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

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

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

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

Synopsis

The 1994 elections represented a watershed year for southern Republicans. For the first time since Reconstruction, they gained control of a majority of national seats and governorships. Yet, despite these impressive gains, southern Republicans control only three of twenty-two state legislative chambers and 37 percent of state legislative seats. Joseph A. Aistrup addresses why this divergence between the national and subnational levels persists even after GOP national landslides in 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988, and 1994.

Excerpt

Taking advantage of president clinton's lack of popularity in the South, the 1994 mid-term elections represented a watershed election for the Republicans in the South and in the rest of the nation. Republicans won five of six U.S. Senate contests in the South, including both senate seats in Vice President Al Gore's home state of Tennessee. the Democrats' only senate win was in Virginia, where incumbent Democrat Charles Robb beat Oliver North of Iran-Contra fame. Adding insult to injury, Senator Richard Shelby (Ala.) defected from the Democrats, joining the Republicans the day after the election.

At the gubernatorial level the Republicans won four of seven contested seats. the news for Southern Democrats easily could have been worse. Democratic gubernatorial incumbents Lawton Chiles in Florida and Zell Miller in Georgia won by the narrowest of margins. Perhaps most disturbing for the Southern Democrats were the losses at the U.S. House level, where the Republicans picked up one seat in Mississippi, Virginia, and South Carolina; two seats in Florida, Texas, and Tennessee; three seats in Georgia; and four seats in North Carolina. Based largely on the strength of the GOP's performance in the South, the Republicans took control of both houses of Congress.

In the wake the 1994 elections in the South, Republicans control 13 of 22 U.S. Senate seats, 6 of 11 governorships, and 64 of 125 U.S. House seats. This marks the first time in this century that the gop controls a majority at these three levels, easily surpassing their 1980 showing when they gained control of ten U.S. Senate seats, five governorships, and slightly over 30 percent of U.S. House seats (Bullock 1987). As commentators have noted, Democratic president Bill Clinton did more for Southern Republicans in two years than the combined effects of twelve years of Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

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