Politics in the Border States: A Study of the Patterns of Political Organization, and Political Change, Common to the Border States: Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri

By John H. Fenton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
WEST VIRGINIA TRENDS

THE COMPOSITION of a political party is a major determinant of its factionalism and political organization. Political change alters the composition of parties. And a change in the composition of a political party inevitably results in a new kind of factionalism and political organization. Therefore, an understanding of the nature of political change is basic to a study of political parties. Our attention is now centered on political change in West Virginia; how, why, and where it has occurred.


The Background

West Virginians believe in the right of a man to change his mind, but they are not frivolous in the exercise of this right. From 1872 to 1956, the Democratic party was victorious in the state in twelve presidential elections and the Republicans in ten.

In view of this record, the casual observer might be pardoned for thinking of West Virginia in terms of a political danseuse, skipping with gay abandon from party to party. Such is not the case. Eight of the ten Republican victories occurred in the elections from 1896 through 1928. The voters have been similarly constant in their relations with the Democratic party. Democratic victories have taken place from 1876 through 1892, 1932 through 1952, and 1912.

Figure 14 identifies the Democratic and Republican counties of the state. There are two categories of

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