we usually get, we'd have those states sewn up.  Is it low minority voter turn out?  Voter supression of minorities?  Are there really so very few open minded white folks?  I really just don't get it.  But sometimes I am kinda dumb.
    •  To win the South (none)
      I think you're smarter than you let on---but minorities are not as concentrated as you think.

      According to Wikipedia, the states of Georgia, South Carolina, and Mississippi all have minorities that number roughly 30-35%.

      Self-described Whites make up around 60-65% of the population.

      When it comes to registered voters, Whites have an even larger advantage.

      Although I'd say only 10-15% of Whites are liberal or moderate-liberal.

      For a Democrat to win statewide, they have to be fairly conservative and know the local issues pretty well.

      They have to maximize the black and liberal/moderate white vote, AND conservative whites can't turn out in record numbers.

      Caution! These are shark-infested waters!

      by Jonathan4Dean on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 02:54:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Whites are the Problem (none)
      Blacks make up around 35% of most Southern states, not 45%.  I've seen statisticians work out that we would need ONE THIRD of white voters in a Southern state to vote Democrat in order to carry the state.  

      Whites won't do it.  

      Liberal whites are a very small minority in the South.  Period.

      •  Liberal Whites (none)
        You don't have to be a liberal to vote Democrat.

        The road to hell is paved with Good Intentions.

        by JenAtlanta on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 05:01:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's true! (none)
          I should have said liberal and moderate whites are a tiny minority in the South.  (The previous commenter though had expressed surprise that there are so few liberal whites in the South.  Sadly, there are. . .).

          I'd love to see some kind of anti-racist new Southern populism, but that is a huge challenge.  And the Demmies are SO sold out to corporate influence, it's just really hard to see how someone can rise to the top these days on a platform of supporting the little guy against out-sourcing, Walmartization of America, exurb/suburb urban sprawl as king, etc., etc.  

          I'd love to see it, though!

          •  Well.. (none)
            I would agree that liberal whites are a tiny minority, most often concentrated in the urban areas.     But I would disagree that when taken together with moderate whites, they constitute a tiny minority.  They're certainly not the majority, but they are enough of them that Democrats are elected statewide in many Southern states.  (And no, most statewide Dems are not people like Zell Miller, who was a moderate Governor and went to the right after he hit the Senate and wasn't a big dog anymore.)

            In any event, the real point of this comment is that moderate, even liberal, policies on health care, education, quality of life issues can work in the South.  Why?  Because of the Republican suburbanites.  Yes, they're Republican.  But not because they're bible-beating religious fanatics, but because of economic reasons.  They're a huge rural-urban divide even within the South.

            Of course, I'm talking specifically about Georgia, but I think that my argument would hold true for many parts of the US, as well as on a national level.

            1.  Turning out Democratic voters.  (duh!)
            2.  Energizing Black turnout.  This means not just expecting that they'll vote Dem every four years.  Give them solid, succinct reasons.  Start working with Black churches and leaders now.  Encourage them to run for office!
            3.  A little bit harder, but we need to peel off some moderate Republicans.  (Yes Virginia, they do exist.)  A lot of them are repulsed by the extreme right, with all their religious overtones.  We'll need to re-build the Democratic Party in order for this to happen on a national level, but it'll be easier to do on a local level since Republicans tend to vote for local Dems, but not national Dems.

            The road to hell is paved with Good Intentions.

            by JenAtlanta on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 06:20:42 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Great points Brock (none)
              I agree with every point- in order to be competitive in Georgia we need to flip the traditionally Republican suburbs which I think can be done by focusing on issues like crime, education and women's health; cut our losses in the rural areas by identifying with voters on more of a gut level with values arguments for our policies(all we need is somwhere around 30-35% instead of the current 20-24%); and we must maximize African American turnout and support by recruiting and getting behind more African American statewide candidates in the primary.

              "If there is no struggle, there is no progress ... Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." -Frederick Douglass

              by kitchentable on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 08:03:39 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Peeling off moderates (none)
              Well, you're right, obviously that is the task ahead.

              1).  Pessimism. . . .It's pretty disheartening to watch it fail as abjectly as it has this year though.  We have a stridently, obnoxiously far-right lying jerk with absurd and ruinous imperial fantasies in bed with the wacko religious right, yet still moderate Repubs lined up in droves to vote for their man.  To my mind, for any educated and informed person, it's just immoral to support this man and his policies.  

              If we can't get them back with such a horrible GOP candidate as Bush with a horrible record, how can we ever?

              2). Optimism. . . .Well, the only reason Bush could win was terrorism, Iraq, terrorism, Iraq, terrorism, Iraq.  9/11, 9/11, 9/11.  With the terror stuff, it would have been hard to unseat any sitting Prez, but we came damn close.  OK, how can we make inroads against the daunting sight of so damn many Southern whites voting GOP?  

              Do we have to do it by running a moderate, down-homey type? (sigh. . .that's what I fear).   Or would a progressive, down-homey type work?  With the former, we might get power.  But with the latter, we'd not only get power but we might just get something moral and positive done in this world. . . .

              •  Ask me in two years. (none)
                A group of 15 Progressives just started a PAC down here, with the goal of winning 10 State House seats in 2006.  So, depending on what happens in 2 years, I'll have a definitive answer on what works and what doesn't.

                As to your other question, Do we have to do it by running a moderate, down-homey type? (sigh. . .that's what I fear).  Or would a progressive, down-homey type work?

                I would never advocate running a down-homey of any type!  (Is a down-homey a bubba?)  In any event, this is part of what posted on another thread and it seems particularly apt:

                I wonder, though, if some people here are implying that to be "authentic" or "plain speaking" means that you have to must identify with the particular folkways of a particular region of the country.

                I hadn't thought about that.  By plain-spoken, I mean someone who explains his policy / position in clear, concise language.  (i.e., not long winded).  Anecdotal evidence is best, appealing to the best in people.  When you talk about health care, don't rattle off figures about this percentage and that premium.  Talk about families, who can't afford the health insurance for their kids.  Who had to mortgage their home to pay for their kids surgery.  About the seniors, who can either afford to pay rent or take their medication.  It is an American value to take of others in society.  It doesn't resonate with people if you give a 15 minute speech on health care and only talk about figures.

                Authentic is a little bit more difficult.  In theory, it's someone who means what they say.  But I'd settle for someone who sounded like they meant what they said.

                For me, plain spoken is more important than authentic.  But, plain spoken means little when it doesn't sound like it's coming from the heart.

                Also for the record, I hate the phrase plain spoken.

                We need a an authentic progressive who is UGH! plain spoken.

                The road to hell is paved with Good Intentions.

                by JenAtlanta on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 01:21:50 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Very cool (none)
                  That's great that some GA progressives are starting a PAC to take back some state power!  I wish them the best, and I'm sure they have much better ideas on how to peel off Southern moderates than I would have. . .

                  It just seems to me that a down-homey lovable cuddly Bubba-type like Clinton (or the fake-Bubba Dubya) is the only way to convince moderates that a Demmiecrat isn't gonna force their child to become a gay Satanist (for the religious types) OR disarm the military and open up the borders to the Commies/Terrorists.  I'd love to be wrong.  In my lifetime, we just haven't seen a plainspoken non-Southern non-Bubba left-wing candidate get any play in the South (or in the Mountain West).  

                  In my best of all possible worlds, I'd love to see a far-left Bubba with charisma come to the fore.  Sort of a Clinton with real values (other than just an urge to power and a roving eye).  But my biggest fear is that no one wants to stop the corporate gravy train.  We're just going to keep up our amoral/immoral pillaging of the world because we're the only big dog on the block.  Any attempts on the macro-political level are SO hard because (1) corporations are so in bed win the Dem and Rep parties and (2) attempts to reform corporations mean saying that profit margins are not sacrosanct and a measure of moral good in the world.  Americans don't want to hear that.  We really want to think the Bible was all about how great it is to be rich.

                  It will be awful hard to change that.  

  •  Well presented (none)
    Actually, quite a few of us (myself included) were arguing on the other diary ("The Truth About the South") that Southern voting patterns begin and end with race.  My post there was entitled "The Truth About the White South"!

    I didn't go through the precise history by which the black/white divide ended up how it is today, but you provide a fine summary of that here.  To condense it even further:

    After the Civil War, blacks were squarely in the party of Lincoln and backed Republicans when they could vote.  Southern whites supported machine and populist Democrats.  Beginning with FDR and accelerating with the civil rights firestorm of the 60s, blacks quickly shifted from Republican to Democrat.  Once Democrats became the party of the blacks, Southern whites turned Dixiecrat and started voting Republican en masse.

    It's really as simple as that.  Anyone who claims that Southern voting patterns are driven by anything other than race is peddling some serious snake oil. . .

  •  Race is the heart, but not the strategy (none)
    You are absolutely correct when you say that race is the central factor of how the South got to be like it is politically, however it is not the central factor of how to take back the South.  We must appeal to Southern Culture, which is seperate from racism, and drive a wedge between Southerners who are regionalistic, proud, and NOT racist, and the hate tactics of the GOP.  For more on this, check out part 2 of my 'Truth About the South Series' if you're interested.

    BTW, I think Obama could have lots of success in the South.

    Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Freedom.

    by Aethern on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 04:37:24 AM PST

    •  Excellent point (none)
      "Southern culture" - not the heritage-not-hate, neo-Confederate nonsense, but real Southern culture - is something that blacks and white in the South both identify with.

      Will check out your diary - sounds interesting!

      Noli nothis permittere te terere.

      by grannyhelen on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 04:49:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Southern Culture = Southern WHITE Culture (none)
      Here and on the other thread, you keep saying "Southern Culture" when you clearly mean "Southern White Culture".  

      Southern White Culture as you describe it is not at all separate from racism.  This is shown in your continued insistence that a very obviously white and conservative culture is somehow "Southern".  You leave out the vast numbers of black people who would have a very different take on what is Southern.  (Not to mention American Indians, Creoles, Jewish people and others who have roots going back hundreds of years in the South).  Hisorically, they have just as much a right to define the South as you or other white Southerners do.  

      That said, I do agree that the Democrats need to devise better strategies to pick off proudly uneducated "anti-sophistication" ignorant white Southern voters.  

      They have to if they want to win the South.

      Because virtually all the blacks already vote Democrat.

      The problem is that once the Civil Rights movement occurred, all the Southern whites started voting GOP.  They will be hard to win back.  They switched because of racism, and racism continues to be a strong (if somewhat more subtle) force in the South.  You ignore this at your peril.

      •  The way I see it (none)
        The Deep South is gone.  Forget winning Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina.

        The Border South, VA, NC,TN, AR, TX(once W leaves) are still palatable for the Dems.  We still have hope there with a good message.

        •  one change (none)
          I do think you have a good general point about the intractablitity of rural whites in the deep south but I think you are wrong about Georgia, it is very different from the others in your list in its rapid urban- and suburbanization and demo changes due to immigration from northern states.

          "If there is no struggle, there is no progress ... Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." -Frederick Douglass

          by kitchentable on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 08:07:08 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Good history lesson (none)
    I have been commenting here for weeks about the importance of the South both historically, now and in the future. The lessons of history are wasted unless change the future.

    One small quibble. The "new south" which started around the time of Reagan and includes the urban centers in Nc, Ga., Fla and Texas, grew to prominence economically during the 90s under Clinton, and is largely service industry based. The new south economy has essentially boomed and drawn transplants from rest of country like a magnet. These transplants have been swept up into the good times, cheap housing, lower taxes and the perception that Reagan policies created the boom.

    These transplants have either A) converted to wholehearted Republicanism B) stayed true to Dem ideals but the net effect is their vote no longer counts in say, TX, whereas it was critical in the swing states say, Ohio or Iowa, where many transplanted themselves from.

    Until the new south falls far from its current state of economic grace, the chance of the Dems getting a fair hearing in the south is nil.

    Unless the Dem candidate can speak to the South, both old and new, as in Clinton.

    Edwards, anyone?

  •  Interesting (none)
    " To be fair, some pro-war whites in the North adopted the Nixon Democrat label too.  Widespread civil unrest following the April 4 assassination of MLK added fuel to the fire of Nixon's "law and order" appeal to fearful whites in all regions of the country.  Bobby Kennedy's eloquent speech the night of April 4 cemented his support in the black community.  Whites who feared Bobby might get the Democratic nomination were driven into the arms of the GOP.  As most of us know, Bobby's assassination was two months later, but he had still done a lot to reinforce the Dems as the liberal/anti-war/pro civil rights party."

    When talking about working class whites in the late 1960s, one has to separate Southern whites and northern whites.  Both were racist to some degree, and were turned off by civil rights and the anti-war movements.  Both have some affinity to Wallace, either to him as a possible President, or more of a protest vote.  But there were major differences.
    Race was the major issue for Southern whites, there was nothing more important.  They hated liberals for their views on racial issues.  Period.  Their Democratic identification came from the civil War.
    For the blue collar whites in the North, especially the majority of them were ethnic and Catholic, it was much more complex.  They hated the anti-war movement that they thought was elitist, but many were turning against the war because so many of their kind had died in it.  The myth that working class whites supported Vietnam War to the bitter end is false.  They also were apprehensive about the giving of rights to African Americans, but were even more unnerved by the riots and other disturbances.  Racism was a periphery reason here, and their racism wasn't as strong or deep ingrained as the Southerners.  Their support of Wallace was mostly as protest against the system.  The Democratic identification came from the New Deal, it was a positive identification as opposed to a negative one(Southerners were Democrats solely because they were against the Rethugs for the Civil War.)

    Bobby Kennedy had a great deal of support among these working class whites in the North, despite the strong identification he had as a pro-civil rights and anti-war candidate.  As a Catholic who was the brother of a martyred President, he already had a great deal of affection among these groups.  As an anti-war candidate, but one who still seemed patriotic, he appealed to the deep feeling of antipathy among them.  Many of those who would consider voting or would vote for Wallace in the North were RFK supporters first.  My uncle met a Wallace campaign worker in Pittsburgh in 1968, and talked with him for a while.  Most of the discussion was centered around RFK, and the campaign worker cried while speaking about him.
    Of course RFK was hated in the Protestant South.  

    •  Agree about RFK, but not about Wallace (none)
      You're right that RFK had support among white working class Catholics and may have been able to bridge the gap that was widening within the Roosevelt coalition.  But Wallace was not just a protest vote against the system.  People forget that Wallace went North very early - shortly after his famous segregation speech in 1962. He was campaigning in Wisconsin and Michigan in 1963 and 1964 to white ethnics who felt displaced by the mass of Southern blacks moving into "their" neighborhoods.  The politicians most associated with white working class conservatism, and the Republican Party, are Poindexter and Cobo of Detroit and McCarthy of Wisconsin.  The roots of this go back to FDR's Fair Employment Practice Commission in 1943 that outlawed wartime contracting to firms that discriminate. Immediately Philadelphia transit workers walked out in the Hate Strike of 1944. The Republicans paid attention and started canvassing Poles, Irish and Italians who resented the Democratic Party's view that blacks deserve good jobs and housing too. Republicans began to succeed in many Northern states playing the race card shortly after WWII. When northern Republicans openly supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 many white ethnics needed someone who spoke to their racial fears and Wallace was the man.  He was virulent, angry and proud to stand up for white supremacy. But he didn't just push the racial hot buttons. He stood up against the sexual revolution as well.  In a word, Wallace was the last wall of white male supremacy and many northern white workers were attracted to him.  As late as 1972 Wallace had great traction in the North. He won the Wisconsin Democratic primary and Michigan shortly after he was shot in May.  But wheelchair-bound Wallace just wasn't the fighter of old and the Republican Party now openly embraced the right wing culture war rhetoric that Wallace popularized in the 1960s.

      So white ethnic workers began voting Republican at the local level as early as the 1940s but remained in the Democratic camp for national elections until 1968.  George Wallace was the bridge, who provided the rhetoric for the Republican Party and the Democratic label of old for loyalty.  Though Wallace remained a Democrat, his followers in the North found it easy to jump to the Republicans for good in 1968.

      •  What I meant by protest (none)
        is that I doubt George Wallace was the first choice of many of those white ethnic groups.    The "white ethnics" primary purpose,in my opinion, of voting for Wallace was to send a message to the Democratic Party to not go so fast on the social issues.  Many of those who seriously considered Wallace in 1968 eventually switched back to Humphrey.  (Humphrey ended up carrying about 60% of the Catholic vote at the end, better than any Democrat since.) Same thing in the 1964 primaries for Wallace, if they were very serious about racism, they would have voted for Goldwater in 1964, which didn't happen.  

        With regard to ethnics voting for Rethugs at the local level, you are absolutely right, but notice, they were fellow ethnic politicians.  In Chicago, Polish voted for Ben Adamowski in heavy numbers over Daley in 1963, part of this was animosity toward blacks, but much of it was also the hope of having a Polish mayor.  Joseph McCarthy's strident anticommunism was applauded on its face by Catholics, but it certainly didn't hurt that it was an Irish Catholic making the argument.  Also McCarthy was not particularly playing on racial fears, one of the very few redeeming things about McCarthy was that he had the guts to campaign in black neighborhoods in a serious manner.

        There was another facet to the racism in the north, economic fears.  Many of the ethnics were at the lowest rungs on the economic ladder and were fearful that African Americans would take their jobs.  This view was propogated by opportunistic politicians, but it was always there.  Before the African Americans, it was Italians and Eastern Europeans, the Irish in the early 1900s were scared that these new immigrants were going to take their jobs.  Before that, there was discrimination against the Irish.  There was also the issue of ethnic pride, many wanted their neighborhood to be fully ethnic, just as it was back in their home country.  I'm not excusing any of these things at all, I'm just saying that the racism of Northern ethnics had a far different "reasoning" than the Southern racists.

        And then look at 1964, the Southern racists voted strongly for Barry Goldwater, while the northern racists voted for LBJ, just he signed a major civil rights bill.  Whatever the importance was on keeping African Americans down, it was far less important than keeping wages high.  They still hung to the idea of the New Deal and unions, and that was far more important.  Another example in 1964, in Detroit and its suburbs, where racism among ethnics was at its greatest, Dearborn congressman John Lesinski was the only Northern congressman to vote against the Civil Rights Act, hoping to capitalize on white backlash.  Due to redistricting, he was placed in the same district as John Dingell, a civil rights supporter and thus had the endorsement of the UAW.  Dingell beat Lesinski handily, showing once again that the racism was trumped by economic issues(until after 1968).

        In 1972, you are right, Wallace won Michigan and came in second in Wisconsin(to McGovern).  But by this time social issues had really moved to the forefront in a way that it hadn't by 1964, or even 1968. I would say that 1972 and 1980 were the years in the flip to the Rethugs, because McGovern was viewed as a leftie not in touch, and that Nixon had actually proved himself to be an economic moderate.  And 1980, because the Dems for the first time had failed on economic issues as well as cultural ones in the eyes of the Northern blue collar workers.  

        He was virulent, angry and proud to stand up for white supremacy. But he didn't just push the racial hot buttons. He stood up against the sexual revolution as well.  In a word, Wallace was the last wall of white male supremacy and many northern white workers were attracted to him"

        This was very true, and is what shifted northern white workers to the Rethugs in 1972 and afterwards.  But feminism and the sexual revolution weren't that big in 1968.  Bigger were the anti-war protesters and the hippies, which were seen as "unAmerican" and elitist.  The 1968 Dem convention certainly didn't help in this regard.  It didn't mean that northern white workers were pro-war on Vietnam, though.  Enough of their kids had died, and they were growing restive with the war.  Mayor Daley, for example, hated the Vietnam war on a personal level after a good friend's son had died there, and begged LBJ to find a way out.  RFK understood this phenomenon, both the anti-war movement and the pro-war hawks did not.


        •  some good points (none)
          I agree with a lot of what you have said about why Northern ethnic voters chose Wallace as the last wall of white male supremacy (although that wall still seems to be standing with GeeDub as its latest standardbearer).

          But I'm not sure what you mean by "Wallace won Michigan" because Nixon won all the states except Massachusetts in 1972.  I was at an election party and it was a very very sad experience I will never forget.

          My mom had one of those Don't Blame Me I'm from Massachusetts bumper stickers (even though we lived in DC).

          Your other good point about Humphrey being the last Dem to decisively win the Catholic vote is directly related to Roe v Wade IMO.

          We'll have to talk about the voting patterns of Northern racists another time.  Somehow the Dems seem to still be winning a handful of northern states in spite of the North's very complicated racial fears.

          Politics is like driving. To go backward, put it in R. To go forward, put it in D.

          by TrueBlueMajority on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 01:23:05 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Couple quick comments (none)
            "But I'm not sure what you mean by "Wallace won Michigan" because Nixon won all the states except Massachusetts in 1972."

            I meant the Dem primary.

            "We'll have to talk about the voting patterns of Northern racists another time.  Somehow the Dems seem to still be winning a handful of northern states in spite of the North's very complicated racial fears."

            For the most part the North has overcome its racial problems.  It still exists in some areas, but again just like the "white ethnics" racial fears, it is of a totally different type of racial prejudice and far less ingrained and far more correctible.  I predict that in another generation or two, we will not have to talk about the issue of racism in the north. (Much like prejudice against Irish and Italian Catholics are no longer an issue.)  I can't say the same in the South.

  •  asd (none)
    Good diary. You might want to point out that not only was the Voting Rights Act a watershed, it was a watershed that the (now minority+labor+liberal) Democratic party has never recovered. After Johnson, what Democrat has been elected president? Carter, in reaction to Nixon. Clinton, when 20% of the vote went to a third party. Both of these are out-of-the-mainstream cases, and in all the other elections, the Republicans won. Nixon, (Ford), Reagan, Bush, Junior.

    It's depressing, but the Democratic party of the 1930s is gone, and there's no replacement in sight...

  •  GOP Tries To Get More Of Their Sliver... (none)
    of the African American vote. In fact that seems to be one of the stories of this election. I believe the 90-10 advantage that Gore had went down to 85-15. Combine this with the updated Jim Crow methods of voter suppression and you can see an element in how we went from a 48-48 tie in 2000 to a 51-48 advantage for Bush this year.
  •  Win the "God and Country" Voter (none)
    The south was solidly Democratic until recently, particularly in Georgia.  The continuing migration of voters from the Democratic to Republican Party has practically nothing to do with race.  It is a non-issue for the vast vast majority of voters.  It is true that race issues seeded the crystal reflected by current voting patterns.  I have lived all over the south, both rural and urban, and I honestly do not know of anyone white southerner currently votes Republican because of race issues.  Yes, the symbols of the Confederacy have been used by Republicans to push that migration, but when one invokes the Confederacy, the idealized image of Robert E. Lee comes to the mind or perhaps Sherman burning cities and raping women on his march from Atlanta to Savannah.  Their response may also be informed by a great-grandparent whose mother died of starvation during reconstruction.  People in other parts of the country do not realize how many Civil War cemetaries, battlefields, and monuments dot the landscape.  Do not forget that this history of war, reconsctruction, slavery, and segregation eventually gave birth to Martin Luther King and Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.    I wonder if Faulkner would have ever picked up a pen without such a past?  The reality (right or wrong)is that the scourge of slavery and segregation is not what white Southerners think about when they go fill out a ballot.  Democrats will never win an election by trying to shame a Southerner into voting for them.  Southern history is painful, beautiful, ugly, and tranformative.  Progress can not be measured without context.  

    Democrats will win the South only if they can deny  Republicans ownership of the "God and Country" voter.  The Democrats have been painted by the Replican Party, local newspaper editorial boards, and national news as THE party that is going to raise your taxes, put God in a closest, and degrade National defense.  As silly as it sounds, the Monica Lewinsky scandel has far far more to do  with why Rupublicans are winning in the South than race issues.  The Dems must neutralize these perceptions.

  •  Color me young and reconsider racism (none)
    I included all slave states except MD no territories. Non-seceeding slave states were also included.

    2004 election results if just the youth voted.(Gradient based on margin of victory from possible tie to 50 pts.)

    2004 election youth shift.(Gradient based on margin of difference between youth vote and the rest of the state 0 to 50 pts possible.)

    We may not see the south go to us by 2014 but the youth are shifting Dem across the south. In many southern states the youth already went for Kerry. Racism may have dominated previous southern voting patterns but it would appear thats fading among the youth.

    "The great masses of the people ... will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one." - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Chapter 10.

    by Ranger CN on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 06:51:19 AM PST

  •  Well done (none)
    But frankly this was mentioned throughout the diary.  I thought everyone knew this history.

    I'm thinkin', I'm thinkin'

    by Armando on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 07:27:15 AM PST

  •  responding to the comments (none)
    to Armando--I assume most people on this blog are well-informed and well-aware of this history, but I see so few references to the basic points that I thought I would just lay it all out from my perspective.

    Rithmck--I admire your brevity.  "Once the Democrats became the party of the blacks Southern whites started voting Republican en masse."  True.  But we do have hope in the generational trends as posted by Ranger CN.  Northern transplants, enlightened youth and just the general march of history are diluting some of the effects of hard core racism.  May it continue thus.

    Elrod--you are right about Wallace's appeal in the North but we were talking about the South so I didn't want to go into that.  Of course there are people who vote their racial fears in every state.  I honestly don't want to come down too hard on Wallace because he did show signs of repentance in later life after he was paralyzed.

    to Aethern, whose other diary inspired me--I think you are right too that we need to concentrate less on regurgitating history than on brainstorming ways to win the South back.  Higher black turnout is important, as well as putting some history in front of black voters who may otherwise be inclined to buy into this "party of Lincoln" crap from Condi.  There are signs of hope in the border states, and we need to send encouragement to people I call "bluepockets" -- tiny isolated areas of blue voters even in the Deepest South and the reddest red states.

    Again, no disrespect meant to those who have heard/read/lived it all before. But there may be some for whom those 20th century history classes are a vague and fading memory, as well as international readers trying to understand U.S. politics, or other people who are misinformed through no fault of their own but want to learn.

    Many thanks to all of you for tolerating my long-winded rants in the night.

    Politics is like driving. To go backward, put it in R. To go forward, put it in D.

    by TrueBlueMajority on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 08:19:12 AM PST

    •  Youth Vote (none)
      The nationwide and South youth vote stats were great!  

      I'm not banking yet on anything long-term out of that, though.

      Young voters can always shift as they get older.  And it's not unlikely that draft fears were driving them to Kerry this cycle.  If the draft fears abate, who knows which way they'd break next time around?

      But it is good news and frankly, a horrible embarassment and disappointment for me that my generation and the older ones ALL went Bush.  And my fellow whites voted 57% Bush.  Just sick.  
      We may have to wait a generation or two to have a chance for real progressive change to get a foothold in the USA. . .

      Ah well.  To work!

  •  A missing key to white Southerners (none)
    hell, to working-class people in general.

    I really think a truly populist campaign would ignite working class and poor voters. It's a national strategy, but I think it would work wonders in the South.

    I'm not going to start a "pining for Dean" subthread, but I think that was what helped him rise to prominence early in the primaries. It's certainly what fueled his fundraising records.

    In 2008 (assuming no litigation or recount changes Ohio), the Democratic challenger will be well-positioned for this strategy. Hell, a concerted populist Dem effort across the country could we bootstrap the House and the Senate with it. "Throw the bums out" is simply the negative expression of populism.

    My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right. Sen Carl Schurz

    by Bill Rehm on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 01:18:50 PM PST

    •  It will only (none)
      after a major economic crisis has gripped this country.  Which is going to begin in the next couple years...

      Things are about to get real nasty.

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