4
Southern Democrats in the U.S. Congress

Scholars of the U.S. Congress over the past two decades are virtually unanimous in their agreement that there has been a transformation in the internal power structure of both the House and Senate. 1 One aspect of this transformation has been a reduction in the influence of the southern Democrats. Under the congressional power structure that prevailed from 1910 to 1970, southern Democratic members exercised a dominant influence on the behavior and policy output of the Congress. Over the past two decades, however, this influence has clearly eroded.

This chapter deals with the situation of southern Democrats in the present-day Congress and is based largely on a series of interviews conducted during the summer of 1990 with thirty southern Democratic congressmen, three senators, two former senators, and five senior Senate staffers. The first section deals with the House and the second with the Senate.

In the each section I briefly describe the nature and sources of southern influence over the House and Senate between 1910 and 1970 and why the old congressional power structure broke down in the early 1970s. I discuss the reasons for the southern Democratic members' continued adherence to the Democratic party, and I then analyze how and why the position of the southern Democrats has evolved on various issues, particularly civil rights. I also examine the influence of the southern Democrats over the House and Senatepower structure today and the effectiveness of several attempts to organize the southern Democrats in Congress. Each

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