|States' Rights Democratic Party (Dixiecrats)|
|Politics of the United States
The States' Rights Democratic Party (usually called the Dixiecrats) was a short-lived segregationist political party in the United States in 1948. It originated as a breakaway faction of the Democratic Party in 1948, determined to protect what they portrayed as the southern way of life beset by an oppressive federal government, and supporters assumed control of the state Democratic parties in part or in full in several Southern states. The States' Rights Democratic Party opposed racial integration and wanted to retain Jim Crow laws and white supremacy in the face of possible federal intervention. Members were called Dixiecrats. (The term Dixiecrat is a portmanteau of Dixie, referring to the Southern United States, and Democrat.)
The party did not run local or state candidates, and after the 1948 election its leaders generally returned to the Democratic Party. The Dixiecrats had little short-run impact on politics. However, they did have a long-term impact. The Dixiecrats began the weakening of the "Solid South" (the Democratic Party's total control of presidential elections in the South).
The term "Dixiecrat" is sometimes used by Northern Democrats to refer to conservative Southern Democrats from the 1940s to the 1990s, regardless of where they stood in 1948.
By the 1870s the South was heavily Democratic in national and presidential elections, apart from pockets of Republican strength. It was the "Solid South". The social system was based on Jim Crow, a combination of legal and informal segregation that made blacks second-class citizens with little or no political power anywhere in the South.
In the 1930s, the New Deal under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a realignment occurred. Much of the Democratic Party in the South shifted towards economic intervention. Civil rights for blacks was not on the New Deal agenda, as Southerners controlled the key positions of power in Congress. Jim Crow was indirectly challenged as two million blacks served in the military during World War II, receiving equal pay in segregated units, and equally entitled to veterans' benefits. The Republican Party, nominating Governor of New York Thomas E. Dewey in 1944 and 1948, supported civil rights legislation that the Southern Democrats in Congress almost unanimously opposed.
1948 presidential election
- See also main article, United States presidential election, 1948
When Roosevelt died, the new president Harry Truman established a highly visible President's Committee on Civil Rights and ordered an end to discrimination in the military in 1948. Additionally, the Democratic National Convention in 1948 adopted a plank proposed by Northern liberals led by Hubert Humphrey calling for civil rights; 35 southern delegates walked out. The move was on to remove Truman's name from the ballot in the South. This required a new party, which the Southern defectors chose to name the States' Rights Democratic Party, with its own nominee: Governor of South Carolina J. Strom Thurmond. The Dixiecrats held their convention at Municipal Auditorium in Birmingham, Alabama, where they nominated Thurmond for president and Fielding L. Wright, Governor of Mississippi, for vice president. In numbers greater than the 6,000 that attended the first, they held a boisterous second convention in Oklahoma City, on August 14, 1948, where they adopted their party platform which stated:
We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race; the constitutional right to choose one's associates; to accept private employment without governmental interference, and to earn one's living in any lawful way. We oppose the elimination of segregation, the repeal of miscegenation statutes, the control of private employment by Federal bureaucrats called for by the misnamed civil rights program. We favor home-rule, local self-government and a minimum interference with individual rights.
The platform went on to say:
We call upon all Democrats and upon all other loyal Americans who are opposed to totalitarianism at home and abroad to unite with us in ignominiously defeating Harry S. Truman, Thomas E. Dewey and every other candidate for public office who would establish a Police Nation in the United States of America.
The Dixiecrats did not expect to win the presidency outright; rather, they thought that if they could win enough Southern states then they would have a good chance of forcing the election into the House of Representatives, where they believed Southern bargaining power could determine the winner. To this end Dixiecrat leaders worked to have Thurmond-Wright declared the official Democratic ticket in Southern states. They succeeded in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. In other states, they were forced to run as a third-party ticket.
In Arkansas, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Sid McMath vigorously supported Truman in speeches across the state, much to the consternation of the sitting governor, Benjamin Travis Laney, an ardent Thurmond supporter. Laney later used McMath's pro-Truman stance against him in the 1950 gubernatorial election, but McMath won re-election handily.
Efforts by Dixiecrats to paint other Truman loyalists as turncoats generally failed, although the seeds of discontent were planted which in years to come took their toll on Southern moderates.
On election day 1948, the Thurmond-Wright ticket carried the previously solid Democratic states of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina, receiving 1,169,021 popular votes and 39 electoral votes. Progressive Party nominee Henry A. Wallace drew off a nearly equal number of popular votes (1,157,172) from the Democrats' left wing, although he did not carry any states. The splits in the Democratic Party in the 1948 election had been expected to produce a victory by GOP nominee Dewey, but Truman defeated Dewey in an upset victory.
The States' Rights Democratic Party dissolved after the 1948 election, as Truman, the Democratic National Committee, and the New Deal Southern Democrats acted to ensure that the Dixiecrat movement would not return in the 1952 presidential election. Some local diehards, such as Leander Perez of Louisiana, attempted to keep it in existence in their districts. Regardless of the power struggle within the Democratic Party concerning segregation policy, the South remained a strongly Democratic voting bloc for local, state, and federal Congressional elections, but not in presidential elections.
- List of political parties in the United States
- Politics of the Southern United States
- Boll weevil (politics)
- Southern Democrats
- Southern strategy
- Lemmon, Sarah McCulloh. "Ideology of the 'Dixiecrat Movement," Social Forces Vol. 30, No. 2 (Dec., 1951), pp. 162-171 in JSTOR
- John F. Bibby and Louis Sandy Maisel, Two parties--or more?: the American party system (1998) p 35
- Kari Frederickson, The Dixiecrat Revolt and the End of the Solid South, 1932-1968 (2001) p. 238.
- see Harry Kreisler, "Institutional Change in the U.S. Congress: Conversation with Nelson W. Polsby...2002"
- Perman (2009) part 4
- Feldman, Glenn (August 2009). "Southern Disillusionment with the Democratic Party: Cultural Conformity and 'the Great Melding' of Racial and Economic Conservatism in Alabama during World War II". Journal of American Studies 43 (2): 199–30. doi:10.1017/S0021875809990028.
- Topping, Simon (2004). "'Never Argue with the Gallup Poll': Thomas Dewey, Civil Rights and the Election of 1948". Journal of American Studies 38 (2): 179–98. doi:10.1017/S0021875804008400. JSTOR 27557513.
- Starr, J. Barton (1970). "Birmingham and the 'Dixiecrat' Convention of 1948". Alabama Historical Quarterly 32 (1-2): 23–50.
- Kari Frederickson, The Dixiecrat Revolt and the End of the Solid South, 1932-1968 (2001) p. 133- 147.
- "Platform of the States Rights Democratic Party, August 14, 1948". Political Party Platforms, Parties Receiving Electoral Votes: 1840-2004. The American Presidency Project. Retrieved January 1, 2012.
- Glen Jeansonne, Leander Perez: Boss of the Delta (Jackson, MS:University Press of Mississippi, 1977) pp. 185-189.
- Bass, Jack, and Marilyn W. Thompson. Strom: The Complicated Personal and Political Life of Strom Thurmond (2006)
- Black, Earl, and Merle Black. Politics and Society in the South (1989)
- Buchanan, Scott. "The Dixiecrat Rebellion: Long-Term Partisan Implications in the Deep South" (2005). Politics and Policy 33(4):754-769.
- Cohodas, Nadine. Strom Thurmond & the Politics of Southern Change (1995)
- Frederickson, Kari. The Dixiecrat Revolt and the End of the Solid South, 1932–1968 (2001) 311 pp. ISBN 0-8078-4910-3. the major scholarly study online edition
- Karabell, Zachary. The Last Campaign: How Harry Truman Won the 1948 Election (2001)
- Lemmon, Sarah McCulloh. "Ideology of the "Dixiecrat" Movement," Social Forces Vol. 30, No. 2 (Dec., 1951), pp. 162–171 in JSTOR
- Perman, Michael. Pursuit of Unity: A Political History of the American South (2009)