Mississippi’s first Governor was a Democrat. Apart from the period of occupation after the Civil War, every subsequent Governor of Mississippi was a Democrat across a stretch of nearly 200 years.
With a handful of caveats and outliers, that pattern holds across every Southern state, extending up and down the government structure to every elected office. Never in our history have the Southern states tolerated a sustained, competitive multi-party system. Popular will has always been contained through single-party rule.
Last year’s election marked the end of a four-decade period which some imagined would break that deadlock. It was not an interruption of the traditional pattern, but merely an extended flag ceremony, a passing of the baton.
With the last white Southern Democrats removed from Congress, the South has now completed a remarkable transformation, converting a one-party white racist alliance under the Democratic banner to a one-party white racist alliance under the Republicans. This unprecedented mass movement has brought radical changes to the two parties at the national level while allowing the South to continue its political traditions almost uninterrupted. Politics in the South today more closely resembles southern politics in the mid-20th century than it has at any point since.
There’s far more here than can fit into a single blog post. It may take a while to get through it all. As near as I can tell, here are the questions that need to be addressed in order to understand the state of politics in the South:
– Is Southern politics really less competitive than elsewhere in the country?
– How did the flight of the Dixiecrats change the two major parties?
– What makes Southern culture so hostile to political competition?
– How did religion become a proxy for white supremacy?
– Why does a repressive culture love “libertarian” rhetoric?
– How is capitalism finally sucking the South into the United States?
These may not go in a straight line, but I’ll try to work my way through them over the next few weeks.
For a quick comparison, here are graphical representations of political party strength over time for a variety of states: