Whenever analyzing southern politics it is important to differentiate between Deep South (also known as “Black Belt”) states and the Outer (or Peripheral) South. Black Belt states tend to be less urbanized while blacks make up a large percent (usually over 20%) of that state’s population. Historically, Black Belt states had the most stringent segregation and anti-Voting Rights laws. Outer South states are usually more urbanized and more white than the Deep South, and while they did limit the right of minorities to vote, the limits were usually not as stringent as Black Belt/Deep South states.
The Deep South is made up of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and (sometimes) North Carolina. The Outer South is made up of Florida, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and (when they are included as southern as they are here) Oklahoma and Kentucky.
In my last post I talked about how metropolitan areas with their growing middle and upper middle-classes, which endorsed “economic conservatism,” played an important role in shifting the South to the Republicans. The third party candidacies of Strom Thurmond in 1948 and George Wallace in 1968 along with the Goldwater and Nixon’s “Southern strategy” are thought to play an integral part of the shift of white southerners away from the “party of the fathers.” Dramatic stories of Lyndon Johnson claiming he “signed the South over to the Republican Party” after signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 also make for good copy (and are to a degree, true). Thurmond’s homestate of South Carolina also reinforces the notion that the southern shift began in the Deep South. While I don’t doubt that the civil rights movement played a role here, brace yourself… history is about to be rewritten.
The Outer South 1948-1968: In 1948 Strom Thurmond ran as a third-party candidate and segregati0nist against Harry Truman-and lost every Outer Southern state in a landslide (along with a few Deep South ones). In 1952-long before the civil rights movement kicked into high gear- 5 of 7 Outer South states voted for Eisenhower. From 1952 through 1960 only Arkansas failed to ever vote Republican. Kentucky and Texas each voted Democrat only once (1952 and 1960 respectively).
In 1964 the Outer South shifted back to the Democrats. Still, in only 3 Outer South states (Texas, and maybe Oklahoma and Kentucky) did Lyndon Johnson win the white vote. In 1968 Nixon won the same Outer South states as in 1960 (Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Florida, and Oklahoma) while once again losing Texas and Arkansas. This time though third-party candidate George Wallace carried Arkansas while Texas went Democrat thanks to Wallace. Had there been no Wallace candidacy estimates are the southern Wallace vote would’ve split 80%-20% for Nixon (the non-southern Wallace vote would porbably have split 60%-40% for Nixon) (The Real Majority p. 182-83). So Nixon would’ve won Arkansas and Texas (which he only lost 41%-40%). The Outer South didn’t need any third-party candidates to be led away, they were already gone.
Without the 3rd party distractions, the Outer South would’ve been:
1948-All Democrat, 1952-1960:5 or 6 out of 7 Republican. 1964-Back to all Democrat. 1968-All Republican.
Outer South since 1968: It’s been mostly Republican. Other than 1976 (when Carter won the Outer South save for Oklahoma and Virginia) there were no Democratic victories here from 1972-1988 and 2000-04. In 1992 Clinton won Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee and added Florida to the mix in 1996. In Kentucky, though, Clinton never got as much as 46% of the vote (and barely outdid Dukakis). In Tennessee Clinton barely achieved the same percentage as Gore did in 2000 and he lost. Only in Arkansas did Clinton win 50% or more of the vote, suggesting the other wins were Perot anomolies.
So despite all the changes from 1950 to 1970 to 2004 what hasn’t changed? The Outer South voting Republican-even before the Democrats embraced the Civil Rights movement.
NEXT: More Than One South: Outer vs. Deep pt. 2