Fall of the south: Endangered southern Democrats flipping to GOP

Protected by a potent mix of gerrymandering, pork, seniority and a friends-and-neighbors electorate, Democratic state representatives and senators managed to survive through the South’s GOP evolution—the Reagan years, the Republican landslide of 1994 and George W. Bush’s two terms. Yet scores of them retired or went down in defeat earlier this month. And at least ten more across three states have changed parties since the election, with rumors swirling through state capitols of more to come before legislative sessions commence in January. Facing the prospect of losing their seats through reapportionment – if not in the next election – others will surely choose flight over fight…

“There’s little reason to be optimistic in my region,” said this former governor, who did not want to be quoted by name offering such a downcast assessment. “We can opportunistically pick up statewides every now and then, but building a sustainable party program isn’t in the cards. I suppose the President has bigger concerns now, but it’s not healthy for the Democrats to write off our region and not have any real strategy to be competitive.”

Part of the reason for this pessimism is that the Democrats who were defeated and those changing parties are overwhelmingly of the same type: rural white males who are more conservative than their national party.