Southern Democrats

American regional political faction / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Southern Democrats are affiliates of the U.S. Democratic Party who reside in the Southern United States.[1] Most of them voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by holding the longest filibuster in American Senate history while Democrats in non-Southern states supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[2] After 1994 the Republicans typically won most elections in the South.[3]

Before the American Civil War, Southern Democrats were mostly White men living in the South who believed in Jacksonian democracy. In the 19th century, they defended slavery in the United States, and promoted its expansion into the Western United States against the Free Soil opposition in the Northern United States. The United States presidential election of 1860 formalized the split in the Democratic Party and brought about the American Civil War. Stephen Douglas was the candidate for the Northern Democratic Party, and John C. Breckinridge represented the Southern Democratic Party. Abraham Lincoln, who opposed slavery, was the Republican Party candidate.[4] After Reconstruction ended in the late 1870s so-called redeemers controlled all the Southern states and disenfranchised Blacks. The "Solid South" gave nearly all its electoral votes to the Democrats in presidential elections. Republicans seldom were elected to office outside some Appalachian mountain districts and a few heavily German-American counties of Texas.

After American women gained the de jure right to vote after the 19th amendment in 1920, the Solid South began to show some cracks during the Roaring Twenties, but the monopoly that the Democratic Party held over most of the South only first showed major signs of breaking apart in 1948; many White Southern Democrats, upset by the policies of desegregation enacted during the administration of Democratic President Harry Truman, created the States Rights Democratic Party. This new party, commonly referred to as the "Dixiecrats", nominated South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond for president. The Dixiecrats won most of the deep South, where, in Alabama, Truman was not even on the ballot. The new party collapsed after Truman still won the election, and Thurmond became a Republican in the 1960s.

President Lyndon B. Johnson, although a southern Democrat himself, signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. The evening after signing the Civil Rights Act, Johnson told aide Bill Moyers, "I think we may have lost the south for your lifetime – and mine", anticipating a coming backlash from Southern Whites against Johnson's Democratic Party.[5] As Johnson anticipated, this led to heavy opposition from Southern Democrats. However, the Democratic Party had a supermajority in the Senate with 46 of their members joining the Republican Party by voting for, while 21, all conservative Democrats voted against.[6] Subsequent to the passage of civil rights legislation, many White southerners switched to the Republican Party at the national level. Many scholars have said that Southern Whites shifted to the Republican Party due to racial backlash and social conservatism.[7][8][9] Many continued to vote for Democrats at the state and local levels, especially before the Republican Revolution of 1994.

By the 21st century and especially after the 2010 midterm elections, the GOP gained a solid advantage over the Democratic Party in most Southern states.[10] In 2016, Republican candidate Donald Trump won a majority of the vote in Elliott County, Kentucky, the first time that it had ever voted for a Republican presidential candidate since its establishment in 1869. In 2020, Democrat Joe Biden narrowly won Georgia, the first time since 1992 that Georgia voted for a Democratic presidential candidate, though Republicans maintained their state government "trifecta" (including in the 2022 midterms). Noted modern-day Southern Democrats include Kentucky governor Andy Beshear, Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards, North Carolina governor Roy Cooper, Virginia's U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, Georgia's U.S. Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, and West Virginia's U.S. Senator Joe Manchin.