This paper analyses the dramatic reduction in the numbers of white southern Democrats in the US House of Representatives since 1992. After 30 years of gradual erosion as a political force on Capitol Hill, the decline in white southern Democratic numbers has markedly accelerated during the 1990s. Georgia's House delegation includes not a single white Democrat, and Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina had only one as of 1998. Moreover, in many of the southern US House districts that they continue to hold, white Democrats are clinging onto office by precarious electoral margins. The reduction in southern white Democratic members became noticeable in the 1992 elections and escalated in the 1994 national Republican landslide. The underlying movement continued in 1996 despite a national trend toward the Democrats in the House elections. In this paper, several hypotheses of this decline are tested: (1) redistricting and the creation of majority-minority districts following the 1990 census; (2) retirement of white Democratic incumbents; (3) increasing levels of campaign spending by Republican challengers; and (4) Republican realignment. We find that a combination of race-based redistricting and the overwhelming success of GOP candidates in open-seat elections combined with favorable partisan tides to produce the southern Republican majorities of 1994 and 1996. We conclude that this is the culmination of a process of secular realignment, and there are no indications that this reversal of fortune for the Democrats will change anytime soon.
- House of Representatives
- US South
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science