How Democrats in the South will Rise Again...

The “Southern Democrat” is dying, but it’s not dead yet.

On Saturday, things got even worse for the Democratic Party. As many expected, Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu lost in a runoff race to Republican challenger Congressman Bill Cassidy. To make matters worse, it wasn’t even close. With almost all votes tallied, as of earlier today, Cassidy was beating Landrieu by 14 percent of the vote.

Landrieu’s loss isn’t just another defeat for the Democratic Party. It’s an historic defeat. That’s because Landrieu’s Senate seat hasn’t been held by a Republican since 1883, some 132 years ago. And, Landrieu’s loss also signifies the nearly complete swing in party control in the South.

As The New York Times points out, between 1930 and the early 1960’s, nearly 100% of governors’ mansions, senators’ seats and state legislatures in the South outside of Florida and Virginia were controlled by Democrats. However, since then, slowly but surely, Republicans have been picking up state and national seats throughout the South.

Now, the complete takeover of the South by the Republican Party is nearly complete. As Nate Cohn writes over at The New York Times, “In a region stretching from the high plains of Texas to the Atlantic coast of the Carolinas, Republicans control not only every Senate seat, but every governor’s mansion and every state legislative body.”

So, why is this shift happening?

Well, as Cohn writes, “The dramatic decline of the Southern Democrats represents the culmination of a half-century of political realignment along racial and cultural lines…The shift has contributed to the polarization of national politics by replacing conservative Democrats, who often voted across party lines, with conservative Republicans who do not.”

But, despite all of the doom and gloom surrounding Landrieu’s loss and the demise of the Democratic Party in the South, all is not lost just yet. The “Southern Democrat” can rise again.

In a speech given at the National Press Club last month, Senator Chuck Schumer suggested that a little bit populism might be good for the Democratic Party. He argued that by taking more of a populist approach, Democrats can reach and appeal to Americans outside of the party’s typical comfort zone, and that includes the South.

Now, many are quick to suggest that, based on the current political climate in the South, a populist approach would never be successful there. But, the results of this past election seem to paint a very different picture.

In fact, one of the biggest takeaways overall from the 2014 midterms is that, nationally, progressive ideas and policies are very popular. All across America, progressive ballot initiatives won and they won big.

For example, in the very red Arkansas, voters approved a measure to raise that state’s minimum wage by a nearly 2-1 margin. And, in other traditionally red states like Alaska and Nebraska, minimum wage increases also passed by fairly large margins.

For even more proof of how successful a populist approach in the South can be, look at the life and career of Huey Long. Long served as the 40th Governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932, and was a U.S. Senator from 1932 until he was assassinated in 1935. Long was also a Democrat and populist, who routinely slammed the wealthy elite, corporations and big banks, and who called for a “Share the Wealth” program.

Long’s “Share the Wealth” program proposed wealth redistribution measures, like a net asset tax on corporations and the wealthy elite, and also called for increased spending on things like public works, education and the social safety net.

In his famous “Every Man a King” radio address to the nation, Long said that, “It is not the difficulty of the problem which we have; it is the fact that the rich people of this country -- and by rich people I mean the super-rich -- will not allow us to solve the problems, or rather the one little problem that is afflicting this country, because in order to cure all of our woes it is necessary to scale down the big fortunes, that we may scatter the wealth to be shared by all of the people.”

Huey Long’s successes can be repeated. The Democrat Party needs to reflect on Senator Landrieu’s loss Saturday, and learn from it. While the demise of the “Southern Democrat” may be historic, it doesn’t have to be permanent. Americans across the country, in red states from the Deep South to the Great Plains, favor the progressive ideas and policies that can get our country back on track.

Someone just needs to reach out to them. And, as Huey Long taught us, a little populism can go a long way, especially in the Deep South.


stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 9 years 28 weeks ago

We sure could use a legislature full of Huey Long's; failing that, maybe someone can find a cure for the mass insanity that has gripped the republicans.

Suze O's picture
Suze O 9 years 28 weeks ago

Part of the problem in the South is the near-total takeover of the media by the right-wing hate talk shows. I have a brother in Tennessee, and they get hardly any positive news about Democrats. If there is any, Republican propagandists attack it, and they have recruited so many rabid Democrat-haters, government-haters, and Obama-haters that the average Southerner gets almost nothing else. More progressive/populist media needs to penetrate the atmosphere down there.

Martin Street 9 years 28 weeks ago

Like Suze says, the media is in almost complete control of the media in the South & I'm not so sure Southerners have an understanding of what's at stake.

What I'm concerned about though is, Thom why do you use the right wing epithet "Democrat Party" instead of Democratic Party? Its a grade school mentality that Fox & the Tea Party use to delegitimize the left wing & we should use the correct name, The Democratic Party.

Zuckerman's picture
Zuckerman 9 years 28 weeks ago

Of course, Huey Long was a racist. Southerners like progressive ideas as long as they do not include catering to "special interests" i.e. people of color. FDR passed the New Deal with close to full support from the solid South as long as his program benefited poor whites and not blacks and did not challange Southern treatment of black people.

The trick would be to bring populists back into the Democratic fold in the South who were equally progressive on issues of color ethnicity and race.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 9 years 28 weeks ago

Suze and Martin are absolutely correct, the corpse media has an unholy grip not only on many Red State citizens, but folks from all corners of the country. Trying to reason with those afflicted with foxmerization is like a nightmare. I often think to myself, does that person really believe that garbage, how could that be possible..... or are they just trying to be contentious for the hell of it? I hear crap like, Obama is sending out guys to confiscate my shotguns, or he's going to declare marshall law before 2016 and become King. When I hear this stuff I'm truly shocked by the seriousness of belief these unfortunate souls have in what Fox/corpse media is spewing out to them. It's almost like I'm witnessing some of my friends and neighbors go brain dead, and it's damn frightening. Actually I'm mostly furious with the media for doing this to otherwise decent people. It's seems like such a cold thing to do to gullible people just for the sake of making a buck.

Reaching out to citizens in the Deep South with populism will require the spirit of fight that characterized Huey Long, the same spirit the Democratic Party is so lacking these days. Here's a good quote by Long from 1932 as he comments on his political methods. "They say they don't like my methods, well I don't like them either. I really don't like to have to do things the way I do. I'd much much rather get up before the legislature and say, now this is a good law and it's for the benefit of the people, and I'd like you to vote for it in the interest of public welfare. Only I know laws ain't made that way. You've got to fight fire with fire".....and infiltrate the Democratic Party!

Kend's picture
Kend 9 years 28 weeks ago

Or the folks in the south can clearly see that Obama and the Dems are trying to shut down all industry in the US like fishing, oilfield, and coal and that's where they all work. I know it's a crazy concept but most people even in the south like to feed there families and put a roof over there head. Let's face it not much has been done for them by this adminasrtration to help them out in creating jobs.

what do I know's picture
what do I know 9 years 28 weeks ago

Even Thom is now referring to them as the "Democrat" party now.

Has he also been compromised?

GeoArk2000's picture
GeoArk2000 9 years 28 weeks ago

It is my understanding that Huey Long was not a racist and proposed to lift both black and white people out of poverty equally. In fact the Klan was opposed to Huey Long because his programs supported blacks. (See After Long was assonated his Share The Wealth Society fell into the hands of Gerald L. K. Smith who, indeed, was very pro-Nazi and racist.

I have read that Long's aspirations for the Presidency helped force Franklin Roosevelt to push for Social Security and wealth distribution. It's too bad that Huey Long didn't understand that the best way to "Share The Wealth" and develop a better economy would be to adopt the principles and program of another populist/progressive Henry George.

olushola's picture
olushola 9 years 27 weeks ago

The red states got the best of both worlds. They expressed their populist leaning by the ballot and their religious leaning by their votes. We have to understand that these states feel that the country is quickly moving in a direction that opposes their relgious views, such as homosexuality, abortion, legalization of marijuan, etc. They felt that they needed to slow down this train. No doubt the right wing media added fuel to their fears.

Franklin Robinson 9 years 27 weeks ago

Democrats voted for the Affordable Care Act, then ran from it. Should push economic message more. The minimum wage increase in MO in 2006 helped Claire McCaskill win her Senate Race.

MMmmNACHOS's picture
MMmmNACHOS 9 years 27 weeks ago

This has nothing to do with the topic being discussed...Just thought I would share

The artical that follows was written by Hunter S Thopmson

It was just after dawn in Woody Creek, Colo., when the first plane hit the World Trade Center in New York City on Tuesday morning, and as usual I was writing about sports. But not for long. Football suddenly seemed irrelevant, compared to the scenes of destruction and utter devastation coming out of New York on TV.

Even ESPN was broadcasting war news. It was the worst disaster in the history of the United States, including Pearl Harbor, the San Francisco earthquake and probably the Battle of Antietam in 1862, when 23,000 were slaughtered in one day.

The Battle of the World Trade Center lasted about 99 minutes and cost 20,000 lives in two hours (according to unofficial estimates as of midnight Tuesday). The final numbers, including those from the supposedly impregnable Pentagon, across the Potomac River from Washington, likely will be higher. Anything that kills 300 trained firefighters in two hours is a world-class disaster.

And it was not even Bombs that caused this massive damage. No nuclear missiles were launched from any foreign soil, no enemy bombers flew over New York and Washington to rain death on innocent Americans. No. It was four commercial jetliners.

Comment on tragedy

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They were the first flights of the day from American and United Airlines, piloted by skilled and loyal U.S. citizens, and there was nothing suspicious about them when they took off from Newark, N.J., and Dulles in D.C. and Logan in Boston on routine cross-country flights to the West Coast with fully-loaded fuel tanks -- which would soon explode on impact and utterly destroy the world-famous Twin Towers of downtown Manhattan's World Trade Center. Boom! Boom! Just like that.

The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now -- with somebody -- and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.

It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy. Osama bin Laden may be a primitive "figurehead" -- or even dead, for all we know -- but whoever put those All-American jet planes loaded with All-American fuel into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon did it with chilling precision and accuracy. The second one was a dead-on bullseye. Straight into the middle of the skyscraper.

Nothing -- even George Bush's $350 billion "Star Wars" missile defense system -- could have prevented Tuesday's attack, and it cost next to nothing to pull off. Fewer than 20 unarmed Suicide soldiers from some apparently primitive country somewhere on the other side of the world took out the World Trade Center and half the Pentagon with three quick and costless strikes on one day. The efficiency of it was terrifying.

We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or what will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. Maybe Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan or Iraq, or possibly all three at once. Who knows? Not even the Generals in what remains of the Pentagon or the New York papers calling for WAR seem to know who did it or where to look for them.

This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed -- for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush. All he knows is that his father started the war a long time ago, and that he, the goofy child-President, has been chosen by Fate and the global Oil industry to finish it Now. He will declare a National Security Emergency and clamp down Hard on Everybody, no matter where they live or why. If the guilty won't hold up their hands and confess, he and the Generals will ferret them out by force.

Good luck. He is in for a profoundly difficult job -- armed as he is with no credible Military Intelligence, no witnesses and only the ghost of Bin Laden to blame for the tragedy.

OK. It is 24 hours later now, and we are not getting much information about the Five Ws of this thing.

The numbers out of the Pentagon are baffling, as if Military Censorship has already been imposed on the media. It is ominous. The only news on TV comes from weeping victims and ignorant speculators.

The lid is on. Loose Lips Sink Ships. Don't say anything that might give aid to The Enemy.


Sadly, I doubt anyone was more right at the time about what was to come.

Gator Girl 9 years 27 weeks ago

Same here in Florida which is fully republican with pockets of we who are native Floridians and have not lost our minds. A great many of the Florida residents are from the north - snowbirds who have come down and now refuse to leave. They brought their rethuglican ways with them.

Plus we have our share of Kluxer decendent, rec-neckers who align with the militants who have no idea what the hell they are fighting for but know it is not the black man in the Oval office. Ignorant racism is rampant - and some of it comes from the more educated which I believe is willful ignorance

But don't give up on us because we are trying our best to fight it - but it is difficult with the like of Rick Scott as governor and his AG Pam Bondo - she of postponing an execution because of a fund raiser she had scheduled fame. Criminality and ignorance on the highest order

Gator Girl 9 years 27 weeks ago

They only get the ballot by gerrymandering the districts and flooding the market with so much money that they are difficult to fight. When money is the power - thanks SCOTUS (aka SCROTUM) for Citizens United. Money and power = greed = religion.

Gator Girl 9 years 27 weeks ago

You're right, Franklin. Those progressives who ran on President Obama's good points and stayed to the left did win their races. The dems who ran away from the President lost and it should be a lesson.

It is time for the Democratic Party to go fully liberal and stop being the meek, mild-mannered group who just abdicated this last election. Come out LOUD AND PROUD and run on the points President Obama has accomplished - which are many - and we should see a turn around.When you become a meek lamb and hang your head you lose and we gain nothing

Ivan Beggs's picture
Ivan Beggs 9 years 27 weeks ago

For six years the Democrats have ineffectively managed their image while the Republicans have managed the same message 24/7.

The Democratic image for six years: anti-gun, anything goes morality, tax and spend, anti-police, anti-military, deficits don't matter, anti-big corporations, unfair, anti-wealth. They wish and hope their salvation will be long term demographics. Liberal news media is clear on individual messages; but, they don't stay on message 365/24/7.

Republican image for six years: pro morals, pro God, pro flag, pro guns, pro military, pro business, clear thinking, trim government (not military), pro police, reign in deficit spending. Beginning to persuade demographics that Democrats think are 'theirs.' Conservative message is clear on individual message; and, they stay on message 365/24/7.

Looks at the moment 2016 favors a Republican landslide.

RichardofJeffersonCity's picture
RichardofJeffer... 9 years 27 weeks ago

So we have two choices of democrats: Sen. Landrieu type, who publicly capitulates to the "conservative" agenda or Sen. Schumer type, who placate/manipulate/lie to the public and continues serving the interest of their wealth backers. They both use the shameful practice of political pragmatism with little regard for public interest. Losing Sen. Landrieu's seat is meaningless if she was going to vote republican anyway.

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