Kevin M. Kruse @KevinMKruse Historian. Author/editor of White Flight; The New Suburban History; Spaces of the Modern City; Fog of War; One Nation Under God; Fault Lines. Mar. 02, 2019 3 min read

In the 1952 campaign, the head of the Republican National Committee went down to Alabama to win over disaffected Dixiecrats.

"The Dixiecrat Party believes in states' rights," he said in a speech. "That's what the Republican Party believes in."

That passage comes from Kari Frederickson's The Dixiecrat Revolt and the End of the Solid South, a nice closely-drawn study of the coming of the 1948 Dixiecrat rebellion and its often overlooked aftermath.

See here: 

The bulk of the book is a close study of the States Rights Democratic Party campaign at the state level, and it does a fine job of demonstrating the ways in which the revolt showed the tensions within the Democratic ranks.

I detailed that in this thread:

But as she shows, the rebellion also proved how deep old partisan loyalties of white southern conservatives still ran.

For all their anger about the Democrats' new embrace of civil rights, southern leaders were wary about leaving the party they had long controlled.

It's important to remember that the *only* four states the Dixiecrat ticket won in 1948 were the only four states in which the Dixiecrats appeared on voters' ballot as the official candidates of the *Democratic Party* -- Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina.

After the rebellion failed, most came back to the Democratic Party.

They argued, as loyalist Sen. Lister Hill did in 1950, that the best way to fight the national Democrats' embrace of civil rights was to stay in the party and use their seniority to stop anything in Congress.

The Republicans hoped they could break some of the disaffected Dixiecrats away from the party in 1952, and the RNC chair's speech was part of that effort.

Dwight Eisenhower, who had southern sympathies, tried to help reach out to the South on the campaign trail too.

The Republican outreach succeeded in winning over some key allies in important states.

In Louisiana, for instance, one of the four states the Dixiecrats took in 1948, key leaders of the effort like Leander Perez and Sam Jones came out strong for Eisenhower.

In other states, the movement was more halting.

In Alabama, for instance, several Dixiecrat leaders came out for Ike and some even formally switched parties.

But many more remained in the party, which had nominated their own US Senator John Sparkman as the VP nominee.

Despite the outreach to Dixiecrats, old ties kept southern white conservatives in the Democratic Party for a while longer.

Nationally, Ike made some inroads in 1952 and 1956, but the real change would only come in the next decade. The switch in electoral maps is unmistakable.

Meanwhile, in terms of congressional representation, the old southern Democrats continued to make the case that Lister Hill did in 1950 -- that they could be counted on to use their seniority and resulting power in Congress to gum up the works and stall civil rights change,

But that began to change as the national GOP shifted its stance on civil rights, most visibly with the 1964 presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater, who voted against the Civil Rights Act and won over long-skeptical southern conservatives.

As I've noted previously, he first wave of Southern Republicans were virtually indistinguishable from the old Southern Democrats they displaced when it came to the vital issues of segregation and civil rights.

Seriously, take a minute and read all this:

It ultimately took a dozen years to sink in, but the pitch that RNC Chair Guy Gabrielson made in 1952 -- that the original Dixiecrats should move over to the Republican Party -- eventually did come true.

You can follow @KevinMKruse.


Tip: mention @threader_app on a Twitter thread with the keyword “compile” to get a link to it.

Enjoy Threader? Become member.