PREFACE

These pages emerged from a long-standing personal interest in the history and culture of the South, and my academic interest in the evolution of American political parties. As it transpired, the southern perspective proved to be a fascinating vantage point from which to view the transformation of American national politics, and more particularly Democratic party politics, over the past quarter-century or so. The southern Democrats -- a regional intraparty faction -- achieved almost a dominant position in national politics in the years immediately following the Second World War, through their grip on the United States Congress, a hold that no president -- Democrat or Republican -- proved capable of breaking.

Yet even at this time, forces were working below the surface of American politics that undermined the southerners' power: economic change, demographic change, the communications revolution, and finally the emerging challenge to the southern social and political system by the black southerners who had been deliberately excluded from it. The raison d'être of southern Democrats in national politics prior to the civil rights revolution was to preserve the southern caste system of racial segregation and disfranchisement. When this was dismantled by the federal courts, the civil rights movement, and the Johnson administration, it appeared that the day of southern Democrats in national politics was over when the Republican party of Goldwater, Nixon, and Reagan took over the old white segregationist constituency and the Democrats appeared likely to be left (ironically) with the votes of the newly enfranchised black minority but little else.

In presidential elections this is more or less what occurred. Virtually nonexistent in the South before the civil rights revolution, the Republicans became dominant in presidential elections in the South after 1968. But in congressional, state, and local races, the Democratic party not

-vii-

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