Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter March 5, 2018

Party Leaders and Electoral Realignment: Democratic and Republican Southern Strategies, 1948–1968

Boris Heersink
From the journal The Forum

Abstract

Political scientists who have studied electoral realignments in the American party system increasingly focus on explaining such changes as the result of major historical developments outside of the control of party leaders. Using both national parties’ approaches to the South in the period 1948–1968, I argue that while party leaders may be unable to cause or prevent a realignment, they do attempt to affect the way in which that process plays out. That is, while the shift of Southern White voters from the Democratic to the Republican Party itself was a largely inevitable process, the timing and context in which it played out was affected by competing strategies from both parties. Specifically, I show that between 1948 and 1964, Democratic leaders hedged their bets between attempting to keep white Southern voters in the party, or expel them in favor of black voters in the Northeast based on their assessments of the party’s electoral position. At the same time, between 1948 and 1968, Republican leaders struggled to balance an appeal to segregationist Southerners and voters in other regions before finding a winning formula in Richard Nixon’s 1968 ‘Southern strategy.’

References

Bawn, Kathleen, Marty Cohen, David Karol, Seth Masket, Hans Noel, and John Zaller. 2012. “A Theory of Political Parties: Groups, Policy Demands and Nominations in American Politics.” Perspectives on Politics 10 (3): 571–597.10.1017/S1537592712001624Search in Google Scholar

Berkman, Michael B. 1993. The State Roots of National Politics: Congress and the Tax Agenda, 1978–1986. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.Search in Google Scholar

Burnham, Walter Dean. 1970. Critical Elections and the Mainsprings of American Politics. New York: W.W. Norton.Search in Google Scholar

Burns, James MacGregor. 1956. Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox. New York, NY: Harcourt Brace.Search in Google Scholar

Caro, Robert A. 2012. The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.Search in Google Scholar

Carmines, Edward G., and James A. Stimson. 1989. Issue Evolution: Race and the Transformation of American Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.10.1515/9780691218250Search in Google Scholar

Christensen, Rob. 2010. The Paradox of Tar Heel Politics. The Personalities, Elections, and Events That Shaped Modern North Carolina, 2nd edition. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.Search in Google Scholar

Cohen, Marty, David Karol, Hans Noel, and John Zaller. 2008. The Party Decides: Presidential Nominations Before and After Reform. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.10.7208/chicago/9780226112381.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

De Santis, Vincent. 1959. Republicans Face the Southern Question: The New Departure Years, 1877–1897. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press.Search in Google Scholar

Donovan, Robert J. 1977. The Presidency of Harry S. Truman: Conflict and Crisis, 1945–1948. New York, NY: Norton.Search in Google Scholar

Dunn, Susan. 2010. Roosevelt’s Purge: How FDR Fought to Change the Democratic Party. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Farber, David R. 2013. Everybody Ought to Be Rich: The Life and Times of John J. Raskob, Capitalist. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199734573.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Frymer, Paul. 1999. Uneasy Alliances: Race and Party Competition in America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Galvin, Daniel J. 2010. Presidential Party Building: Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.10.1515/9781400831173Search in Google Scholar

Heersink, Boris. 2017. National Party Organizations and Party Brands in American Politics. Dissertation. University of Virginia.10.18130/V3SH2CSearch in Google Scholar

Heersink, Boris. Forthcoming. “Party Brands and the Democratic and Republican National Committees, 1952–1976.” Studies in American Political Development.10.1017/S0898588X18000020Search in Google Scholar

Heersink, Boris, and Jeffery A. Jenkins. 2015. “Southern Delegates and Republican National Convention Politics, 1880–1928.” Studies in American Political Development 29 (1): 68–88.10.1017/S0898588X14000157Search in Google Scholar

Heersink, Boris, and Jeffery A. Jenkins. 2016. “Exploring the Rise of the Republican Party in the South: The Emergence of Operation Dixie, 1948–1968.” Paper presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, IL.Search in Google Scholar

Heersink, Boris, and Brenton D. Peterson. 2016. “Measuring the Vice-Presidential Home State Advantage with Synthetic Controls.” American Politics Research 44 (4): 734–763.10.1177/1532673X16642567Search in Google Scholar

Karol, David. 2009. Party Position Change in American Politics: Coalition Management. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511812620Search in Google Scholar

Key, V. O., Jr. 1955. “A Theory of Critical Elections.” Journal of Politics 17: 3–18.10.2307/2126401Search in Google Scholar

Klinkner, Philip A. 1994. The Losing Parties: Out-Party National Committees, 1956–1993. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.10.12987/9780300163360Search in Google Scholar

Ladd, Everett Carl. 1990. “Like Waiting for Godot: The Uselessness of ‘Realignment’ for Understanding Change in American Politics.” Polity 22 (spring): 311–325.10.2307/3234761Search in Google Scholar

Lowndes, Joseph E. 2008. From the New Deal to the New Right: Race and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Mason, Robert. 2012. The Republican Party and American Politics from Hoover to Reagan. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511843907Search in Google Scholar

Mayhew, David R. Electoral Realignments: A Critique of an American Genre. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Search in Google Scholar

McCullough, David. 1992. Truman. Norwalk, CT: Easton Press.Search in Google Scholar

Milkis, Sidney M. 1993. The President and the Parties: The Transformation of the American Party System Since the New Deal. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Newton, Jim. 2011. Eisenhower: The White House Years. New York, NY: Anchor Books.Search in Google Scholar

Phillips, Kevin P. 1969. The Emerging Republican Majority. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House.Search in Google Scholar

Rohde, David W. 1991. Parties and Leaders in the Postreform House. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.10.7208/chicago/9780226724058.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Sanbonmatsu, Kira. 2002. Democrats, Republicans and the Politics of Women’s Place. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.10.3998/mpub.17095Search in Google Scholar

Savage, Sean J. 2004. JFK, LBJ, and the Democratic Party. Albany, NY: University of New York Press.Search in Google Scholar

Schickler, Eric. 2016. Racial Realignment: The Transformation of American Liberalism, 1932–1965. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.10.23943/princeton/9780691153872.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Shoch, James. 2001. Trading Blows: Party Competition and U.S. Trade Policy in a Globalizing Era. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.Search in Google Scholar

Silbey, Joel H. 191. “Beyond Realignment and Realignment Theory: American Critical Eras 1789–1989.” In The End of Realignment?, ed. Byron Shafer. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.Search in Google Scholar

Sinclair, Barbara. 1989. The Transformation of the U.S. Senate. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press.Search in Google Scholar

Sundquist, James L. 1983. Dynamics of the Party System: Alignment and Realignment of Political Parties in the U.S. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.Search in Google Scholar

Thurber, Timothy. 2013. Republicans and Race: The GOP’s Frayed Relationship with African Americans, 1945–1974. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.Search in Google Scholar

Wolbrecht, Christina. 2000. The Politics of Women’s Rights: Parties, Positions, and Change. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Woodward, C. Vann. 1966. Reunion and Reaction: The Compromise of 1877 and the End of Reconstruction. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2018-3-5

©2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Scroll Up Arrow