The Southern Strategy Revisited: Republican Top-Down Advancement in the South

By Joseph A. Aistrup | Go to book overview
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Chapter 8
Democratic Incumbency

PROVIDING CANDIDATES FOR ELECTIONS IS A PRIMARY FUNCTION OF A political party. Candidate recruitment and helping candidates fulfill state election laws can take organizational time, effort, and money ( Sorauf and Beck 1988). Contesting elections is important for the Southern Republicans, because the activities that surround a bid for an office result in party advancement payoffs in the form of recruitment of new activists and candidates. The most important of these is the development of a set of activists who potentially can be tapped by other Republican candidates. Republican contesting of elections is one of the major signs of party advancement. 1

Contesting an election, however, is only half of the battle. The other half is actually winning an election. Winning elections at the subnational level represents the pinnacle of GOP advancement in a jurisdiction. It illustrates that the Republicans have crossed the threshold of assembling a majority coalition in a constituency. Presumably, once this threshold is crossed, winning subsequent elections is easier.

In the past the Southern Republican parties have not performed well at the task of offering candidates. Southern Republicans contested few elections at the national or state and local levels from the late 1800s through the 1960s ( Key 1949; Bass and De Vries 1976). For this reason, past studies of Republican election activities are limited. Malcolm Jewell ( 1967) study of Republican efforts in state legislative elections shows that Republicans recruited few candidates during the 1950s and the early 1960s, especially in Deep South states.

More numerous are recent efforts to study the contesting of elections by the Southern Republicans ( Schlesinger 1985; Black and Black 1982; Aistrup 1990; Anderson and Hamm 1992). As chapter 3 demonstrates, most of these studies show that the contesting of elections by Republicans slowly increased from the late 1970s to the 1980s for most Peripheral South states.

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