Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Is the South becoming marginalized?

One way of looking at it...

Once the moniker the "Solid South" meant a block of eleven American states in the South, that had seceded to join the Confederacy, and reliably voted for the Democrats in Presidential and other elections. The theory being that this Democratic party loyalty was rooted in the Republicans support for the policies of Reconstruction after the American Civil War. Then along came the Civil Rights movement, and the volatile 1960's, and the "Solid South" morphed. It became rock solid Republican Presidential territory. Now following the election of Barack Obama, there is debate about whether the ground has shifted again. Is the South losing its importance in American Presidential politics?

We will offer you a brief recap of the data and then some links for further reading. Between the Presidential election of 1912 and up to and including the Presidential election of 1956 the eleven states of the former Confederacy gave their electoral votes consistently to the Democratic candidate, over 88% of the time. They picked the winning candidate seven out of twelve times and no Democrat won without winning the South.

Then the switch, between the Presidential election of 1960 and up to and including the Presidential election of 1988 the eleven states of the former Confederacy gave their electoral votes to the Republican candidate over 70% of the time. And, they supported the winning candidate in seven out of eight elections. The only election in which the South did not support the winning candidate in this period, it supported third party segregationist candidate George Wallace of Alabama.

Now the question of recent marginalization, at first it appeared unlikely and illogical, as the period in question, between the Presidential election of 1992 and up to and including the most recent Presidential election, began with a Southern President and Vice-President in Bill Clinton and Al Gore. It also featured Southern leadership in Congress including Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott. However, even though the South appeared to remain relatively solid, giving 80% of its states' electoral votes to the Republican parties, it was no longer voting for the winners, choosing wrongly in three out of five elections.

The Clarion Content would argue that rather than seeing another realignment of Southern politics what the numbers reflect is that the South is no longer anywhere near as homogeneous as it once was. The South has long been one of the fast growing areas of America, with much of that population coming from inter-United States migration from outside the region. In turn, the parts of the South that are amongst the fastest growing and the wealthiest voted for President Obama; Virginia, North Carolina and Florida. The parts of the South that are least prosperous, that saw less migration, and that might be more easily grouped in a belt with Appalachia, are the states that voted against President Obama; save for Texas.

Read more here and here.

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