Arkansas Politics & Government: Do the People Rule?

By Diane D. Blair | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
Contemporary Political Patterns

Despite the still lopsided Democratic contingents in elected offices, it may be time to formally recognize the death of the one-party system in Arkansas, where it has existed in its most undefiled state.

Ernest Dumas, 1984

The traditional South does survive, but primarily among whites of relatively low economic status, especially those living in rural areas.

Michael Mezey, The Minds of the South, 1983

Reflecting all the social, economic, and legal upheavals just described, the first partisan cracks in the "Solid South" began appearing in presidential contests, specifically in 1948, when four southern states deserted the Democrats for Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond. Other southern states actually bolted into the Republican column for the popular war hero Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956, and still others departed from the Democratic reservation to support Richard Nixon over John Kennedy in 1960, and Barry Goldwater over Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Finally, in 1968, twenty years after the apostasy had begun elsewhere in the South, Arkansas cast its first nonDemocratic electoral votes since Reconstruction; but George Wallace, candidate of the American Independent party, not Richard Nixon the Republican, was the beneficiary of Democratic disenchantment.

It was not until 1972, courtesy of the candidacy of George McGovern, that Arkansas finally lost its Democratic virginity. Four years later, as if in

-61-

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