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Analysis: South’s changing demography erodes attachment to the Lost Cause

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern-states-lgThe newfound drive to retire the Confederate battle flag from the public arena may have been fueled by the visceral emotional reaction to the racist massacre at a church in Charleston, the Confederacy’s very birthplace. But the seeming ease with which Confederate artifacts are being swept away across the South can also be explained by another factor — shifts in the region’s demography that are eroding the regional insularity underpinning romantic attachment to the Lost Cause.

CFP Facebook MugshotIn the last 30 years, there has been a sea change in the Southern electorate. The percentage of white people born in the South — the people most inclined to want to retain vestiges of their Confederate past — is shrinking, while the percentages of African-Americans and whites born outside the region are expanding.

So even though the South may be as politically conservative as it has ever been, the constituency for public maintenance of Confederate heritage is becoming less potent, which is giving Southern politicos more freedom to maneuver across these contentious waters.

For example, in 1960 — around the time that many Southern state governments began embracing Confederate symbols in a show of defiance against the Civil Rights movement — more than 90 percent of the population of eight of the 11 former Confederate states was Southern born, according to U.S. Census figures.

The only exceptions were Florida, Virginia and Texas, but even in the most Yankee-fied of those states — Florida — 60 percent of the population was still born in the South.

1960 was also at the tail end of the Great Migration, in which 6 million African-Americans left the South for cities in the North and West, which dramatically reduced the black populations across the region In 1900, 90 percent of African-Americans lived in the South; by 1970, that figure had fallen to just 53 percent.

Fast forward to 2010. Only two former Confederate states — Louisiana and Mississippi — still had 90 percent of their populations born inside the region. Alabama was at 86 percent. But across the rest of the South, more than 20 percent of the state populations weren’t born in the South. In Florida, only 45 percent of the population was Southern born.

And those figures don’t take into account two salient factors: First, African-Americans born in the South, who would not support display of Confederate symbols, are included. And second, people born in the South whose parents weren’t born in the South are also included — another group not likely to salute the Confederate battle flag.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a conservative Republican who has been leading the charge to remove the Confederate battle flag from the statehouse in Columbia, is a case in point. She was born in South Carolina — but to Sikh parents from India with no ancestral attachment to the Confederacy.

And even in Mississippi, the only Southern state that still incorporates the Confederate battle emblem into its state flag, 9 percent of the population in 2010 was born outside the South and 37 percent was African-American — a potentially formidable coalition against public Confederate nostalgia.

In South Carolina, the non-Southern population is 25 percent, and the black population is 28 percent. Although those two groups overlap, those numbers indicate that the section of the electorate that has no attachment to Confederate heritage may be approaching a majority in the place where the Confederacy began.

At the same time as the non-Southern born population in the South was rising, so too was the African-American population. As segregation faded away and the South’s economy boomed, blacks began moving back to the region, in essence reversing the Great Migration.

For example, between 2000 and 2010, six of the seven U.S. metropolitan areas with the largest influx of African-Americans were in the South — Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Charlotte and Orlando. The seventh, Washington, D.C., is partially in Virginia.

Topping that list was Atlanta, which is why it is not that surprising that after the Charleston massacre, Georgia’s Republican governor, Nathan Deal, ordered a redesign of a Sons of Confederate Veterans’ specialty license plate festooned with the battle emblem.

That was a far cry from the fight over removing that same emblem from the Georgia state flag, a controversy that raged for more than 10 years and led to the introduction of three state flags in two years before the current design was adopted in 2003.

Whether public exhibition of Confederate symbols is a display of heritage or a display of hate is, of course, a debate that will probably continue as long as people watch “Gone With The Wind” and drink mint juleps. But if demography is any guide, public use of those symbols is headed into the quaint mists of Southern memory.

Southern Politics 2014: The Year In Review

2014 was a much better year for Republicans than for reality stars revamped as politicos

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern states smA congressman man caught kissing. Reality stars trying to remake themselves as politicians. A snowstorm that threatened to torpedo a sitting governor. A top U.S. House leader unceremoniously unseated in a primary. And a flap over a fan during a heated debate.

Those were just some of the strange and unlikely events in Southern politics in 2014, a year that ended with Republicans roaring through the region like Sherman in reverse. Here are some of the memorable moments:

Loose Lips Sink More Than Ships — Republican U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister, a married Christian conservative from northeast Louisiana, was caught on videotape passionately kissing a female staffer who was, ahem, not his wife. He refused to resign but decided not to run for re-election. Then, he changed his mind and ran again, with his wife’s vocal support. But his constituents were less forgiving than the missus, and he finished a distant fourth in the primary.

Snowmageddon — When a January snowstorm paralyzed metro Atlanta, Republican Governor Nathan Deal took the heat for a sluggish state response and his initial attempt to shift the blame elsewhere. But Democratic hopes that this snowy debacle might bury Deal had melted by November, when he was comfortably re-elected.

Taking Aim At Obamacare — Alabama Republican U.S. House candidate Will Brooke posted a YouTube video, entitled “Let’s Do Some Damage,” in which he fired bullets into a copy of the Obamacare bill. The gambit gained him a bit of attention, though, alas, not enough to win the primary in his Birmingham-area district.

Strange Bedfellows — Bill Clinton and Rudy Giuliani both waded into the Florida governor’s race this year, cutting ads for Democrat Charlie Crist and Republican Rick Scott, respectively. However, their shoes were on the other feet in 2006, when Crist was a Republican (before becoming an independent and then a Democrat.) Back then, it was Crist who enjoyed Giuliani’s support, while Clinton backed his Democratic opponent.

Overheated Debate — Speaking of the Florida governor’s race, a televised debate between Crist and Scott came to an abrupt halt when Crist insisted on putting a small fan at his feet under the podium, in apparent violation of the debate rules. Scott first refused to take the stage until the fan was removed, but he eventually relented — after seven awkward minutes of scrambling by the debate moderators. In the end, Scott won a narrow victory.

Real Mean Politics — Three reality TV stars — American Idol Clay Aiken, former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards and former South Carolina Treasurer Thomas Ravenel — all vied for political office this year. But political reality proved harsh, as all three lost badly. However, Aiken is turning his unsuccessful U.S. House campaign in North Carolina into — wait for it — a new reality show.

Biggest Upset — In an outcome that shocked the political world, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia lost his Richmond-area seat to Dave Brat, a little known college professor who ran at Cantor as a Tea Party insurgent. Weep not for Cantor, though. He bounced back with a job on Wall Street.

Worst Campaign — Texas State Senator Wendy Davis tried to parlay her filibuster against a bill restricting abortions in the Lone Star State into the governor’s mansion. But a series of gaffes — including questions about the veracity of her rags-to-riches story as a single trailer-park mom made good — sunk her chances, and she lost by a staggering 20 points.

Weirdest Campaign Appearance — Matt Bevin, who was challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in a GOP primary in Kentucky, appeared at a rally hosted by a group that supports legalizing cockfighting. While insisting he didn’t condone cockfighting, Bevin didn’t help himself when he told a radio reporter that the Founder Fathers were “very actively involved” in the blood sport. Perhaps not surprisingly, McConnell won rather handily.

Best Don Quixote Impression — Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel — peeved that he was defeated in a GOP U.S. Senate runoff by crossover votes from Democrats and independents — launched a three-month court fight to overturn the result. Alas, his windmill tilting came to naught, and U.S. Senator Thad Cochran kept the seat.

Best Houdini Impression — Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee faced voters for the first time since lurid details emerged from his bitter 2001 divorce during which he admitted a string of extra-marital affairs and — perhaps even more damaging for an avowed right-to-life lawmaker — encouraging his first wife to have two abortions. However, GOP voters in his district proved surprisingly forgiving, handing DesJarlais a narrow primary victory. He went on to win re-election in November.

If You Can’t Override, Indict — Texas Governor Rick Perry was indicted on charges of abuse of power and coercion over his veto of a funding bill for an Austin prosecutor who refused his demand that she resign after being arrested for driving with a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit. A defiant Perry vowed to fight the charges, noting that in America, “we settle our political differences at the ballot box,” rather than in criminal court.

Double Dipper — Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul announced he would run for re-election in 2016, even as he is also considering a White House bid. One pesky little problem, though: Kentucky law doesn’t allow somebody to be on the ballot for two offices at once. Paul’s supporters are trying to find a way to work around that technicality.

Democrat Dam Breaks in Upper South — While the general election was grim for Democrats across the South, the news was especially depressing in Arkansas and West Virginia, which had been places where the party of Jackson was still competitive. In Arkansas, Republicans took all seven statewide constitutional offices and every congressional seat for the first time since Reconstruction. In West Virginia, the GOP took all three U.S. House seats and captured control of the state legislature for the first time since 1931.

“D” Is The New Scarlet Letter — Three sitting Southern Democratic U.S. senators — Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana — all went down to defeat, paving the way for Republicans to take control of the Senate. Republicans also took away an open seat in West Virginia that they hadn’t won since 1942.

Republican governors survive in Florida and Georgia

The GOP also takes away an open Democratic governorship in Arkansas

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern states smELECTION CENTRAL (CFP) — The Republican firewall held at the gubernatorial level across the South in the November 4 midterm election, with the GOP keeping endangered seats in Florida and Georgia and taking away a Democrat-held seat in Arkansas.

Republicans will now hold 11 of the 14 governorships in Southern states.

Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist

Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist

In Florida, Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat Charlie Crist lost his bid to resurrect his political career in a battle with Republican Governor Rick Scott. Scott won narrowly in the Sunshine State, 48 percent to 47 percent

Meanwhile, up in Georgia, Republican Governor Nathan Deal easily fended off a challenge from State Senator Jason Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter. Deal took 53 percent, to 45 percent for Carter.

Former U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson

Former U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson

In Arkansas, where Democratic Governor Mike Beebe was term-limited, former GOP U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson – making his fourth try for statewide office – defeated former Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Ross by a margin of 56 percent to 42 percent.

In Texas, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott crushed Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis, who garnered national attention last year after filibustering a bill restricting abortion.

Abbott took 59 percent of the vote, to 29 percent for Davis. Republican candidates have now won the last six gubernatorial elections in the Lone Star State.

Elsewhere in the South, Republican incumbents won easy victories victories in Alabama, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Ten things to watch for in Tuesday’s election

U.S. Senate, U.S. House and governorships are on the ballot all across the South

By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

(CFP) — As voters go to the polls on Tuesday, here are 10 things to watch for in races across the South:

Wsouthern states smill There Be A Peach State Runoff? — Georgia has a unique election law providing for a general election runoff if neither candidate gets an outright majority — a distinct possibility in a close race with a third-party candidate. Polls show that both the U.S. Senate race between Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn and the governor’s race between incumbent GOP Governor Nathan Deal and Democratic State Senator Jason Carter could be razor close. If that happens, a runoff in the governor’s race would be December 9, but the Senate race would not be settled until January 6.

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

Is Battle For Senate Control Headed To The Bayou? — Regardless what happens in Georgia, the in Louisiana between incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and her GOP opponent, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, is certain to head to a runoff. If Republicans need the Louisiana seat to gain control of the Senate, the Pelican State could become the focus of the American political world until the December 6 runoff.

How Much Of A Drag Is Obama? — The president’s approval ratings are anemic across the South, and none of the major Democratic candidates have brought him into the region to campaign. Linking each and every Democrat to Obama (and Obamacare) has been part and parcel of just about every Republican campaign. Tuesday will determine whether Obama’s unpopularity was a millstone that drowned Democratic prospects.

Will Florida Voters Resurrect Crist?Charlie Crist’s political career looked to be all but over after a disastrous run for the U.S. Senate four years ago. But now he’s back — this time as a Democrat — and, if the polls are to be believed, within striking distance of the governor’s mansion once again. If Crist pulls it off, it will be a remarkable feat of political redemption.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

How Big Will Abbott Win? — There’s no question that Republican Greg Abbott will win the governor’s race in Texas over Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis, who ran a remarkably inept campaign. The only question is how badly Davis goes down. Democrats talked a good game earlier this year about turning Texas blue. Tuesday’s results could show how distant that dream really is.

Fallin And Haley On National Stage? — Both Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley are cruising to easy re-election wins, which could catapult them into the national conversation for 2016. Historically, being a governor has been the best way to become president, and perhaps one reason we haven’t had a female president is that no female governor has ever sought the White House. Tuesday’s results could start those kinds of conversations in Columbia and Oklahoma City.

Are Nunn And Graham Their Father’s Political Daughters? — Both Nunn, running for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, and Gwen Graham, who is seeking a U.S. House seat in Florida, are scions of prominent Democratic political families making their political debuts. Both have run strong campaigns in areas that lean Republican. So Tuesday could be a night of political deja vu.

How Many Southern Senate Seats Can Democrats Keep? — Right now, the Democrats have only eight out of 28 seats. They seem certain to lose one of those, in West Virginia, and three others — Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina — are in jeopardy. So the party of Jackson that once strode strong across the South could be reduced to having less than 15 percent of region’s Senate seats.

Has Georgia Turned Purple? — If Democrats pull off wins in the U.S. Senate and governor’s races in Georgia, they will no doubt crow about changing political winds in the Peach State. Tuesday’s results will show if Georgia, like Virginia before it, is becoming less reliably Republican, which would no doubt encourage Democrats to try to put the state into play in 2016.

Can Rahall Survive in West Virginia? — When Democratic U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall was first elected to Congress, bellbottoms were still the rage. But after 38 years in Washington, he is fighting for his political life in a state where opposition to the Obama administration’s environmental policies is dragging down the Democratic brand. If Rahall goes, the state’s entire House delegation will be in GOP hands, a sea change in a state that a generation ago leaned Democratic.

Polls: Georgia’s races for U.S. Senate and governor appear headed for runoffs

None of the major candidates in either race is above the 50 percent threshold required for a win under the state’s unique election law

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

georgia mugATLANTA (CFP) — Races for U.S. Senator and governor in Georgia appear heading for December runoffs, thanks to close races, support for third-party Libertarians and the Peach State’s unique requirement of general election runoffs if no candidate wins a majority on election day.

A runoff could leave control of the Senate hanging in the balance until January 6 if Georgia’s race is needed to decide the balance of power.

Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn

Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn

Recent polling in the Senate race between Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue shows both candidates neck-and-neck within the margin of error but short of 50 percent.

The Libertarian candidate Amanda Swafford, a lawyer and former city councilwoman in Flowery Branch, is polling between 3 and 6 percent – enough to cause a runoff if the battle between Perdue and Nunn is close.

Likewise, in the race for governor, the Republican incumbent, Governor Nathan Deal, and his Democratic challenger, State Senator Jason Carter, are within the margin of error but below 50 percent, with Libertarian Andrew Hunt, an Atlanta technology executive, polling at about 5 percent.

Governor Nathan Deal

Governor Nathan Deal

Georgia is the only state in the union that has a general election runoff. The runoff for governor would be December 2, but the runoff for Senate would not happen until January 6.

Louisiana has a slightly different system in which candidates from all parties run in a primary in November, with a runoff set for December 6 if no candidate gets a majority.

The U.S. Senate race in Louisiana also appears to be heading for a runoff, with recent polls showing both incumbent U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and her GOP challenger, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, polling in the low to mid 40s.

In the Georgia Senate race, Nunn and Perdue, both political newcomers, are seeking the seat of retiring Republican U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss. Nunn is the daughter of former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, while Perdue is a cousin of former Governor Sonny Perdue.

In the governor’s race, Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, has run a surprisingly strong campaign against Deal, who is seeking a second term as the state’s chief executive after serving more than 17 years in Congress.

Deal’s prospects for re-election may have been harmed by the state’s sluggish response to a January snowstorm that paralyzed metro Atlanta.

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