“The Republican Party is now, finally, deeply rooted in the South.” Some conservative pundit circa 2005? Nope, Theodore White circa 1965 (specifically The Making of the President 1964, page 401). This was a shift from The Making of the President 1960 (published in 1961) in which White deemed “the industrial heartland of the country” (Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ohio) the “greatest single base of Republican strength. Given that Nixon won 51.3% of the total popular vote in these states, White’s 1961 conclusion is certainly plausible. (Kerry beat Bush 50.0% to 49.2% in these states in 2004. To paraphrase what they said in the early 1960s, the times they have a-changed).
Interestingly, long before the civil rights revolution transformed the country and it’s politics, another Northeasterner saw party realignment along geographic and ideological lines. His name? Franklin D. Roosevelt. In his 1956 book, the Lion and the Fox, James McGregor Burns lays bare Roosevelt’s plans:
“In June 1944 Roosevelt talked with Rosenman (his aide) about the subject he had toyed with again and again in his four decades of political activity: party realignment. ‘We ought to have two real parties-one liberal and the other conservative,’ he told Rosenman. The Democratic Party must get rid of its reactionary elements in the South and attract to it the Republican liberals. He asked Rosenman to take the question up with Wilkie” (FDR’s 1940 GOP opponent). Wilkie expressed support for the idea, but insisted he not talk to FDR until after the 1944 election-for fear he would be accused of “selling-out” to Roosevelt by other Republicans. Unfortunately, Wilkie died of coronary thrombosis in October 1944. “Thus was lost, writes Burns, “perhaps the supreme opportunity in a generation for party realignment, ” (pg. 466-67)
Nearly six decades later, isn’t that realignment playing out now? Makes you wonder who Kerry was channeling in 2004.