In his book A National Party No More, Zell Miller contends (paraphrasing FDR) that Democrats view of the South can be summed up as “I see one third of the country- and it can go to hell.” Actually Zell, the South accounted for 31.2% of the electoral votes in 2004, a little less than one third.
Since when has either party been a truly “national” party anyway? The South is worth 168 EVs. The 10 safe Dem states (including DC) of the NE, Hawaii, California, and Illinois are worth 172 electoral votes. I don’t remember Karl Rove staying up at night wondering how he was going to win any of those states, do you? It seems to me Rove looked at these states- representing 32% of EVs – and told them to go to hell. Oh and Zell, last time I checked the Dems did put up a fight in Florida. Florida is not only in the South, it also has more electoral votes (27) than any other southern state except for Texas.
Ah the Non-South, the place where John Kerry won the popular and electoral vote. In the 13 states that make up the South-i.e. the 11 Old Confederacy States as well as Oklahoma and Kentucky-Bush beat Kerry 57.3% to 42.0% and won all 168 Electoral votes there. In the other 38 states (37 plus Washington DC) the results are as follows:
Electoral College: Kerry 252, Bush 118.
Popular Vote: Kerry 51.1%, Bush 47.7%
Well of course Kerry did better in the Non-South Nick, don’t all Democrats?
Well, no actually. From 1860 through 1928 not one Democrat won a majority of the Non-Southern (NS) popular vote. In 1912, Woodrow Wilson won a plurality of the NS vote, the Dems only NS victory. So the GOp dominated the NS popular vote in elections. Meanwhile, in this time period the Dems always won a majority of the Southern popular and electoral vote (sometimes unanimously). Doesn’t sound like a national party anywhere here.
Well at least there was FDR. He was a national leader. He won a majority of the NS and southern popular vote everytime he ran (though he only won 51.1% of the NS popular vote in 1944). Dems also won a majority of Congressional and Senate seats from both regions. Other than LBJ in 1964 no Democrat has ever achieved FDR level of 1944 NS support. Oh, uh wait a minute-almost forgot about a certain “Massachusetts liberal”.
After FDR’s death in 1945 the country resumed it’s regional squabbling. Truman won a majority of the South vote, but only 49.1% (a plurality) of the NS vote.
From 1952-1988 all Republican candidates, except for Goldwater, won either a plurality (and often a majority) of the NS popular vote, though Nixon in 1960 barely beat Kennedy 50.0%-49.8% and Ford barely beat Carter (49.0% to 48.8%) in 1976. During this time the South came to be viewed (somewhat correctly) as a swing region. It voted majority or plurality Democrat 4 times (1952, 1960, 1964, 1976) and GOP 6 times (1956, 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988).
Then came the 1990s- Clinton became the first post-Civil War Democrat to win the NS vote (43.8% to 35.4% for Bush and 20.1% for Perot) while at the same time lose the southern popular vote (42.5% for Bush to 41.0% Clinton and 16.0% Perot). In 1996 Clinton won 50.6% of the NS vote while only narrowly losing the southern popular vote to Dole (46.1% to 45.9%). Given the narrowness of Clinton’s popular vote losses in the South, though, an arguement could be made that elections were becoming more national, less regional in view.
The 2000’s: So much for that theory. Gore replicated Clinton’s 50.6% of the NS vote in 2000, but soundly lost the southern popular vote 50.7% to 44.9%. With Kerry in 2004 we have come full circle: 51.1% of the NS vote (same as FDR in 1944), and a big loss in the South. So the Republicans won the NS popular vote in most elections from 1880 to 1988- but have not won the NS popular vote since then. Meantime the Republicans lost the southern popular vote in every election from 1880 through 1952, and had a few select elections where they either won (or lost) the popular vote in both regions from 1956-1988.
Finally, from 1992 to the present day, the GOP- like pre-1950s Democrats- carried the South and lost the NS vote-regardless of the total election outcome. So aside from a few select elections from the 1950s to the 1980s, the Republicans have never been a national party. Indeed, even in the elections where they won the popular vote in both regions they often failed to win a majority of Congressional or Senate seats in either region in those years.
So there’s regional squabbling in America. That’s OK, democracy is all about differing views on issues. Indeed, even inside the NS there were variations by regions. Kerry narrowly won the West popular vote (49.9%-48.7%) narrowly lost the Midwest vote (50.9% to 48.2%) and won the Northeast vote in a landslide (55.8% to 43.0%). If we were all the same, we’d live in a dictatorship. Nobody in their right mind wants to live in a dictatorship, do they? Well, I do have it on pretty high authority that “a dictatorship would be a heckuva lot easier.” Oh wait a minute, I said no one in their “right” mind, not no one in their “right-wing” mind.