Dixiecrat

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Dixiecrat was the informal term for Southern Democrats who in 1948 refused to support President Harry S. Truman for election to a full term because he was in their eyes too pro-civil rights. The official name was the States Rights Party. Dixiecrats formed a third party that nominated South Carolina Governor and later long-term United States Senator Strom Thurmond in addition to Mississippi governor Fielding L. Wright. The ticket carried four states in the Deep South where Thurmond was the official nominee of the Democratic Party. He received the thirty-nine electoral votes of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and his own South Carolina. His popular vote was 1.2 million (2.4 percent) of the national total.

The Dixiecrats did not nominate any other candidates at any level, and dissolved after Truman won the election over the Moderate Republican Thomas E. Dewey of New York. The Dixiecrats returned to the Democrats but came into increasingly more conflict with the pro-civil rights sections of the national party. In the 1952 presidential election, losing Democrat nominee Adlai Stevenson, an Illinois liberal, easily carried the Southern congressional districts which supported the Thurmond/Wright ticket in 1948.[1] By contrast, the districts which voted for Truman were more favorable towards Eisenhower.

Misapplication of the phrase

Both conservatives and leftists, when using the term "Dixiecrat" as an insult to hurl political swipes at one another, are prone to misusing the designation in assigning all past Southern Democrats with the label, even though only members and supporters of the States' Rights Democratic Party of 1948 were actual Dixiecrats. For instance, both right-wing pundit Dinesh D'Souza and left-wing revisionist "historian" Kevin M. Kruse have embarrassingly, in their inaccuracy, applied the phrase "Dixiecrat" generically to Southern Democrats.

In a Twitter debate, D'Souza challenged Kruse to name "200 or so racist Dixiecrats who switched parties and became Republicans." Kruse incorrectly and/or without evidence designated the following as Dixiecrats despite his prestigious status as a Princeton professor:

  • John Tower, the first elected Republican U.S. senator from Texas since Reconstruction—although Tower previously affiliated with the Democratic Party, he was only a teenager at the time of the SRP (States' Rights Party/Dixiecrat) revolt in 1948 and there is no evidence he supported it
  • William C. Cramer, the father of the modern Florida Republican Party—Cramer's switch from Democrat to Republican in 1949 was at the urging of his law partner Herman Goldner, a supporter of civil rights, and there is no evidence that he ever affiliated with the Dixiecrats, which would have been unlikely given his lack of racial animosity (though he later campaigned against busing in appeals to white swing votes) and openly courting Cuban support on anti-Communist grounds in building a statewide GOP coalition[2]
  • Edward Gurney, a Republican U.S. senator from Florida—although Gurney, a Maine transplant, appealed to the anti–civil rights sentiment within the state, there is no evidence that he joined the SRP revolt
  • Iris F. Blitch, a Georgia congresswoman who supported both feminism and segregation—there is no indicated evidence that she joined the SRP

References

  1. Shafer, Byron E.; Johnston, Richard. The End of Southern Exceptionalism: Class, Race, and Partisan Change in the Postwar South. Retrieved September 28, 2021.
  2. Francis-Fallon, Benjamin (September 24, 2019). The Rise of the Latino Vote: A History, p. 156. Google Books. Retrieved May 15, 2023.

Further reading

  • Frederickson, Kari. The Dixiecrat Revolt and the End of the Solid South, 1932-1968 (2001) 310 pgs. online edition
  • Karabell, Zachary. The Last Campaign: How Harry Truman Won the 1948 Election (2001) excerpt and text search
  • Pietrusza, David 1948: Harry Truman's Improbable Victory and the Year that Changed America, New York: Union Square Press, 2011.