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?
– Why the “Southern Strategy” is a myth.
– 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:
[…] states have never supported multi-party politics. From their founding, their white majorities have channeled virtually all “legitimate” […]
[…] power from a single political phenomenon – the conversion of the former slave and Jim Crow states from single-party Democratic rule to single party Republican rule. A new generation of Neo-Confederates has found vast new room to operate inside a far weaker […]
[…] states have never supported multi-party politics. From their founding, their white majorities have channeled virtually all “legitimate” […]
I can think of many negative stereotypes of the South that could also be found in the Midwest, Mountain West, and even in pockets of New England. But there’s no question that Southerners have this unique ability to get really angry when people characterize them in some negative way, while at the same time seeming to go out of their way to fulfill every negative stereotype there is. I can’t shake the image of Bobby Jindal complaining about the GOP being the “stupid party” and…you know what happens next.
I don’t know if it’s a distinct lack of self-awareness, or just a very cynical who-gives-a-damn, anything-goes attitude, or what.
Congressional reprieve (-: Stay home and be safe, all!
Departing for a bit from the issue of slavery, where do women fit into the southern legacy? We all know the history of suffrage, but where are we today in the broader issue of womens’ rights within the Republican Party? The far right religious movement has moved from the sanctuary to the bedroom to Congress and the courts. Are we experiencing a reversion to earlier, feudal treatment of women? This excessive need for control of other people has dominated the political process and our social fabric for way too long. It has to change.
The male-dominated GOP leadership continues sending out mixed messages to brown people and females on issues such as equal pay for equal work, choice, immigration, voting, job promotion, etc. There is a mismatch between their rhetoric and legislation. Once these groups vote in the numbers they represent – without interference, government will look different. Let’s hope they are kinder in their governance than those who have made life so difficult for them for so long.
When you have Akins talking about “legitimate rape” and closeted old queen Lindsay Graham discussing ““the definitional problem of rape” I think it’s clear where the wingnuts stand on women’s issues.
Yes, the wingnuts are out there with their views. It’s the mainstream (is that still even accurate?) Repub Party that I am focusing on. We have to recognize that there are female within the wingnut section that are part of this insanity….that amazes me but little surprises me these days.
I stumbled across this. Seems as if there are some GOP women that may be coming to their senses.
I think most of the mainstream GOP are decent, normal people. Most of my friends are this way. More concerned with fiscal matters than social issues which are unimportant to them.
I’m not sure I could consider anyone who wants to vote a Republican into office on the national level to be a “decent” person.
Owl, I can appreciate your cynicism with supporters of Repub candidates on the national level, but I don’t agree they aren’t decent for doing so. I guess my expectation of most Republican supporters is so low that little surprises me. I hear people say the GOP has become too extreme but, still, they vote Republican. In trying to see through their lens, I guess they feel Dems are a worse choice. I see things differently, obviously. And, I vote, just as they do.
For me, it’s more about social issues than it is fiscal, altho I still ask all my GOP buddies (I have a few left…) when they start with how Dems are spending America into the grave, I ask: “How is your 401K doing these days?” What do you think about the unemployment rate? Our deficit? Do you believe we all should pay our fair share of taxes without the benefit of loopholes, offshore accounts, or other preferential treatment? Is the economy getting better? And, if we criticize a President when these economic indicators are bad, shouldn’t be give him credit when they are good? As you note, Owl, that’s the system we have to work within.
2016 is going to be a pivotal election and I do not know what will happen. I’d like to think Repubs will piss off so many people between now and then that that would change things. I’d like to think that all those people who register Democrat and don’t vote, will this time. I’d like those people who have never worked in a campaign to help someone win a seat, do so in ’16. And, I’d like all those Republican states that persist in making voting more difficult (if not impossible), would grow up and stand up for the right of each and every American to vote and make it easier rather than harder, Owl. Let the process work. Let it be honest. Allow people the right to have a voice in their government. That’s what is important to me. THAT, would be decent.
Maybe there’s hope yet. Republican women are speaking up and not just automatically voting lockstep with the old Republican misogynist males on abortion restrictions.
The Republican women are not happy with the lack of exceptions for rape or incest.
Bubba, thanks for the link. I applaud the Republican women who spoke up with concerns about the GOP abortion bill. Their reward came swiftly. Did you see the immediate challenges to Rep. Renee Ellmers by the Susan B. Anthony (pro-life) group and Red State to primary her for her stand? Ellmers is about as far right as one can get but when she dared to express concern, she was blasted. Quite a disincentive to independent thinking among the GOP rank and file, wouldn’t you agree?
Unbelievable eh 1mime? Political Darwinism comes to mind. They will eventually be become a dead end party of one figuratively. Literally a party of no more than a few thousand (nationally). Yeah, that’s the ticket towards relevance and national viability!
**Departing for a bit from the issue of slavery, where do women fit into the southern legacy?**
Well, that subject is pretty radioactive. It goes without saying that a culture built on race has to pay very close attention to its females. A woman’s sexuality is a very special threat to white racial “purity,” it must be contained, repressed and controlled at all times or the whole edifice could come down.
I never woulda’ guessed it, Lifer! I wonder when the hard right is going to bring back the chastity belts?
Want a good laugh, she has to be on drugs
I watched a little of her speech via C-Span. I didn’t have enough Ranch Dressing to make it through her entire word salad.
Every time I see or hear that creature one word comes to my mind. Loathsome.
As far as being on drugs, there have been rumors that she’s been popping pills or maybe doing something harder. Laughing at the teleprompter thing though. Isn’t what so many wingnuts give Obama a hard time about? I’ve often pointed out that everyone on tv uses a teleprompter.
That was not word salad, that was word vomit. I know when someone is jacked up, she is changing all four tires on her clown car at the same time.
“…..maybe doing something harder.”
When I first became aware of Sarah, her voice immediately reminded me of the Lina Lamont character in the classic film “Singin’ in the Rain.” For those who haven’t seen the film, it’s about Hollywood’s transition from silent films to talkies. Many actors had awful voices and their careers came to a quick end if they couldn’t correct their speech problems.
Love that movie, to this day when someone is our family says “people” I reply, “people I aint people”
Yes, that line is followed by “I’m worth more than Calvin Coolidge–put together!”
I don’t know much about drugs, but I do recognize ignorance when I see it.
Yeah, Palin gives women a bad name. Can you imagine being her husband?
The South has a regional mythos much stronger than in other parts of the country. “Southern pride”, “the South shall rise again!” and other stuff is evidence of it. Think of prominent flags flown in this country other than the American flag: you come up with the rebel flag and Texas. Got any idea what Massachusett’s state flag looks like? Me neither, and I lived there for five years. You ever hear someone talking about “Illinois pride” when they’re not at an Illini sporting event? The question is why this is, because for most of its history, the South has been a pretty miserable place to live except for the tiny elite few. It’s largely a romanticized delusion in which people convinced themselves (helped, undoubtedly, by that elite) that sweating on smallholdings growing tobacco or cotton was better than anything that awaited them up north.
This leads to cultural isolation and a sense of us-against-them. The “them” was northerners and blacks and if they’re voting one way, we’re going to vote the other. Period. No matter whether this is contrary to one’s apparent interests, the primary goal is to maintain this cultural isolation. Today’s rings of white conservative suburbs maintain this cultural isolation, despite the vibrant cities they often surround. Today, the “them” is liberals and we’re-not-going-to-say-it-but-you-know-we-mean-brown-people. Keeping political control away from “them” is the paramount concern.
Many of those who “protect themselves” by moving out to the burbs under the guise of better schools and safety are now are aligning with hard right Tea Party movements and a cloaking themselves in religious righteousness. What’s more, the sense of entitlement is profound as is complete disinterest in consideration of other viewpoints. Hence, the family holiday dynamic whereby politics is verboten lest the drumsticks start flying.
The social environment is becoming more difficult if you are a moderate or liberal (or, God help you, “brown”.) Those who support inclusion and equality are finding themselves unable to speak up without risk of losing friends (?) or family. I have decided that “less is more” and choose to live without many of my former friends and family members, And, I don’t think I’m alone in adopting this survival method.
Cultural isolation is spreading and it is getting mean. And, it’s bad for our country. My hope is that the millennial and younger baby boomers who are more supportive of inclusion and rational thinking will slowly move the pendulum to the center. “Brown” people must be having a tough time figuring out how they fit into this social quagmire and so far haven’t been as potent a political force as their numbers could support. That will come.
There is a restlessness afoot in our nation and I am not certain where it will take us. It worries me that we are so divided and that so few (relatively speaking) are determining our direction as a country. The feudalism of old is becoming the entitlement of the new.
The cultural isolation has been further exacerbated by the rise of cable news networks and various Internet sites. The wide variety has provided the ability to restrict viewing to sources that reinforce one’s cultural and political views.
Absolutely, 1mime – many (not all, of course) suburbs offer outstanding opportunities for cultural isolation. We talk to people like us, listen to news programs that validate us, and tell ourselves we moved here “for the schools.”
Regardless how I got where I am, I am a definite outlier. I make no apologies for it but I do try to be considerate of other peoples’ views….too bad we tend to see the same thing so differently. If you wish to live in the South, where can a moderate liberal go and hope for inclusion? Maybe the key is much further south than I’ve been looking (-:
Many urban areas in the South are more liberal than the rural areas which have held onto power despite the political reforms of the 1920s. In fact, I seem to recall that Harris County (where most of Houston is located) went for Obama, unlike Texas at large.
I would say that the urban-vs-rural political tension generally exists nationwide.
Harris County, Texas, went for Obama by a fraction of a percent – fewer than 1,000 votes out of 1.2 million – which, given the county’s demographics (60% Hispanic or African-American), was surprisingly close.
It is worth noting that in the GOP primary in 2012, the election that essentially made Ted Cruz a senator, he received 479,000 votes in the primary (and 631,000 in the runoff) from the entire state. Obama tallied 587,000 votes in Harris County alone. Annise Parker, who is openly gay, has won six consecutive elections, three as mayor, in Houston.
There is a lot more blue in Texas than it appears but, my goodness the red parts are shockingly red, like a whore’s lipstick.
Viking – really important note about the rural/urban divide in politics. It exists everywhere, but it doesn’t MATTER everywhere.
Parts of the country that have been participating in a modern economy for a longer period of time are not as affected politically by that urban/rural divide. Their countryside emptied long ago. It continues to be occupied by very few farmers, some universities, some small manufacturing centers, and some wealthy retirees. That’s about it.
Meanwhile, of the states with a major urban area (excludes places like Montana and Alaska) Texas and North Carolina have the country’s highest concentration of rural residents. That has a couple of implications.
First, in the near term it means a growing political divide. Over the longer term, 10-20 years, it means that places like Houston, Austin, and Charlotte have enormous growth potential as the countryside around them empties out. The political divide will be deeper and last longer there, but those big cities are likely to look like Los Angeles in another generation.
My brother builds houses in Charlotte and will be happy to hear your analysis of his future prospects.
“– How did the flight of the Dixiecrats change the two major parties?”
Even though I’m a liberal I think even I can observe that the worst event to ever happen to the center-right and “progressive conservatives” in the United States was the National Review pushing the idea that northern Business conservatives (Taft Republicans, moderates, and maybe Rockefeller Republicans) should align themselves with Southern social conservatives (the Dixiecrats) under the banner of the Republican Party. Yes it netted them elections in the short run but the Dixiecrats did to the GOP what they try to do in every party they’ve ever been in, dominate it. The result is nearly all conservatives being associated with wackiness and relgious fundamentalism, while the center-right that once dominated the Republicans being lost and either fleeing to the Democrats or becoming Independents who mostly vote for Democrats regardless. The answer to your question, the Republicans (who once represented Northern, urban interests and a generally stronger central government as you surely already know) now carry the banner of Southern social conservatism and the Democrats were briefly dominated by the center-left liberals after the flight of the white supremacists.
That is before Bill Clinton shifted them to the political center (or, according to some, center-rightish territory) to take votes lost by the GOP’s shift to the populist right, basically making them a clusterfuck of both the historical liberal/center wing of the Republican party and the historical liberal/center wing of the Democrats, hence why they’re so ineffectual as they can’t even agree with each other. On the other hand the Republicans may be more ideologically pure but they’re also insane and their ideas seem closer to that of the quasi-feudalist system the South picked up from the original Anglicans that colonized the area than that of modern liberal capitalism, basically making them a reactionary party.
Also while this may be off-topic, you’re a celebrity now Chris : http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Chris_Ladd
Bravo, Griffin! I love your analogy of the Clinton shift of Dems and Repubs but question whether today’s GOP is picking up the bad habits of Dems who are unable to agree with each other (-: Normally, healthy disagreement makes for better outcomes (assuming reasonable people…a big “if”); however, today it seems that there is far more disagreement within the Republican Party than there is within the Democratic Party. I agree completely with your assessment that the GOP is closer to the Southern Feudalistic System.
Patience and persistence, Dems. Repubs may self-destruct as they seem totally unable to grasp Lifer’s Four Inescapable Realities. Meanwhile, Jindal continues to amaze….
Wow. That’s the first time in my life anyone has written an article, if you want to call it that, about me. Feels weird.
By the way, I’m not a Rockefeller Republican. I’m a Jack Kemp guy. Not very many of us out there, but Paul Ryan likes to pretend he’s one. He might be one when he grows up.
I liked Jack Kemp and miss his presence in Congress to this day. I’m not sure about Paul Ryan. When he stops “noodlin” those catfish, I’ll look at him more seriously .
Enjoy your moment of fame, Lifer. As you must have noted in your chosen profession, it is all too fleeting an experience.
Pretend being the operative word.
I like Jack Kemp’s social consciousness which is surprising for a Reagan era Republican but probably stemmed from working, relying on, and virtually living closely together half the year in a “multicultural” (or at least bi-cultural) environment from his NFL playing days.
I’m a little leery of his economic outlook that depends a little too heavily on market self reliance. But I’m liberal that way.
This is just my opinion based on my experiences with politics over the last 40 or so years.
Growing up I spent an equal amount of time between Northern and Southern states, I am a woman, was a single mother, a widow of a Vietnam War Veteran and the mother and grandmother of veterans of the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan and worked most of my adult life in non-traditional jobs. I have had the honor of being the daughter of a union organizer for the steel industry and have worked jobs that were both union and non-union. These are the lens in which my opinions have been formed.
True democracy cannot be achieved in an atmosphere where only one voice is heard. Single party states, Republican or Democrat, do not work to the benefit of the people that reside in those states, they only work to advance the agenda of the party in power.
From where I sit the only states that truly represent the needs of the people are those where the parties are nearly equal in power. Where compromise is a requirement to accomplish the will of the people.
The link above shows the states that are currently considered “purple” as they pertain to Federal elections.
Here is a list of states with “super majorities” with single party control
States with Democratic Supermajorities in both houses, and a Democratic Governor:
States with Democratic Supermajorities in both houses, and an Independent Governor:
States with Democratic Supermajorities in one house, and a Democratic Governor:
New York (House)
West Virginia (Senate)
States with Republican Supermajorities in both houses and a Republican Governor:
North Carolina (3/5s)
Ohio (3/5s for most measures; pending two vote counts in the House)
States with Republican Supermajorities in one house and a Republican Governor:
Georgia [NOTE: The Georgia House has 119 Republicans, 60 Democrats and one Independent who has not yet decided whether to caucus with the Republicans. As of yesterday that representative has not decided.]
States with Republican Supermajorities in both houses and a Democratic Governor:
Attribution for this list goes to Please contact Jeff Hartgen at 703.684.1110 if you have any questions regarding the content of this post.
This information was posted just after the 2012 elections and may not be 100% accurate today.
Sassy, I concur, but if Dems continue to allow the GOP to take over state legislatures, gerrymandering will outstrip natural demographic changes. The Republican Party (to its credit and Dem disadvantage) developed a game plan that begins control at the local level and works its way up to Congress. It is a very patient plan, and it has worked for them, for America, not so much. One man one vote is futile in heavily gerrymandered districts. Compromise has become a dirty word – perceived as “weakness” instead of pragmatism. Until this returns to the political process, we will likely see more United Citizen shenanigans and even more activist courts.
I am with you all the way on equality of representation, but getting there is going to be hard work and Dems better put their game hats on.
“From where I sit the only states that truly represent the needs of the people are those where the parties are nearly equal in power.”
If fragmentation of power Increases political responsibility to constituents, then wouldn’t we be better off with a true multi-party system rather than our current, stagnant duopoly?
“If fragmentation of power Increases political responsibility to constituents, then wouldn’t we be better off with a true multi-party system rather than our current, stagnant duopoly?”
It should. But where in our history have we truly supported a multi-party system? There is nothing in our constitution that prohibits it. Parties have come and gone because they were created to pander, basically, to single issue voters. Multi-party systems appear to be chaotic and unstable forms of governing when the ruling party can easily overturn popular policie changes of the previous ruling party.
There are pros and cons to both systems. In my opinion the biggest cons for the two party system is the limiting of ideas for solutions to current issues like healthcare, spending and foreign affairs. For the multi-party system, the real possibility of ending up with a coalition government that could allow for a minority to rule over a majority.
Our electoral systems and congressional institutions may not prohibit a multi-party system, but they certainly perpetuate a two-party one, particularly through the indirect lever of the “spoiler effect”. That’s part of the primitive nature of our “version 1.0” Constitution, created by dewy-eyed ingenues in the world of partisan politics, before much of the groundwork had been laid for modern parliamentary systems.
“Multi-party systems appear to be chaotic and unstable forms of governing when the ruling party can easily overturn popular policie changes of the previous ruling party.”
Mexico City Policy? Embryonic stem cell funding? Drilling-permit activity? Our two-party system has PLENTY of instances of policy reversals, so I’m not sure how your complaint is at all realistic or relevant. Instead, it sounds like the kind of nay-saying propaganda our stagnant duopoly encourages in order to prevent others from realizing there are better options.
If my post came off as propaganda or nay saying I assure you that was not my intent. Please offer some examples where you think a multi-party system has benefited people as a whole. I do have an open mind and I am willing to listen.
I’ll name just about any country in Western Europe as an example. Certainly, one can also point out missteps and weaknesses; but we have more than our share of those domestically, too.
Heck, we set up a parliamentary democracy in Iraq, rather than a government directly modeled on our own. That’s pretty clear evidence we know ours is creaky, antiquated, and not to be foisted off on new nations.
On rare occasions you can have a very good democracy that is dominated by a single party if that party is effective and well-liked, a good example of which is the Social Democrats dominating Swedish politics for so long. However the problem is that the GOP isn’t effective OR well-liked, they’re just gerrymandering and it’s unbelievable how no one in either party seems willing to do something about it. You’d hope the Dems would try to do something or at at least make it an issue because stopping this would benefit them but they aren’t because the Democratic states that have defensively gerrymandered also contain some of the most influential Democrats who don’t want to bring it up because while it would help the Dems as a whole it may make that politicians individual seat harder to hold on to.
Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
Politicians should have NO guarantee of keeping their seats after redistricting. That would help prevent gerrymandering, and offer something close to term limits for some situations.
It is for voters to choose their representatives; not the other way around.
The realty industry suggests that Americans typically spend a dozen years or so in a house before moving.
So why the heck shouldn’t our politicians need to confront at least the possibility of moving after each decade’s census?
Well, just google this:
“Ruth: Its news to some, but Florida really is in the South”
to see the article.
Here’s that link altered–just delete the spaces:
Here is the link I think you were looking for
I assume that one of the “outliers” you mentioned is Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, which is quite a southern state. Dan Ruth (a Chicago native), a Tampa newspaper institution, had an excellent discussion of this point here:
Florida isn’t really “Southern” anymore. It’s just weird. And it’s getting less Southern every day. Likewise, it is gradually moving out of the GOP orbit. By 2020 it will probably be behind the Blue Wall.
Virginia is in a similar situation, though the dynamics are different. Virginia is being pulled into a full-blown 1st World economy thanks to Washington establishing its place in the Northeastern megalopolis.
Florida, like Virginia, is filling up with new migrants who have no attachment to the South, but instead of being affluent well-educated northeasterners drawn there for high-income, high prestige careers, they are a mix of retirees and folks drawn to low-wage tourist jobs. Florida is a post-modern mess and an exception to almost everything I’ll be writing about.
I live in Florida. And it is compose presently about fifty fifty of those of Southern descent and Northern descent. But the children of the Southern descent are going blue despite their southern heritage. Our future is being a trade hub for Latin America because of good ports, roads , railroads and proximity to both the southern and northern hemisphere. And a place of high tech manufacturing which is now starting to bloom mainly because of our cosmopolitan atmosphere , pleasant climate and closeness to major markets. Tourism and agriculture are still important but I think like California well lose their dominance as other industries develop. So our way of life is becoming more and more at odds with the South in general so heck yes Florida will soon be behind the blue wall unless the GOP reinvents itself.
When we lived in Florida, the Republican Party was dominant in our area. The service industry was large and disparate in terms of economic conditions. Workers can’t afford to live in the areas they work, thus they have to be bused in to affluent areas. Absentee property owners have no interest in solving local cultural and economic problems other than keeping property taxes low and property values high. Sooner or later, this divide will be reflected in voting patterns, if it’s not already.
Half of Florida is “southern.” The northern half of the state, north of Tampa and Orlando, might as well be South Georgia. This part is not really changing that much. South of that is tourist-and-old-people Florida, where retirees from New York live out their dying days complaining about taxes and comparing ailments and families spend piles of money on beach houses and the mouse. The United States effectively ends at the Dade County line, where you enter the Hong Kong of Latin America.
The wiki links. There goes an afternoon on a tangent. There is a good side to the ADHD life. Hmmm…MA, Coolidge, Lindbergh, Paris, Louis the XIV, better stop while I’m ahead.
You can see that the GOP comes out of nowhere in the 1850’s and then becomes the dominant party in places like IL and MA until the 1930’s. The Southern states, I think we all know that pattern fairly well. It’s not a bad time to be a Republican. If the party keeps going headlong to the right it might become bad, but there’s still time to tack to the middle.
The stuff I get from the local party assumes an awful lot of nonsense about my identity and politics. It’s not that I’m a “milquetoast” moderate, I don’t even know what milquetoast is. Is it literally milk sodden toast? Doesn’t sound very tasty, but I don’t see anything wrong with it. Sometimes I might dunk my donut in coffee. What would that make me?
When I hear that old saw I know that someone is trying arrest any real thought and replace it with simple reflex. It’s also one of those Manchu trigger words. Am I having tea with my milquetoast now?
Tea and milquetoast. A perfect combo.
Tea and milquetoast and pickled chicken lips…….quite the diet you have there! ; )
I’m going to disagree that the Republican Party came out of nowhere. The GOP took most of the positions of the Whigs and added firm, unapologetic condemnation of slavery. This established from the beginning the progressive and conservative, one might almost say socialist and capitalist, elements of the party. After the Civil War, the Republicans had political control (that lasted) of the Northeast, the upper Midwest, the West Coast, and the mountain states. Once the Reconstruction period ended with a Southern comeback, the party lost the South, which it had briefly held due to military occupation, black suffrage, and suppression of Southern white suffrage for anyone who served in the Confederate Army.
That’s how things lined up until the Great Depression, with a couple of odd blips like the 1912 election, which the Republicans should have won except they were internally divided (Roosevelt versus Taft).
Add the unwillingness to mealy-mouth the slavery issue, and the Republicans were the Whigs reborn.
Looking at the small sample provided I would see that the GOP was nowhere to be found in 1852, but by 1860 the party had swamped the opposition in one of the first wave elections in US history. I can’t disagree that the ideas and people who became Republicans came from something. The total extinction of the Whigs, however, is remarkable.
It seems like the GOP struck a strong chord in the West-Iowa for instance. The Whigs, absent additional data, seem to be an North Eastern phenomena. What of the Civil War Democrats that remained in power in many areas of the North?
There are a lot of movings pieces to account for, n’est pas?
Sometimes I might dunk my donut in coffee. What would that make me?
Might I suggest a “dunkin do nut” (-:
Yes. Excellent treatment of the essential political fact of American history: the ongoing conflict between the political culture of the white South and that of the rest of America. Used to be you could say South versus North, but today “North” encompasses every part of the country that didn’t secede during the Civil War (except for Kentucky, which might have seceded except Lincoln made sure it didn’t).
You could look to the origins of the odd-man culture in the South from the very earliest colonial beginnings. The original 13 states fell into three regions: New England, the mid-Atlantic, and the South. New England was founded as a religious experiment by Puritans. Its soil is poor, driving the economy into commerce and then industry from the beginning. Tension between capitalism and Puritan morality defines that region’s evolution over time. The mid-Atlantic, centered on New York, was founded as a commercial Dutch colony and retained that character after the British captured it.
The South was founded as a cash-crop enterprise funded by absentee titled landlords. It was settled by those seeking profit from commercial agriculture, and by their slaves — initially white slaves and indentured servants, and later slaves from Africa. This gave it a feudal character that the rest of the country lacked, an economy of wealthy quasi-nobility and their forced laborers, with free but poor people in swarms living on the scraps and leavings. In Marxist terms, the North rapidly evolved into capitalism, while the South remained mired in feudalism.
The strain between these two cultures affected matters political long before the Civil War. It’s part of the so-called Great Compromise that gave the South effective veto power over the federal government, the infamous 3/5 of a person clause, the provisions protecting the slave trade (temporarily) and slavery itself (permanently) (well, until the 13th Amendment).
Because of the reliance on forced labor, the South necessarily developed a more authoritarian culture than mainstream America. (Yes, slavery was permitted in the North at first, but due to agricultural conditions it never caught on or became necessary to the wealth of the wealthy.)
In terms of national policy, other than slavery itself the feudal South wanted low (or no) tariffs and little to no federal investment in infrastructure except what would help bring cash crops to market, and weak federal government in general, while the capitalist North wanted the opposite of all of these. The first party system set up two parties that each represented one of these subcultures, with the Federalists representing the capitalist North while the Democratic-Republicans (which morphed into the Democrats) represented the feudal South. That same pattern persisted until long after the Civil War.
It’s that feudal-capitalist conflict that has always distorted American politics. We really should be having intra-capitalist struggles, between those who want an economy that benefits everyone equally and those who want one dominated by the wealthy. (BOTH of these existed within a single party in the time from the Civil War until the Great Depression. It was the Republican Party, which gave the nation both Theodore Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge. Today, both roles are played by Democrats in the same way. That’s really not how it should be, though.)
Slavery is one of America’s two great national sins (the other is what we did to the Native Americans) and we’re still suffering for it. We will go on suffering for it until the subculture that emerged from the days of plantations and slaves is gone forever as a force on the national scene.
It’s worth noting that the South didn’t stop being a forced-labor economy after the Civil War. In fact, in some ways it became an even more cruel one. Look up the book “Slavery By Another Name”, or the PBS documentary based on it. The Weekly Sift wrote an excellent review of the book.
Excellent recount, Brian! Your explanation of the feudal-capitalistic dichotomy of the north and south is interesting and offers a deeper understanding of the reasons for the Civil War. Flash forward to the current economic divide in America , and one wonders what chance we have to become a more tolerant, inclusive, productive nation. Income disparity and racism divide us, but the division goes much deeper, as we have all witnessed within our own families and communities.
Many have lamented how members of the same family have such different opinions and beliefs, despite any rational foundation of fact. Maybe Lifer will be able to help us understand why this is so. It will be challenging for America to work itself out of the mess it finds itself in today. I have to wonder what other countries think of the American Democracy? It is difficult to see ourselves as others do, but one thing appears certain: we don’t seem to learn from past experience, however grievous.
Excellent analysis, briandrush. I’d never thought of the South as “feudalist” before, but it makes a good deal of sense.
“The first party system set up two parties that each represented one of these subcultures, with the Federalists representing the capitalist North while the Democratic-Republicans (which morphed into the Democrats) represented the feudal South. That same pattern persisted until long after the Civil War.”
One little quibble here Brian…
“The term Democratic-Republican Party is the name used primarily by modern political scientists for the first “Republican Party” (as it called itself at the time), also known as the Jeffersonian Republicans. Historians usually use “Republican Party.” It was the second political party in the United States, and was organized by then United States Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson and his friend and compatriot James Madison, (then serving in the House of Representatives) in 1791-93, to oppose the Federalist Party run by Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. The new party controlled the Presidency and Congress, and most states, from 1801 to 1825, during the First Party System. Starting about 1791 one faction in Congress, many of whom had been opposed to the new Constitution, began calling themselves Republicans in the Second United States Congress. People at the time used the name Republican in mentioning the Republican Party of this period and the first two decades of the 19th Century. The Republican Party split after the 1824 presidential election into two parties: the Democratic Party and the short-lived National Republican Party (later succeeded by the Whig Party).”
“The party (Whig) was ultimately destroyed by the question of whether to allow the expansion of slavery to the territories. With deep fissures in the party on this question, the anti-slavery faction prevented the nomination for a full-term of its own incumbent, President Fillmore, in the 1852 presidential election; instead, the party nominated General Winfield Scott. Most Whig party leaders eventually quit politics (as Abraham Lincoln did temporarily) or changed parties. The northern voter base mostly joined the new Republican Party. By the 1856 presidential election, the party was virtually defunct. In the South, the party vanished, but Whig ideology as a policy orientation persisted for decades and played a major role in shaping the modernizing policies of the state governments during Reconstruction.”
Both of the above entries are from Wikipedia the second at this link
This should be an interesting lesson for people like me who didn’t grow up in the South. I would think the recent weakening of the Voting Rights Act should help perpetuate one-party rule.
Viking….The recent weakening of the Voting Rights Act IS designed to perpetuate one party dominance. Citizens United, 501C4 abuses, conservatives have barely touched the surface in their effort to disenfranchise specific groups of voters . When you think of the beatings, killings and other personal sacrifices that have been made for the simple right to vote, it’s heart-breaking. Of course, there are still far too many who either don’t register to vote, who could, o,r are registered to vote, and don’t. Then there’s the whole “sheep” mentality where people don’t take time to become informed. Lotta’ changes are needed.
Why aren’t we making voting *easier* rather than *harder* for our nation’s citizens?
Probably because of the people who would feel threatened by such a change.
Threats aren’t nearly sufficient. I have become a firm believer in changing and limiting the length and number of terms our Congressmen/women serve, whereupon, they would exit and get to work….prohibited from joining a think tank (what a misnomer) or lobbying group. These people NEVER GO AWAY…they simply morph into a different iteration while continuing to feed off the political system.
Politics in the elected domain, should not become a career. (This wouldn’t apply to staffers who work very hard and have much expertise to offer over the years.) People should run, serve and leave and Owl’s idea of limiting service to a decade works fine for me, if that is the only way we can get rid of some of them.
Oh, I wasn’t at all proposing limiting service to a decade; I’m a firm opponent of term limits. I was just advocating a practice of redistricting after each census, without any regard to the residences and/or traditional district boundaries of incumbents.
If you enforce term limits, and thus eliminate the opportunity to keep experienced and expert politicians in office, then you automatically increase the power of unelected staff members (particularly committee staff) and of lobbyists who offer pre-written legislation. And that seems like a bad deal all around.
I wonder how a prohibition on joining a think tank squares with freedom of association. And what is “joining”, anyway? I’m sure one could come up with all sorts of loopholes regarding independent contractors, etc.
SPOILER ALERT: This is OT but is in response to some important thoughts from Owl.
Owl, allow me to begin by emphatically agreeing with you that redistricting concurrent with census is not only logical, it’s fair. I have personally grappled with the issue of term limits and redistricting in various capacities at the local and state level. This does give me first-hand experience and insight even as it doesn’t make me an expert.
I have always opposed term limits in favor of the voting process, with a firm belief that the Democratic process would work. That was before gerrymandering became a standard political process to ensure political control. Both parties have done it but Repubs have rigorously implemented it in the last decade, and I believe that it is controlling the voting process to the detriment of voting rights.
It seems that the most practical place to begin to improve the process is with a change in the length of terms, hardly an original idea, but one whose time may have come, and it could begin at the state level before moving on to the federal level. After all, holding office (I cringe at saying “serving anymore”) is now a career choice. The incentive for office holders would be reduction of constant campaigning and fundraising. Here is where I envision reasonable term limits might be brokered.
Here are a few questions to ponder. Does experience guarantee expertise? Do the number of terms correlate with quality of representation? Do application and intellect offset longevity? Is it probable that longevity will succumb to compromise and special interests? How many terms are too many? Does gerrymandering impugn the constitutional process by negating the one man one vote guarantee? Is the art of compromise dead?
I ask you, how are the interests of the voter and the Democratic process best ensured at this time in history and going forward? (Note: I haven’t even broached the subject of the impact of Citizens United and big money impacting the process. That’s way off point.)
My frustration with the seamless rotation from Congress to Think tanks and lobbying firms is that they are so overtly political. As an example, Think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation (on the right) used to be more centrist. Now, it has become an aggressive tool that openly intervenes in the voting process. Where is the separation of power? Then there is our present SCOTUS which has become openly political, leaving behind any semblance of non-partisanship. Disenfranchisement is happening not to improve the voting process but as another means of controlling it, which as Owl noted, is making it harder not easier to vote. The individual voter’s ability to make a difference is being undermined by all of these factors. Am I naive to be dismayed that these things are now ingrained in the political process? Maybe, but at least I care, I donate, I work, I research, and I vote. When that stops working for me. I post (-: to vent.
The entire process from the local level (Lifer can knowledgeably weigh in here should he desire) to the highest court in the land is shifting the independence of the Democratic process in unparalleled ways. Term limits may appear a knee-jerk, totally inappropriate idea, but it is borne out of abject frustration of the degradation of the individual’s right to participate equally in the political process.
Can’t wait for our polymath to tackle the “evolution” of Southern politics.
Does the truism keep recurring? Lifer: “…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.”
“The more things change; the more they remain the same;”
This ought to be good.
Who is “our polymath” Mime? I’m embarrassed to say I had to look up the meaning of the word.
Lifer! He is deeply knowledgeable in many areas. Don’t be embarrassed, I just learned the word myself but it seems so appropriate a description of Chris, don’t you think?
Lifer, take a bow! You have been designated a “celeb” and a “polymath” in one posting! Be careful, the GOP leadership might take notice and groom you for office….and, ruin you in the process…..