Saturday, September 18, 2010

Southern Politics

Political party affiliation in the South over the years is a complicated subject. The second photo above, taken at the 1960 Democratic Convention, is indicative of the South's anger over the civil rights plank in the party's platform. Civil rights, as part of the Democratic Party platform, dated back to 1948 when Strom Thurmond walked out of the Democratic Convention and formed the Dixiecrat Party.

Democratic party affiliation in the South dates back to post-Civil War days. Resentment ran deep in the South as the Republican "North" imposed "Reconstruction" on the South in the late 1800s. As a result, strong Democratic ties were carried well into the mid-20th century in the South. It was not until after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that Democrats in the South began to peel off in numbers and move into the Republican column. It was accelerated as Republicans co-opted the George Wallace strategy and message in the South in the late 60s and 70s.

Strategists in the GOP then began to combine the themes of race and religion, as Jerry Farewell's Moral Majority came on the seen. Then, Ronald Reagan appeared and it was all tied together with the "restore America" focus, along with lowering taxes and reducing social programs, and the South, by the mid-80s, became largely Republican.

That is a simplified version of what has transpired in South regarding political parties since Reconstruction, but I believe it captures the essence. As JFK is nominated for President, the second photograph above of Senator Sam Ervin, surrounded by southern anti-Kennedy sentiment, illustrates the mood in much of the South in 1960.

The irony, and the greatness of Governor Terry Sanford and North Carolina, is reflected in the fact that Sanford was the first southern governor to embrace both John Kennedy for President and the civil rights movement. As a result, Sanford was asked to deliver Kennedy's seconding speech at the 1960 Democratic Convention, which he did (he is shown doing so in the top photo above). America, the South, and life, are fulled with both irony and contradictions.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive