In few places are the current woes of Democrats in the South in such clear relief as they are in Mississippi. It is here that a possibility long considered may soon become a reality, as Democrats ponder the prospect of becoming, definitively, the minority party — in both senses of the word.
At a glance, Democrats may seem to be in better shape here than they are in neighboring states. Republicans won a supermajority in the Alabama Legislature in the 2010 elections and took over the Louisiana Legislature a month later as a result of several party switches, while Mississippi Democrats still control the State House of Representatives. Unlike in Louisiana, Democrats in Mississippi have actually managed to field candidates for a few statewide offices in this year’s elections, and hold the office of attorney general.
But the tale told by demographics is a stark one. Mississippi has, proportionally, the largest black population of any state, at 37 percent. Given the dependably Democratic voting record of African-Americans here, strategists in each party concede that Democrats start out any statewide race with nearly 40 percent of the vote.
That is a remarkable head start. And yet Brad Morris, a Democratic strategist, is being optimistic when saying this: “We’ve hit rock bottom.”
Simply put, the votes Democrats count on automatically may be the only ones they can get.
Mr. Morris argues that the decades-old partisan realignment of the South has gone as far as it can go and that it will soon rebound.
Indeed, it is hard to imagine that Democratic support among whites could get any lower when, according to 2008 exit polls, only 6 percent of white males in Mississippi described themselves as Democrats.
But Republicans are not ready to concede an endpoint.
“There has been a significant political shift to the right,” Frank Corder, a Pascagoula city councilman and conservative blogger, wrote in an e-mail, “and as the access to new media grows in the rural areas, political party identifications will change and we will see even more traditional Democratic strongholds turn red.”
There are still such things as white Democratic strongholds in the South, believe it or not. They are run by the often long-serving sheriffs, circuit clerks and other county officials who have remained Democrats out of habit, family tradition, allegiance to the party behind the New Deal or a strategic aim to attract black voters.
- The “redneck-blackneck” politics of the Deep South (salon.com)
- Mississippi GOP Aims for a Sweep (online.wsj.com)