Dixiecrats and Democrats: Alabama Politics 1942-1950

By William D. Barnard | Go to book overview

7

STALEMATE:
Alabama Politics 1948-1950

The election of 1948 meant vastly more than simply counting the state's eleven electoral votes for Strom Thurmond. It was also a signal that without the magnetic personality of F. D. R., the traditional bonds of party loyalty were not enough to keep the Deep South aligned with the national party when the Negro was an issue. With the urgency of depression gone, the race issue re-emerged and overshadowed the economic issues that had been the mainstay of progressive Democrats of national orientation in Alabama. Conservative forces that had been in retreat since the 1930's had once again found an issue on which to garner the public backing that had been denied on other issues. And just as in the days of Redemption and of the troubled decade of the 1890's, that issue was race.

The historic conservatism of the mass on social issues once again was used by conservative leaders to counter the appeal of economic liberalism. Conservative leaders within the state party were motivated by a genuine adherence to the principles of laissez-faire and of nineteenth‐ century liberalism. They wished to reverse the national trend toward centralization and economic liberalism. They were, in varying degrees, also motivated by notions of race. But equally important and more immediate and tangible was the desire to defeat their traditional rivals within the state party, to seize control of the state's political affairs from the adherents of the New Deal who had held sway since the 1930's.

The rivalry of long-standing factions within Alabama Democracy, the jockeying for factional advantage in the contest of 1948, points up once again the importance of local factors in national elections. Historians must perforce generalize about the great political movements that sweep the country and that culminate in the election of a President. We speak, albeit a bit glibly, of the Jacksonian movement, of the Populists, of the Progressives. And, of course, these movements do take on a character

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