Introduction

This book is about the South, and particularly southern Democrats, in national party politics since the culmination of the civil rights revolution in 1965 (the year that the Voting Rights Act was passed).

The South has been the major aberration in the pattern of America's economic and social development since the Civil War, and as a consequence, southern party politics also has deviated from the national norm. The clearest illustration of this deviation was the establishment of the one-party Democratic "Solid South" at both the state and national levels in order to maintain the South's hierarchical social system based on racial segregation and black disfranchisement. Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the old barriers of segregation and disfranchisement have disappeared, and rapid economic development has brought an end to the old southern economic and social system. One outcome of these changes has been the emergence of a competitive two-party system in the South.

Yet despite all this, the southern Democrats remain distinctive, even though the civil rights issue -- which was thought to constitute the sole rationale for their deviation -- no longer appears to arouse significant divisions in the national party. Since the late 1960s the persisting Democratic advantage at all levels of southern electoral politics below the presidential level has also successfully aborted the Republicans'efforts to realign the national party system. Moreover, the survival of the southern Democrats and the degree of cohesion that they have maintained, particularly in Congress, give us an excellent perspective from which to examine the evolution of the new polarized factional politics in American parties.

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