The Louisiana Elections of 1960

The Louisiana Elections of 1960

The Louisiana Elections of 1960

The Louisiana Elections of 1960

Excerpt

THE YEAR 1960--not just an election year, but a year of elections in Louisiana--may well have been a major turning point in Louisiana politics. The process actually began in December, 1959, with the first state (gubernatorial) primary; it continued through the second state primary in January, 1960, then into the Congressional primaries in the summer, and it came to a close with the presidential election in November. This multiplicity of elections is the usual leap year pattern in the state, but unusual circumstances distinguished 1960 from previous election years sufficiently to raise serious questions as to the meaning of this election relative to the continuity of voting patterns and the state political system itself.

The gubernatorial campaign of 1960 was characterized by a virtually complete breakdown of the Long-anti-Long bifactional system which had for practical purposes monopolized state (and to some extent local) politics for the preceding thirty years. In consequence the election was somewhat chaotic as the voters struggled to adjust to a situation which was structured quite differently from that to which they had been accustomed. Issues involving race and religion tended to fill the vacuum created by the removal of the traditional dichotomy based on social and economic differences and clarified through organizational cohesion.

In the later presidential election the Democrats carried the state by a bare majority over the Republican and States' Rights parties. It is not the narrowness of the majority that is of interest in the latter case, however, but the unusual confusion of issues in which the election was involved. Louisiana, like most of the other one-party southern states, had been solidly Democratic in national elections from Reconstruction until World War II; this state in fact did not show really . . .

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