Kevin A. Hill and Nicol C. Rae, "What Happened to the
Democrats in the South? US House Elections, 1992-1996,"
Party Politics, 6 (January 2000), 5-22.
One of the relatively unnoted political developments in US
politics in recent years has been the drastic attrition in
the number of southern white Democrats in both Houses of the
US Congress. Much of the erosion in southern Democratic
numbers is, of course, due to the major political
realignment in favor of the Republican Party in the region
since 1952, and the electoral fallout from the civil rights
revolution (Petrocik, 1981; Carmines and Stimson, 1989). One
of the most remarkable features of US politics in the period
following the civil rights revolution of the mid-1960s,
however, was the extent to which white southern Democrats
were able to retain a predominant position in southern
congressional elections -- particularly in the US House
(Scher, 1997). Districts that voted by landslide margins for
Republican presidential candidates continued to send
relatively conservative southern white Democrats to Capitol
Hill because of massive ticket splitting on the part of
southern whites (Lamis, 1990; Black and Black, 1992).
Figures and Tables:
Figure 1: Percentage of Southern US House seats controlled
by the Democratic Party, 1924-96
Table 1: The decline and fall of Southern Democrats,
Table 2: Where did the Republican takeover occur?
Table 3: Models of the Democratic vote, 1988-96.
Table 4: Democratic electoral fortunes under two alternative
Appendix: [Regression model for estimating district vote
One cannot help but be struck by the fact that something
of truly historical proportions has happened in the South in
the past few years. The region that was once about as likely
to elect Republican representatives as it was to declare the
Pope the head of the Southern Baptist Convention, now has a
solid Republican majority in both the House and the Senate.
On top of all this, a dramatic and ironic reversal of roles
has taken place in a Congress that used to see boll weevil
Democrats in top leadership positions throughout the two
chambers. In 1998, the House of Representatives was run by a
Georgian Speaker, with Texans as majority leader and
majority whip, yet another Texan as Ways and Means chairman,
a Louisianan as head of Appropriations, and a South
Carolinian overseeing the military committee. On the other
side, a Mississippi senator was majority leader, a venerable
South Carolinian was President Pro-Tempore and chairman of
the Armed Services Committee, and a North Carolina firebrand
chaired Foreign Relations. Any southern politician who had
been frozen in ice in the 1950s and who was thawed out in
1998 would have at first blush seen this as all too
familiar. After all, those southern Democrats stuck around
forever and, due to the seniority system, got themselves put
in charge of really powerful committees and made their way
into leadership positions. But our hypothetical ice man
would probably have to be given a stiff shot of his favorite
bourbon when he found out that all these powerful
southerners were -- gasp!! -- Republicans.