Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Are Southern Democrats on the endangered species list?

All’s quiet on the Southern front when it comes to the Democratic Party. A recent article from the New York Times reported on a recent loss of Democrat Mary Landrieu. Mary Landrieu, a Democratic senator from Louisiana, lost her re-election in a runoff election earlier this month. Senator Landrieu was a three-term senator. This is the first time that Louisiana will not have a Democratic statewide elected since 1876.

Beyond Louisiana, this loss was significant for Southern Democrats as it was the final foothold of the Democratic Party in the once loyal South. Republicans now control every Senate sear from the high plains of Texas, to the Atlantic coast of the Carolinas. Control doesn’t end there; Republicans also control every governor’s mansion and state legislative body.  According to the article, of the states that formed the Confederacy, Democrats will only control Senate seats or governors’ mansions only in Virginia and Florida.

Southern Democrats have become nearly extinct after half-a-century of political realignment based on racial and cultural lines. “Some of it is about Obama; most of it is about the longer-term realignment of white voter preferences,” said Guy Molyneux, a Democratic strategist.  

With regard to political realignment based on racial and culture lines, it would seem that the Democratic hold on the South seemed to weaken when the Democratic National Convention backed President Harry Truman’s position on civil rights. After the enactment of the Civil Rights Act, Southern Democrats began slowly leaning more and more toward Southern Republican candidates.
Mr. Molyneux is correct; it would seem that Southern Republicans are brought to the polls by anti-partisanship more than anything else. Today’s Democratic Party is as unpopular in the South partially because the party has embraced a more secular agenda and that platform is not popular in the region. This position is supported in Time’s recent article. Pearson Cross, an associate professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said to Time:  “Early on I said that Cassidy couldn’t win unless he started to run a campaign that was more than people’s negative attitudes about Mary Landrieu . . . . But in fact, I was wrong. He has essentially won this campaign without bringing much to the table beyond people’s visceral dislike for Obama and Obamacare.”

This hatred and blind partisanship in the South is weighing down Democrats as a whole. This loss puts the party at a distinct disadvantage in Congress, especially within the House.

Curtis Wilkie, journalist and observer of Southern life, who lectures at the University of Mississippi, summed the Southern Democrats’ plight up well in his recent CNN commentary: "I can't remember it being any gloomier for Democrats in the South than it is today. The party has been demonized by Republicans. It's very bleak. I just don't see anything good for them on the horizon."

After signing the Civil Rights Act, President Johnson is rumored to have said that Democrats ‘have lost the South for a generation.’ It would seem that President Johnson’s premonitions have proved correct.

For additional sources, please see the linked New York Times article

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