The Transition: The Solid South Switches from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party

A Simple Brush- Off of a Complicated Topic

Butthurt, racist Southern whites turned from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in 1964 after Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 https://www.history.com/news/how-the-party-of-lincoln-won-over-the-once-democratic-south . When you research this topic online, it’s surprising how many sites actually say this, as though one issue could sway an entire section of the nation to a single- party fealty.

Andrew Jackson and the Democratic Party

In the beginning, Andrew Jackson ( 1767- 1845), a son of Irish Protestant immigrants, managed to secure an election to the presidency of the United States. His was a populist position, so much so that he was called the ” People’s President.” In fact, his ally in New York, Martin Van Buren, concocted the Democratic Party, which easily won Jackson the election in 1828. ousting John Quincy Adams from the office https://www.history.com/topics/us-politics/democratic-party , https://www.biography.com/us-president/andrew-jackson .

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The Democratic Party under Andrew Jackson gained the reputation of being the ” Party of the Common Man.” It emphasized self- reliance, preferment of the common worker over the aristocrat, the interests of the White American majority, states’ rights and national expansion https://thejacksonianera.weebly.com/concepts-and-ideas.html .

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How These Positions Benefited the South

Florida came under the flag of the United States of America due to Andrew Jackson’s efforts and the American Indians were relocated from vast swaths of Southern states to make room for European- American settlement https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-u-s-acquires-spanish-florida , https://www.britannica.com/topic/Indian-Removal-Act .

The Democratic championing of States’ Rights held great appeal to the people in the South as did its support of the regular workers as opposed to the Northern Elite, which had until Jackson’s ascension dominated the political scene in the United States. Also, with the labors of President Polk, Southern interests expanded as the nation did, further solidifying the Democratic vote among the people of the American South https://historyplex.com/jacksonian-democracy-characteristics-significance.

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The Solid South ( 1877- 1964)

Loyalty to the Democratic Party solidified still further after the devastation wrought upon the Southland as a result of the Civil War and Reconstruction which were largely due to the policies of the nascent Republican Party under Abraham Lincoln and then Ulysses S. Grant https://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/history/north-america/us/republican-party/the-civil-war-and-reconstruction-years#:~:text=Republican%20party%3A%20The%20Civil%20War%20and%20Reconstruction%20Years,better-known%20leaders%20to%20nominate%20Abraham%20Lincoln%20in%201860.

https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/reconstruction

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Republican Hatred of the South

The Republicans alienated the Democratic majority in the South with their demands of Southern subservience to Northern interests and the Southerners saw the Republican efforts to ” reconstruct” Southern society as an unwarranted and unwelcome intrusion into their traditional way of life. Radical Republicans wanted harsh penalties enacted against the former Confederacy as a whole as a consequence of their rebellion against the Federal Government. Their efforts managed to hold the South back in terms of economic and social development for decades http://factmyth.com/the-moderate-conservative-and-radical-republicans-of-reconstruction/.

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Slow yet certain transition from the Democrats to the Republicans

Noticing that the Democrats were moving to the left of center and championing issues that divided Southerners, beginning around 1948, Strom Thurmond organized a group known historically as the Dixiecrats and in 1964 he went over to the Republican Party, which then seemed to be more in line with conservative, Southern values https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/southern-strategy.

Eisenhower and the Southern Switch- Over

Dwight D. Eisenhower was an American general who was a war- hero in World War II. As President, he pursued a strategy by which the GOP would court younger Southerners for support, as the elder Southerners still clung to the Democratic Party, despite it’s radical departure from those policies that won Southern support in the first place https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/04/30/southern_whites_shift_to_the_gop_predates_the_60s_118172.html.

As younger Southerners converted to the Republican Party and former pro- Republican Black Southerners switched to the Democratic Party, the G.O.P. pursued a policy of conservatism that appealed to traditionally- minded Southerners, who felt threatened by the integrationist attitudes and secular attitudes that had begun to prevail in the former Party of Andrew Jackson https://areomagazine.com/2019/04/03/the-party-switch-myth/, https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-the-gop-went-south.

Republican Party Dominates the South

As the Democratic Party became more progressive and the Republican Party became more conservative, most of the South gradually aligned with the Republican Party. From the days of the Thirteen Colonies ( 1607- 1775), the South has been the most conservative part of the country and as the political parties took their respective courses, the South hitched her wagon to the more conservative one https://www.livescience.com/34241-democratic-republican-parties-switch-platforms.html.

Economic considerations were also behind the gradual Southern conversion to the Republican Party. As businesses started to head South and the region began to recover from the devastation of the Civil War and Reconstruction, Southerners began to embrace the Republican position on small businesses and limited government interference therein https://ascienceenthusiast.com/democrats-republicans-party-switch/.

Conclusion

Times change and people change right along with them. The Southerners who were Democrats nearly a century ago and are Republicans today simply followed the parties that most clearly represented their interests at that particular time. The South has always been conservative and kind of an independent minded people, springing from English, Scottish, Scots- Irish, Irish, French and Spanish settlers who wouldn’t tolerate royal policies at home and struck out to begin and conserve their own way of life.

Colonists yesterday are Americans today and yet they are still tied to the land and culture their people developed over a span of four hundred years. When the Democrats, founded by a Tennessean whose parents migrated to these shores from Ireland, first started out, they spoke to the farmers and merchants they were purported to represent. The South embraced their policies and programs until the Democrats decided to veer Left. Now, the sons and daughters of the South are overwhelmingly Republican. They support the party that represents them. I reckon that’s just human nature.