The reality of realignment in the post World War II South
Thielemann, Gregory Scott
Alford, John R.
Doctor of Philosophy thesis
In recent years, much has been written about the political change that is sweeping the South. This is unusual in that the history of the region is one of stability rather than change. Investigations into the political shifts have tended to center around shifts in partisan electoral preferences. In some cases, scholars even suggest that the South is undergoing a process of partisan realignment. This thesis dissents from that opinion. The historical/cultural explanations of Southern politics describe a society and political structure that was, and is dominated by the individual. Given the history of this one-party region, the competition which emerged was one of factionalism dominated by individuals. Even recent Republican gains reflect the power of individuals in Southern elections. The thesis explores change at three levels. Initially, it analyzes change in partisanship. While the data indicate that survey respondents are less likely to claim loyalty to the Democrats, their actual voting patterns do not show any commitment to the G.O.P. This factor leaves partisan identification suspect as a predictor of change. The thesis follows with an analysis of inter-party competition by looking at the effects of incumbency and presidential coattails, and intra-party competition where Democrats have a long history of primary competition that Republicans do not share. The final portion of the thesis links these electoral shifts to institutions by looking at the effects of change on conservative coalition support. In this regard the region's conservatism is shown to be bi-partisan. The conclusion that can be drawn from this analysis is that political change is overstated in the South and not linked to the theory of partisan realignment.
Political science; Modern history