The Negro and Southern Politics: A Chapter of Florida History

By H. D. Price | Go to book overview

3. Campaign tactics and the Negro voter

THE CANDIDATES' DILEMMA

The opening of Florida's Democratic primaries to a growing number of Negro voters has put the average candidate in a difficult position. Voters are generally thought to attract politicians as honey attracts bees, but when the voters are Negroes and the politician is a native white Southerner the situation becomes complicated. If the candidate's constituency contains both a sizable Negro vote and a large number of race-conscious whites, any overt appeal to either group is likely to turn the other group against him. Even if a candidate were willing to take the chance involved in seeking Negro support, there was no ready precedent pointing to the most effective ways of doing so--nothing to match the time-honored ritual for exploiting white supremacy sentiment. Of course, the ideal solution from the politician's point of view was to find some means for working both sides of the street. Until the rise of the school segregation issue, techniques had been worked out for doing just this. Heightened racial tension since 1954 has made it much more difficult. It has also somewhat increased the political advantage of an anti-Negro campaign while reducing the advantage likely to be gained by appeals for Negro support.

Experience in Florida over the past decade has indicated, as any student of the "theory of games" would expect, that neither of the extreme strategies is likely to pay off. State senator John E. Mathews, the father of the abortive private primary bill, approached one extreme in his campaign for white supremacy. He has been quoted as saying in his 1946 campaign that he did not want "one nigger vote."1 By

-59-

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The Negro and Southern Politics: A Chapter of Florida History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Acknowledgments iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures vii
  • Introduction ix
  • I. Politics--For Whites Only? 3
  • 2. Negro Registration 26
  • 3. Campaign Tactics and the Negro Voter 59
  • 4. the Negro and the Pattern of Florida Politics 82
  • Notes 113
  • Bibliographical Note 125
  • Index 129
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