Particularly in the Deep South — the Alabama South — the region is solidly Republican, from local courthouses all the way to Washington. Regardless of ideology, candidates with a “D” alongside their names on the ballot automatically face a tough task on election day. Here, one-party politics is secure.
But Election Day winds are changing in the South, just as they did during Reconstruction, just as they did in the 1960s, and just as they did a few years ago when Republicans won control of more than a few historically Democratic Southern legislatures.
It’s not a new story, mind you. Changing national demographics and the 2008 election of President Barack Obama showed how far the United States had moved toward a diversified nation of whites, blacks and Latinos. Young voters proved they could make a difference. And Texas, with its 38 electoral votes and ever-growing population of immigrants, became journalists’ first choice when trying to illustrate how a state in the Republican South could become open to Democratic candidates, especially for all-important congressional offices.
This week, the American Prospect magazine kicked off a four-part series on what it calls “The End of the Solid South.” Again, that’s not a new journalistic concept. But the magazine does bring up several pertinent points, not the least of which is the premise that the next few election years — 2014, 2016, etc. — are mere stepping stones for the real years of political change.
It’s not a matter of if there will be change, but when.
“In the South’s new battlegrounds,” the magazine wrote, “2020 shapes up as a pivotal year. If Democrats have gathered enough strength by then to send majorities to Richmond, Raleigh, Atlanta, Tallahassee, and/or Austin, they can tear up the Republican maps from 2011 and make it dauntingly difficult for the GOP to regain its majorities.”
In some ways, states that have large immigrant voting blocs such as Texas and Florida aren’t wholly comparable to our political fortunes here in Alabama, where the Latino population isn’t large. But therein lies the two sides of the Republicans’ problem in keeping the South solidly theirs during national elections: without broader appeal to Latino voters, black voters and younger voters, the GOP faces a future in which Republican-strong states like Alabama are fewer in number and weaker in strength.
The American Prospect said that “the Solid South is dead.” That’s too harsh for 2013; the Republican Party’s grasp in the Deep South states, at least, is imposing. Even the magazine admits that “Republicans won’t give up easily,” nor should they.
Yet, we agree with American Prospect when it posits that the Solid South is changing, and that a return to two-party politics is on the way. Southern states “are building for a demographic future that Republicans dread: the time when overwhelming white support will no longer be enough to win a statewide election in Texas and Georgia.”
That overwhelming white support may continue to rule Election Day in Alabama, but much of the South is already glimpsing these soon-to-arrive changes.