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The Life and Death of the Solid South

The Life and Death of the Solid South: A Political History

Copyright Date: 1988
Edition: 1
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    The Life and Death of the Solid South
    Book Description:

    Southern-style politics was one of those peculiar institutions that differentiated the South from other American regions. This system -- long referred to as the Solid South -- embodied a distinctive regional culture and was perpetuated through an undemocratic distribution of power and a structure based on disfranchisement, malapportioned legislatures, and one-party politics. It was the mechanism that determined who would govern in the states and localities, and in national politics it was the means through which the South's politicians defended their region's special interests and political autonomy. The history of this remarkable institution can be traced in the gradual rise, long persistence, and ultimate decline of the Democratic Party dominance in the land below the Potomac and the Ohio.

    This is the story that Dewey W. Grantham tells in his fresh and authoritative account of the South's modern political experience. The distillation of many years of research and reflection, is both a synthesis of the extensive literature on politics in the recent South and a challenging reinterpretation of the region's political history.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4872-4
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Tables and Graphs
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. List of Maps and Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Editor’s Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    Charles P. Roland
  6. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  7. 1 Forging the Solid South
    (pp. 1-25)

    The political solidarity of the twentieth-century South originated in the great sectional conflict of the nineteenth century. In the 1850s a virulent southern sectionalism destroyed the existing party system and created a powerful compulsion toward political consensus in the South. The Civil War itself heightened southern self-consciousness and increased the social solidarity of the region’s white inhabitants, despite the divisions and enmities it brought to the surface. “Out of that ordeal by fire,” wrote Wilbur J. Cash, “the masses had brought, not only a great body of memories in common with the master class, but a deep affection for these...

  8. 2 The One-Party System
    (pp. 26-57)

    With the completion of disfranchisement, the politics of the southern states had been restructured. The suffrage was drastically limited, the political influence of black belt planters and urban business and professional elements was enhanced, and the new system was safeguarded by a formidable array of registration and voting laws. Literacy tests, the poll tax requirement, and the administration of stringent registration statutes prevented millions of southerners from taking any part in politics. A great majority of those who could vote identified themselves as Democrats, and except for isolated areas, the Republican party had declined to insignificant proportions. Although Populist issues...

  9. 3 In the National Arena
    (pp. 58-77)

    The American political universe that took shape in the realignment of the 1890s reflected what one political scientist calls “the most enduringly sectional political alignment in American history.”¹ So paramount were the Republicans in this party system that much of the North and West was scarcely less subject to one-party politics than was the South. Except for the special case of 1912, 84.5 percent of the total electoral vote for Democratic presidential candidates between 1896 and 1928 came from the southern and border states. In gubernatorial elections between 1894 and 1931, Republicans won 83.1 percent of the contests in the...

  10. 4 The Classic Period of Southern Politics
    (pp. 78-101)

    For three decades following World War I, the distinguishing features of the South’s one-party politics survived with little change. The Democratic party remained dominant in every state in the region. Planters, industrialists, and other representatives of vested interests, along with the far-flung county-seat governing class, continued to exercise a controlling influence in politics even as they slowly made room for new business and professional groups. Poll taxes, literacy tests, and low voter turnouts were typical characteristics of southern politics at the state level. In the 1920s, after the enfranchisement of women, scarcely more than a fifth of adult southerners voted...

  11. 5 The South and the New Deal
    (pp. 102-124)

    The onset of the Great Depression, the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, and the popularity of the New Deal destroyed any hope the Republicans may have had of building on the southern defection in the presidential election of 1928. Roosevelt’s leadership tended to broaden and nationalize the outlook of southern congressmen, in the manner of Woodrow Wilson, and the southerners, a goodly number of whom had been in Congress during the Wilson years, once again dominated committee chairmanships and parliamentary proceedings. Frank Freidel has summed up the contributions of the South and its congressional leaders to the enactment...

  12. 6 The Politics of Massive Resistance
    (pp. 125-148)

    In the 1950s southern politics entered a period of chronic disorder. With racial issues threatening to become all-encompassing, an increasing number of white southerners were alienated from the national Democratic party, and Republicanism grew more attractive in the South. The disruption of the Democratic South in 1948 was repeated in the national elections that followed, and presidential Republicanism became an enduring feature of politics below the Potomac and the Ohio. New factional patterns began to emerge in the region’s state politics. In some respects, such as the growth of the Republican party, the entry of black voters into Democratic primaries,...

  13. 7 The Second Reconstruction
    (pp. 149-176)

    The failure of massive resistance did not instantly jeopardize the South’s traditional politics. Political currents in the various southern states continued to reflect the influence of well-established interest groups and local elites as well as the basic conservatism of most white southerners. The region’s congressional delegations, overwhelmingly Democratic, still constituted a powerful force for the protection of the South’s special interests in Washington. Although southerners approached the presidential election of 1960 in a mood of uncertainty, many of them hoped that the outcome would enable the South to retain a large measure of political autonomy and to ease the threat...

  14. 8 Toward a Two-Party South
    (pp. 177-203)

    In the aftermath of the presidential election of 1968, it was hard to tell what direction party politics in the South would take. The three-way cleavage in 1968 seemed to reflect a politics that was more volatile and unpredictable than ever. While Republicanism had apparently taken a giant step forward, the future course of the five million southerners who voted for George Wallace remained imponderable. One thing was certain: the Democratic party was in a shambles, having been reduced to an impotence it had not experienced since Radical Reconstruction.

    Although Democratic loyalties persisted, many southerners were distancing themselves from the...

  15. Epilogue
    (pp. 204-208)

    Politics in the South, as in other parts of the United States, reflected and helped rationalize economic and social changes in the society. For a long time after the Civil War, the southern economy was depressed, underdeveloped, and concentrated along agricultural and extractive lines. It was a colonial economy. Political power in such a milieu gravitated into the hands of planters and businessmen. New credit and land tenure arrangements, as well as the increasingly capitalist nature of the agricultural economy, weakened the economic and political independence of yeomen and tenant farmers. The southern masses suffered from endemic poverty and growing...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 209-219)
  17. Bibliographical Essay
    (pp. 220-247)
  18. Index
    (pp. 248-257)