The South Has to Fall Again

St. Louis Journalism Review, November 2000 | Go to article overview

The South Has to Fall Again


By Ed Bishop

As everyone knows, between 1861 and 1865, a group of southern states, 11 to be exact, seceded from the United States of America. The people of those states fought for four long years to retain the right to own slaves. It was a bitter, cruel war. More Americans died in the Civil War than died in the First World War and World War II combined.

Those seceding states were Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Today they hold 147 votes in the Presidential Electoral College.

For more than a century the Democratic Party could count on those votes, mainly because the Democrats weren't the Republicans. The Republican Party was hated in the South--it was the party of Abraham Lincoln, the party of the North, the Party of Frederick Douglas. Then in the 1960s there was a sea change in American politics. The Democratic Party became associated with civil rights. A Democratic president, Lyndon Johnson, and a Democratic Congress passed major civil-rights legislation. Almost over night the South became solidly Republican and it has stayed that way ever since.

So now, as SJR goes to press, the country is looking at one of the closest presidential elections in years. The Battle Ground 2000 Poll has Gov. George Bush up by three points over Vice President Al Gore, while the Zogby poll has him up by two points. In the Electoral College tracking poll done by Portrait of America, Bush leads in the Electoral College with 220 votes either solid or leaning his way, and Gore has 199 votes either solid or leaning his way. It takes 270 votes to win in the Electoral College.

But, if you look at the map of the United States closely, zeroing in on the Electoral College, you'll see that if you factor out the South, Bush is way behind. With the exception of Florida with its 25 Electoral College votes, all of the states of the old Confederacy are in the Bush column, even Gore's home state of Tennessee. Take those 122 votes out and Bush's Electoral College total drops to 98. In other words, Gore wins in a landslide if not for the solid Republican South.

Of course, you can't factor out the South. We fought the Civil War to keep them in. Alabama is just as much a part of America as Vermont. And much of what we think of as the American Tradition is really the Southern Tradition.

But I think it is fair to say the social, religious and racial attitudes of the South are different from the social, religious and racial attitudes of say Illinois or California or New York or Minnesota or New Jersey or Oregon or a lot of other states. …

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