This Week’s Mtg: The South’s Role In U.S. Politics

The week before the South Carolina primary seems like a great time to discuss the influence the South plays in American politics.  Obviously, a lot of history informs this topic.  But, in my intro, I’ll focus on contemporary politics.  The South is growing in influence in many ways, but becoming less important in others.  By “the South” I mean the 13 eleven states of the old Confederacy.  This includes Florida, although Florida is a bit of an outlier in its cultural and political orientations, but it excludes several semi-southern border states, like Oklahoma and Maryland.

I will explain:

  1. The South’s growing demographic weight, tempered though it is by a growing ethnic and cultural diversity, especially outside of the Deep South states.
  2. The South’s unique political “culture,” a blend of good, bad, and, in many but certainly NOT all respects, a bit ugly.  I think a sophisticated (i.e., not simplistic) understanding of what drives Southern politics is vital to predicting what direction the region will take itself and the rest of us in the future.
  3. The importance of the (now completed) Republicans’ takeover of the South, and, just as important, the South’s takeover of the GOP.  I’ll also explain why some people think the “GOP is now just a Southern reactionary party” idea is overstated.

The South is probably changing faster than the any other part of the country.  I will briefly preview why, and then, during discussion, I hope we can focus less on history lessons and more on different visions of the South’s future and how it will affect the rest of us.


  1. How important is the South in national politics?  Is that influence waxing or waning?
  2. How do the South’s political culture and preferences differ from the rest of the country?  Are those differences narrowing or growing?
  3. How “southern” is the Republican Party?  Does that strengthen the South’s influence or weaken it?  Does the South anchor the GOP or will it ultimately sink it as a national majority party? .
  4. Can the Democrats afford to write off the South?
  5. What does the future hold?




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