10 September 2008

Southern Comfort

It was once called ‘The Solid South’ for the Democratic Party. States which made up the 1861-1865 Confederacy, ranging from Texas in the west through to the Deep South and onto Florida and the Carolinas in the east, used to vote for the Democratic Presidential candidate come rain or shine.

The Statistics speak for themselves. Democrats won by large margins in the South in every general election from 1876 to 1948.Even in 1928, when the candidate was Al Smith, and as a New Yorker and a Catholic as far a son of Dixie as you could get, states from the former CSA provided Governor Smith with nearly three-fourths of his electoral votes.

Yet, in the 1950’s and 1960’s as the Democrats became more aligned with the Civil Rights movement and memories of the Republican’s Civil War role became less acute, ‘The Solid South’ soon swapped its blues spots for red ones . In 1972, Richard Nixon made history as he became the first Republican candidate ever to carry every southern state.

The last time a significant amount of southern states voted for Democratic Presidential candidate on mass was in 1976 for the Georgian Peanut Farmer, Jimmy Carter. Even Arkansas’s own Bill Clinton could only pick up a few of them in 1992 and 1996, whilst in 2000 Al Gore, Tennessee born and bred, didn’t even capture one of them.

However, as the 2008 Presidential Election etches near us some commentators, a few pundits and politicos have mooted that this could be the year that at least some of South comes back to its Democratic roots.

‘How on earth can you suggest this when Obama is the party’s nominee?’ I hear you cry. Yes, on the looks of it my above prediction does seem a bit silly. It would seem possible, perhaps, if say John Edwards was the Democratic nominee, but not Obama.

In fact, the liberal African- American Chicagoan is probably more of a discomfort to the historically conservative southern Democrats than any white East Coast progressive could ever be.

Yet, the Democratic Dixie revival prediction is not based on such historical Democrats coming back into the fold, but by Obama re-taking the South for the Democrats by tapping into the substantial African-American vote.

When the former Lawyer swept to victory in South Carolina’s Democratic Primary back in January, he did so thanks to the Black vote.

African-Americans accounted for a majority of voters in South Carolina, 55 percent -- the highest turnout among African-Americans in any Democratic presidential primary for which data are available. And a huge proportion of them, 78 percent, supported Obama

Steve Hilliband, the deputy campaign manager for Mr Obama, has already commented that by some estimates there are 600, 000 unregistered black voters in Georgia, a state that in November will be worth a decent 13 Electoral College votes.

One thing’s for sure, if Obama and his shrewd campaign managers do happen to sweep Dixieland through such a strategy, not only will the Illinois Senator become the next President of the United States, but by re- conquering the South, the Democrats may be able to steal the Republicans claim as the ‘natural party of Government’ for generations to come as they did from 1933 to 1968.

Democrats won by large margins in the South in every presidential election from 1876 to 1948 except for 1928, when candidate Al Smith, a Catholic and a New Yorker, ran on the Democratic ticket; even in that election, the divided South provided Smith with nearly three-fourths of his electoral votes.

By Mike Watkinson

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