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Writing Southern Politics

Writing Southern Politics: Contemporary Interpretations and Future Directions

Robert P. Steed
Laurence W. Moreland
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Writing Southern Politics
    Book Description:

    Scholars, journalists, writers, and pundits have long regarded the South as the nation's most politically distinctive region. Its culture, history, and social and economic institutions have fostered unique political ideas that intrigue observers and have had profound political consequences for the nation's citizens, politicians, and policymakers.Writing Southern Politicsis the most comprehensive review of the large body of post--World War II literature on southern politics.

    Since the publication of V.O. Key Jr.'s landmark work,Southern Politics in State and Nation(1949), scholars have produced an astounding number of books, monographs, professional journal articles, and research papers addressing elements of continuity and change in southern politics. The contributors to this book sort through the literature, identifying major themes, examining areas of scholarly disagreement, and making the key dimensions and contours of the region's politics understandable. Individually, the essays in this volume identify and clarify the key writing and research in selected subfields of southern politics, including religion, race, women, and political parties. Collectively, the essays identify and discuss the major components of and trends in southern politics over the past half century.

    The contributors, some of the foremost scholars in the field, have been heavily involved in researching and writing about southern politics during the past three decades and have observed the development of many of the research projects that form the foundation of southern political literature. In many instances, their own writings are included in the body of literature they discuss, bringing unique skills, research, and perspectives to their original essays. In addition to reviewing existing literature,Writing Southern Politicsalso includes suggestions for a future research agenda.

    Not all aspects of the region's dramatic fifty-year transformation have been fully explored, and the continuation of this development ensures new avenues to examine. The discussion of past research and writing is an invaluable tool for understanding the trends in southern politics over the past half century. By examining these trends and developing an agenda for future research, the authors provide a roadmap for identifying the changes that will likely shape the region over the next half century.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5776-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Jack Bass

    The subject of southern politics has been my lifelong professional interest, beginning when I was a print reporter and continuing when I was a scholar and a college professor. Consequently, I am pleased to be associated with a volume that inventories and reviews the scholarly literature that has addressed the profound political changes that have characterized the American South since World War II.

    When Walter DeVries and I spent two years based at Duke University bringing outThe Transformation of Southern Politicsin 1976, we—like virtually all others who have focused on the subject before and since—followed the...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction. The Literature of Southern Politics
    (pp. 1-10)
    Robert P. Steed and Laurence W. Moreland

    IN HIS LANDMARK 1949 BOOK,Southern Politics in State and Nation, V. O. Key Jr. wrote: “Of books about the South there is no end. Nor will there be so long as the South remains the region with the most distinctive character and tradition” (Key 1949, ix). Written virtually on the eve of a period of sweeping social, economic, and political change in the region, Key’s work served as a launching pad for a host of other research and helped to give impetus to even more books about the South.

    Scholarly interest in southern politics, already high at midcentury, as...

  6. Chapter 1 Southern Political Party Development since World War II
    (pp. 11-40)
    Charles Prysby

    A SUBSTANTIAL PARTISAN REALIGNMENT occurred during the last half of the twentieth century in the American South. Although this was a gradual realignment, marked by uneven and sometimes even contradictory changes, the cumulative result was the transformation of the old, one-party South into a new, two-party South. The growth of a two-party South is discussed in many books and journal articles, a collective body of literature that makes the South the most studied region within the United States by far.

    The focus of this study is on one particular aspect of this transformation, the development of the political party system...

  7. Chapter 2 Who Wants to Party? Activists and Changing Southern Politics
    (pp. 41-64)
    John J. McGlennon

    IN MUCH OF THE LITERATURE on political parties in the twentieth-century United States, references to the role of activists generally came with a qualifier: “except in the South.” Studies of southern politics devoted little attention to the organizational workers’ efforts in party building and maintenance because there was little evidence of such activity. The growing body of research on party activists focused on places where competition was alive, which effectively precluded the states of the Confederacy until the 1960s at the earliest.

    Early summaries of political party research treated the role of the party activist lightly. Although V. O. Key...

  8. Chapter 3 Unfinished Business: Writing the Civil Rights Movement
    (pp. 65-90)
    Richard K. Scher

    IN THE INTRODUCTION TO their volumeWriting the Civil War, the editors liken the task of understanding the scholarship on that calamity to a group of blind persons examining an elephant, with each reporting on what the beast supposedly looks like (McPherson and Cooper 1998). Using their metaphor for examining the writings on the American civil rights movement holds, except that it understates the difficulty. Perhaps a better metaphor is that of H. G. Wells’s time machine: ambitious, imaginative, magnificent in scope, and doomed to failure.

    The Civil War at least was a finite moment in time, lasting from 1861...

  9. Chapter 4 Race and Southern Politics: The Special Case of Congressional Districting
    (pp. 91-118)
    Richard L. Engstrom

    AS V. O. KEY NOTED at the outset of his monumental work on southern politics, “In its grand outlines the politics of the South revolves around the position of the Negro. It is at times interpreted as a politics of cotton, as a politics of free trade, as a politics of agrarian poverty, or as a politics of planter or plutocrat. Although such interpretations have a superficial validity, in the last analysis, the major peculiarities of southern politics go back to the Negro. Whatever phase of the southern political process one seeks to understand, sooner or later the trail of...

  10. Chapter 5 Writing about Women in Southern Politics
    (pp. 119-140)
    Penny M. Miller and Lee R. Remington

    IN 1949 V. O. KEY WROTE his seminalSouthern Politics in State and Nation, a work that played a major role in describing and explaining the politics of the South in the years leading up to the civil rights movement and that continues to be a valuable resource for those who study southern politics. Unfortunately, Key did not consider the political impact of a major class of citizens—women. Thus, the formulation of a realistic picture of southern politics should not begin, and certainly should not end, with the work of V. O. Key. Instead, this chapter provides a multilayered...

  11. Chapter 6 Reflections on Scholarship in Religion and Southern Politics
    (pp. 141-166)
    Ted G. Jelen

    OVER THE PAST GENERATION, the study of religion and politics in the South has undergone a profound transformation. Once the province of specialists in an arcane subfield of the discipline, religious politics is now a central concern to analysts of political life in the American South. Indeed, I am aware of no credible account of the 2000 or 2004 presidential election that does not assign a central role to religious differences among voters. It might well be argued that the principal difference between the “red” states (carried by Republican George W. Bush in both elections) and the “blue” states (carried...

  12. Chapter 7 Population Shifts Change a Region’s Politics: The Old South Morphs into the New
    (pp. 167-188)
    Susan A. MacManus, Brittany L. Penberthy and Thomas A. Watson

    WRITING ABOUT THE SOUTH’S POLITICS requires one to write about the area’s population metamorphosis. Population in-migration and shifts within the region (and within individual states) have dramatically altered the southern political landscape and increased the South’s clout at the national level. With each election cycle comes a new flurry of writings from academics and journalists describing how the region has changed in its politics and population makeup. (See tables 7.1 and 7.2 for state-by-state presidential voting patterns and population growth rates.)

    The linkage between population shifts and political change has been assumed by writers more than it is has been...

  13. Chapter 8 Issues, Ideology, and Political Opinions in the South
    (pp. 189-218)
    Patrick R. Cotter, Stephen D. Shaffer and David A. Breaux

    ARE SOUTHERNERS DIFFERENT? If they are, why are they different?

    The research most directly concerned with examining public opinion in the South has sought to answer one or both of these questions. Our purpose here is to review this research with the goal of identifying what conclusions currently can be reached regarding the nature and causes of southern distinctiveness in the area of public opinion. Further, our review will point to the additional steps needed to determine fully and accurately if, and why, southerners are different.

    The public opinion research investigating whether southerners are different from citizens living elsewhere in...

  14. Chapter 9 Presidential Elections and the South
    (pp. 219-240)
    Harold W. Stanley

    THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE SOUTH and presidential electoral politics since World War II has been the central focus of most scholarly work on the South and the presidency over the past half century or so. Although some literature has addressed presidential decision making during the civil rights era of the 1950s and, especially, the 1960s, this has been primarily a recounting of the effort to extend full citizenship rights to black southerners and is, therefore, more properly categorized as a part of the literature that focuses on presidential decision making regardless of region. Even that literature, however, tends to underscore...

  15. Chapter 10 Congress and the South
    (pp. 241-268)
    Stanley P. Berard

    THE SOUTH HAS ALWAYS PLAYED a distinctive role in the U.S. Congress. Since the middle of the twentieth century that role has been characterized by change as well as distinctiveness. At the end of World War II the South constituted a minority faction within the majority Democratic Party, a faction that used its institutional position to thwart many of the policy initiatives of that party. By the 1980s the civil rights movement and the growth of two-party competition had transformed southern politics to the point where southern Democrats were pivotal to the formation of both Democratic and conservative majority coalitions....

  16. Chapter 11 Southern Governors and Legislatures
    (pp. 269-290)
    Branwell DuBose Kapeluck, Robert P. Steed and Laurence W. Moreland

    IN CONTRAST TO THE SUBSTANTIAL attention paid to the transforming effect of the civil rights era on southern politics, the continuing realignment of the southern electorate, and most other topics addressed in this volume, scholarly analyses of southern legislators and governors have been relatively sparse. Until the mid-1970s neither southern governors nor state legislatures were known for their strong leadership. In many of the southern states a traditionalistic political culture saw little role for government in society beyond defending the status quo, maintaining white supremacy, and protecting the interests of a relatively small number of county seat elites. In this...

  17. Conclusion. Looking Back and Looking Forward: A Research Agenda for Southern Politics
    (pp. 291-302)
    John A. Clark

    AS THE CHAPTERS IN THIS VOLUME make clear, the literature on southern politics is vast and continues to grow.

    No other region has attracted as much attention, either collectively or in terms of the states individually. If, as V. O. Key suggested, “of books on the South there is no end” (1949, ix), this particular book does great service by placing much of the literature in context. Still, despite the best efforts of the authors of this volume, much of that literature was necessarily omitted because of space limitations or substantive concerns. What accounts for the vast literature that has...

  18. Contributors
    (pp. 303-304)
  19. Index
    (pp. 305-316)