Mississippi Democratic Party
|Mississippi Democratic Party|
|National affiliation||Democratic Party|
|Politics of the United States
While the Democrats used to dominate Mississippi politics before and since the time of Reconstruction, the party has become the minority as its history developed. Additionally, it has been involved in many major events of the civil rights movement. The party has members in all eighty-two counties of the state - each county having an executive committee and officers. The state executive committee is elected by congressional districts - twenty from each district.
- 1 History
- 2 Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party
- 3 Party leadership
- 4 Current Democratic officeholders
- 5 Changing face of the Mississippi Democrats
- 6 Auxiliary organizations
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Mississippi was a large supporter of Jacksonian Democracy, which occurred during the Second Party System (roughly 1820-1860s). At this time, Mississippi politics moved from a state divided between the Whigs and Democrats to a solid one-party Democratic state. The Democratic Party strongly believed in states' rights as well as the right to the slave system. Tensions began to build between southern Democrats and northern Republicans and abolitionists.
Civil War and Reconstruction
In the summer of 1860, the Mississippi delegation walked out of the Democratic National Convention as a response to the convention's refusal to allow slavery in the state. Soon after, Mississippi seceded from the Union and joined many other states in forming the Confederate States of America.
After the end of the American Civil War in 1865, Reconstruction began in the United States. Many laws were put in place to allow suffrage for African-Americans, which troubled white Democrats. Democrats overpowered the Republicans to combat these laws by means of force and violence in a method known as the Mississippi Plan, formulated in 1875 and implemented in the election of 1876. This plan was also used in other southern states to overthrow Republican Rule. Thereafter, these states became known as the Solid South, meaning that they were solidly Democratic in political nature. This continued for the next seventeen presidential elections, until the elections of 1948. At this time, the Democrats began to show support for the Civil Rights Movement, which reduced southern support.
1948 presidential election and Dixiecrat movement
When the 1948 Democratic National Convention adopted a plank proposed by Northern liberals calling for civil rights, 35 southern delegates, including all Mississippi's delegates, walked out. Southern Democrats sought to exclude Harry Truman's name from the ballot in the South. The Southern defectors created a new party called the States' Rights Party (Dixiecrats), with its own nominees for the 1948 presidential election: Democratic South Carolina Governor J. Strom Thurmond for president and Fielding L. Wright, governor of Mississippi for vice president. (In his 1948 gubernatorial inaugural address, Wright had described racial segregation as an "eternal truth" that "transcends party lines".) The Dixiecrats thought that if they could win enough Southern states, they would have a good chance of forcing the election into the U.S. House of Representatives, where Southern bargaining power could determine the winner. To this end Dixiecrat leaders had the Thurmond-Wright ticket declared the official Democratic ticket in some Southern states, including Mississippi. (In other states, they were forced to run as a third party.) Efforts by the Dixiecrats to paint Southern Truman loyalists as turncoats generally failed, although in Mississippi it was proclaimed that a vote for Truman electors was "a vote for Truman and his vicious anti-Southern program" and that a Truman victory would mean "our way of life in the South will be gone forever."
On election day of 1948, the Thurmond-Wright ticket carried Mississippi as well as South Carolina, Louisiana, and Alabama, all previously solid Democratic states. Truman won the national election anyway, without their electoral votes. The States' Rights Party movement faded from the landscape, and its Mississippi leaders resumed their place in the ranks of the national Democratic Party with no repercussions, even though all seven incumbent Congressmen and Senator James O. Eastland had run on the Dixiecrat ballot with Thurmond and Governor Wright.
Civil Rights Movement and 1960-1963
In the fall of 1954, after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, Mississippi politicians in the state legislature reacted by approving and ratifying a constitutional amendment that would abolish the public school system. This provision, on the other hand, was never used. Soon, Mississippi became the focal point for civil rights media when in August 1955, Emmett Till was lynched in Tallahatchie County.
In 1957, Congress began to enact the first civil rights laws since the Reconstruction Era. By the time of the 1959 state elections, white democrats acted to put a stop to this and elected Ross Barnett as governor. As a Dixiecrat, or State's Right's Democrat, he was a staunch supporter of segregation laws. By the time of the 1960 presidential elections, he refused to support John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon. Barnett opted for the independent route, while many other Mississippi Democratic officials supported Kennedy's campaign, who won the election.
Mississippi became the focal point for other major Civil Rights activity. Jackson was a stop for the Freedom Riders, an integrated chain of buses on their way from Washington D.C. to New Orleans. When the buses made it to the Mississippi state line, police escorted them into Jackson where they were arrested and jailed.
At this time, James Meredith made his attempts to enroll into the University of Mississippi. Debates between President Kennedy and Governor Barnett took place over the span of 14 months in addition to litigation by the NAACP and use of the armed forces on campus were necessary before he was allowed to enroll. In the midst of the dispute, President Kennedy appeared on television to explain to the American public why Meredith must be allowed to enroll. This broadcast enraged students of the university, and riots broke out across the campus. The next day, Meredith was permitted to enroll in October 1962 and graduated in 1963.
Towards a modern Democratic Party
After the controversy of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964 (see section below), Democrats sought party representatives and officials that understood the need to compromise. They looked for a more moderate stance. This was tested during the election of 1968, the first in which African Americans were officially and legally enfranchised. When President Lyndon B. Johnson announced he would not be running for a second term, Mississippians took stock in the independent George Wallace. His campaign was an outlet for white southerners to express their anger and frustration with the civil rights movement. It was also at this time that the Democratic Party went through drastic changes, when the national convention made the decision to award 1968 convention seats to the new "Loyalist" Democratic Party instead of the "regulars." The Loyalist Democratic party became official in June 1968 and encompasses the concerns such groups such as the NAACP, Young Democrats and the MFDP. This was the first time in history when an entire delegation had been denied and replaced.
In 1972, Governor Bill Waller attempted to unify the "regulars" and the "loyalists," without success. That year, Mississippi sent two delegations to the national convention, but the convention committee once again supported the loyalists. Efforts continued to reunite these two factions before the election of 1976.
After the election of 1976, it was clear that the democrats were losing speed. It became difficult to merge and force cooperation between the regulars and the loyalists. After President Jimmy Carter lost the presidency to Ronald Reagan in 1980, the state began to think conservatively. This was a trend across the south.
There was a call in 1988 to re-write Mississippi's constitution. Many congressmen believed this to be necessary because the previous constitution, which was written in 1890, had experienced many changes in recent years. This included changes made during the civil rights movement. The call for a rewritten constitution was crushed in May 1988 when 74 representatives in the House voted against the proposal, 15 who were black members.
In 1991, the governorship was taken away from Democrats when Republican Kirk Fordice won the election. Republicans consolidated this power between 1994 and 1996. At the end of the 1996 general election, Republicans held three of the five congressional seats in addition to both U.S. senators, as well as a gain in the state legislature. Democrats had lost significant power at both the state and national level.
Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party
Established in April 1964, thee Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) aimed to challenge discrimination based on race in the electoral process. It consisted of mainly disenfranchised African-Americans, although its membership was open to all Mississippians. The party was formed out of collaborative efforts from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).
There they challenged the right of the Mississippi Democratic Party's delegation to participate in the convention, claiming that the regulars had been illegally elected in a completely segregated process that violated both party regulations and federal law, and that furthermore the regulars had no intention of supporting Lyndon B. Johnson, the party's incumbent president, in the November election. They therefore asked that the MFDP delegates be seated rather than the segregationist regulars.
The Democratic Party referred the challenge to the Convention Credentials Committee, which televised its proceedings, which allowed the nation to see and hear the testimony of the MFDP delegates, particularly the testimony of Fannie Lou Hamer, whose evocative portrayal of her hard brutalized life as a sharecropper on the plantation owned by Jamie Whitten, a long time Mississippi congressman and chairman of the House Agricultural Committee, drew public attention.
Some of the all-white delegations from other southern states threatened to leave the convention and bolt the party as in 1948 if the regular Mississippi delegation was unseated, and Johnson feared losing Southern support in the coming campaign against Republican Party candidate Barry Goldwater. With the help of Vice President Hubert Humphrey (chief sponsor of the 1948 civil rights resolution which sparked the 1948 Dixiecrat walk-out) and Party leader Walter Mondale, Johnson engineered a "compromise" in which the national Democratic Party offered the MFDP two at-large seats which allowed them to watch the floor proceedings but not take part. The MFDP refused this "compromise" which permitted the undemocratic, white-only, regulars to keep their seats and denied votes to the MFDP. Denied official recognition, the MFDP kept up their agitation within the Convention. When all but three of the "regular" Mississippi delegates left because they refused to support Johnson against Goldwater, the MFDP delegates borrowed passes from sympathetic northern delegates and took the seats vacated by the Mississippi delegates, only to be removed by the national Party; when they returned the next day, convention organizers had removed the empty seats that had been there yesterday.
Though the MFDP failed to unseat the regulars at the convention, and many activists felt betrayed by Johnson, Humphrey, and the liberal establishment, they did succeed in dramatizing the violence and injustice by which the white power structure governed Mississippi, maintained control of the Democratic Party of Mississippi, and disenfranchised black citizens. The MFDP and its convention challenge eventually helped pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The MFDP continued as an alternate for several years, and many of the people associated with it continued to press for civil rights in Mississippi. After passage of the Act, the number of registered black voters in Mississippi grew dramatically. The regular party gradually stopped discriminating against blacks and agreed to conform to the Democratic Party rules guaranteeing fair participation. Eventually, the MFDP merged into the regular party and many MFDP activists became Party leaders and in some cases officeholders.
A new state executive committee was elected in 2008 at the four Congressional District Conventions and the State Democratic Convention. A new set of party officers was later elected at the first meeting of this Executive Committee.
Members of the State Executive Committee include:
- Eric Powell of Madison - Vice Chairwoman
- Velena Greer of Jackson - Executive Vice Chairman
- - Secretary
- Ryan Brown of Rankin County - Treasurer
- - Parliamentarian
Other members of the State Executive Committee can be found on the Mississippi Democratic Party website.
Past Party chairpersons have included former State representative Jamie Franks of Mooreville, former Congressman Wayne Dowdy of McComb, Jon Levingston of Clarksdale and State senator Johnnie Walls of Greenwood.
- Rickey Lynn Cole - executive director
- Thelma Kumar - compliance director
- Jacqueline Amos-Norris - field director
- Vernon Hartley, information director
- Will Godfrey, finance director
Past executive directors have included Travis Brock, Sam R. Hall, Rosalind Rawls, Keelan Sanders, Amy Harris, Morgan Shands, and Alice Skelton.
Mississippi has two representatives to the Democratic National Committee:
- Keelan Sanders of Jackson
- Johnnie Patton of Jackson
These positions, unlike the officers, are elected every four years at the State Democratic Convention.
Current Democratic officeholders
The Mississippi Democratic Party holds one of the eight statewide offices and holds a majority in the Mississippi House of Representatives. Democrats also hold one of the state's four U.S. House seats.
Member of Congress
U.S. House of Representatives
State legislative office
- Democrats currently hold 58 seats and held 67 before the 2011 elections in the Mississippi House of Representatives and captured 21 seats during the 2011 elections for the Mississippi Senate.
Changing face of the Mississippi Democrats
With the February 2009 defection of Billy Nicholson, the majority of the Democratic Party members of the Mississippi House of Representatives, for the first time in Mississippi history, are African-Americans.
Defection seems to be an ongoing trend in Mississippi politics. Many of these are switches from the Democratic party to the Republican party. Since 2000, thirteen known officeholders have left the Democratic Party, four of which occurred in 2011.
The party has several auxiliary organizations, including the Mississippi Federation of Democratic Women and the Young Democrats of Mississippi. The president of the Mississippi Federation of Democratic Women is Mary Katherine Brown of Warren County, and the president of the Young Democrats of Mississippi is Kate Jacobson of Jackson.
The state's older citizens are being organized to form the Senior Democrats of Mississippi.
Yellow Dog Democrats
The term "Yellow Dog Democrat" refers to someone (typically in the South) who is staunchly loyal to the Democratic party. They will almost always vote Democrat, no matter the candidate. The term was coined by Senator J. Thomas Heflin, who said "I'd vote for a yellow dog if he ran on the Democratic ticket!"  The Mississippi Democratic Party is partly supported by the "Yellow Dog Democrats," who contribute to the party on a yearly or monthly basis.
Young Democrats of Mississippi
This auxiliary group was organized on August 14, 1965 when a group of whites who supported the Civil Rights Movement joined with black leaders.
- Nash and Taggart, Jere and Andy (2006). Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, 1976-2006. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. pp. 11–12.
- Nash and Taggart, Jere and Andy (2006). Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, 1976-2006. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. p. 13.
- 1948 Mississippi "Official Democratic" (i.e., Dixiecrat) sample ballot issued by the Mississippi State Democratic Party; illustration in: Morgan, Chester. "Presidential Elections: Mississippi’s Voting History" Mississippi History Now Mississippi Historical Society; updated January 2009
- Nash and Taggart, Jere and Andy (2006). Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, 1976-2006. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. p. 16.
- Nash and Taggart, Jere and Andy (2006). Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, 1976-2006. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. p. 19.
- Nash and Taggart, Jere and Andy (2006). Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, 1976-2006. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. pp. 20–21.
- Nash and Taggart, Jere and Andy (2006). Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, 1976-2006. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. pp. 27–32.
- Nash and Taggart, Jere and Andy (2006). Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, 1976-2006. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. p. 116.
- Nash and Taggart, Jere and Andy (2006). Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, 1976-2006. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. p. 209.
- Nash and Taggart, Jere and Andy (2006). Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, 1976-2006. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. p. 247.
- "Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP)". University of Southern Mississippi. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
- Zietz, Joshua (July 2004). "Democratic Debacle.". American Heritage 55 (3). Retrieved 7 November 2011.
- The Mississippi Movement & the MFDP ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
- "Party Officers". Mississippi Democratic Party. Retrieved 9 December 2011.
- MBJ Staff. "Dema appoint Cole". Mississippi Business Journal. Retrieved 9 December 2011.
- "Legislative Democrats". Retrieved 7 November 2011.
- "History of the Yellow Dog Democrat". Retrieved 10 December 2011.
- Nash and Taggart, Jere and Andy (2006). Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, 1976-2006. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. p. 28.