Skip to comments.'Yellow-Dog' Democrats a Dwindling Breed (MSM newsflash: South is no longer solidly liberal)
Posted on 05/09/2006 6:59:04 PM PDT by DaveLoneRanger
GALIVANTS FERRY, S.C. - Many species are rare, even threatened, in the swampy marshes along the southeastern coast, and perhaps none is closer to extinction than the "yellow-dog" Democrat of the Old South.
For decades, straight-ticket, conservative white voters who displayed unyielding loyalty to the Democratic Party they said they'd vote for a yellow dog if the Democrats ran one transformed the South into a party stronghold.
The tide began to turn in the 1960s, when the Civil Rights Act alienated some lifelong conservative Democrats and Republican President Nixon courted yellow dogs with his "Southern Strategy." Since the presidential bid of Georgia's Jimmy Carter in 1976, no Democrat has carried the South and the region has become a Republican bastion.
"We are a vanishing breed," says Margaret Jackson, 67, of Manning, a rural area about 45 miles east of Columbia.
Some yellow-dog Democrats can still be found in the South, and they harbor hopes for the emergence of a next generation, looking at plunging approval ratings for President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress, even in the South.
An AP-Ipsos poll last week showed that Bush's job approval in the South had dropped to 35 percent, and those polled favor Democratic control of Congress over Republican by 50 percent to 37 percent.
Jackson, a second-generation yellow dog and former Clarendon County treasurer, says her late father "always said we were much better off under Democrats."
Since 1870, Democrats have gathered every other year at the Galivants Ferry Stump, a political rally held at a stop along the tourists' route to Myrtle Beach, to celebrate old-fashioned stump campaigning.
With banjo music in the background, politicians shake hands, slap backs, give speeches and dig into chicken bog a steamy mix of rice, sausage and chicken. Some springs it seems too hot to eat, but Democrats keep cool by rolling up their sleeves, slinging their seersucker jackets over a shoulder or downing gallons of sweet tea.
"I'd vote for a yellow dog before I'd vote for a Republican," says Wanda Todd, 61, of nearby Myrtle Beach. Like most of South Carolina, the glitzy Grand Strand now leans toward the GOP.
Todd says she has never voted for a Republican "I'm too Southern for that."
Emory University political scientist Merle Black says straight-ticket, conservative white voters haven't been a force in the Democratic Party for years. "That's long gone," he said.
Black cited 2004 exit polls that showed 18 percent of voters described themselves as white, conservative Democrats or as white, liberal independents. At best, he said, less than 5 percent of Democratic voters would fit the traditional yellow-dog profile.
In the South, Arkansas and West Virginia are the only states each with two Democrats in the Senate as Republicans control most of the seats. Louisiana and Florida each have one senator from the two parties.
Jo Etta Chewning, 55, of Florence, admits she voted for Nixon and that was the last time she cast a ballot for a Republican. "You see how that turned out," she says with a laugh.
The type of ballot-splitting that helped Nixon, Reagan and both Bushes in the South is what created the "yellow dog" moniker in 1928. At the time, a Democratic Alabama lawmaker decided to support Republican Herbert Hoover for president instead of his party's nominee, Al Smith. The rank-breaking brought a backlash from those who said they'd vote for an ol' yellow dog as long as it was a Democrat.
At the Galivants Ferry Stump, and other southern outposts, some Democrats have visions of a new breed.
In South Carolina, the party has started a Yellow Dog Club to raise badly needed money for 2006 elections. Yellow dog T-shirts and buttons were a hot item at a recent state Democratic convention.
The Yellow Dog Club is already popular in Mississippi. State Democratic Party executive director Keelan Sanders said members there are "black and white, male and female. It's not just limited to the stereotypical past definition of yellow-dog Democrats."
In Nashville, Judge John Brown conceded he voted for a Republican in a 1972 local race. While he doesn't describe himself as a conservative, he says he follows the family tradition of voting Democrat.
"My daddy made a mistake voting Republican one time in 1948" in Thomas Dewey's presidential bid against Democrat Harry Truman, said Brown, 64. "My mother sent him to his grave never letting him forget he made that mistake one time."
That election year was a turning point for many yellow dogs as South Carolina's Strom Thurmond bolted from the Democratic Party to run as a Dixiecrat opposing Truman's civil rights policies. Thurmond switched to the GOP in 1964 while in the Senate but continued to win elections, thanks to ballot-splitting Democrats.
He doesn't split his ballot, but Brown said sometimes he passes over candidates who aren't to his liking. "I don't vote for Democrats just because they're Democrats," he said.
Lachlan McIntosh, executive director of the South Carolina Democratic Party, says today's yellow-dog Democrats aren't the same as those reared in the segregated South.
"The Republican Party certainly isn't the party of Lincoln today, and the Democratic Party isn't the party of (late Alabama Gov.) George Wallace," McIntosh said.
Second, note how they say the breed may be dying, and then go on to show how big and common it is.
I'm of two minds about whether or not the species of yellow-dog democrat is dying. I've certainly spoken to my share of people who are yellow-dog, but wouldn't say it in as many words. I did meet one who was. Naturally, he was my political science instructor in college. I've never heard of people who proudly boast that they never think about who they vote for.
On the other hand, it's clear the south is no longer solidly Democrat, as evidenced by the past elections.
What do they call a voter -- like me -- who will NEVER again vote for any democrat, for any office, no matter who it is and no matter what office it is, as long as I live?
I did vote for clinton. I am finding it harder and harder to vote democrat anymore. Its not that the repubs have been stellar since the last election, but i live in the state with one of the most dangerousw senators. i voted for him in 2004 and I sent him a letter stating that i will never vote for him again(Feingold)
2 point bonus if you can guess the commonality between those yellow dogs and this one.....:)
I'm a "broken-glass voter" -- I'll crawl across broken glass to vote AGAINST ANY DemonKat ...
Rabid to the end.
The change started in 52. Lots of former southern soldiers voted for Ike. Once they saw they could do it and not be struck by lightening, things began to change.
The sad part is that you are what passes for a "conservative" these days on Freerepublic. Why are you even here?
We have a winner!.....;D
Dude! He's a convert! wtf?
Hmm, interesting. So, how's about this "horseless carriage" thing I've been hearing about? I don't think it'll ever go anywhere. Zing!
This is the saddest movie of all time.
I don't know what the criminals call you, but I'll call you a great friend and a freedom-loving, American patriot.
Incorrect headline! The South was once solidly Democraat but it was never Liberal.
The old sothern dems. were far to the right of present day repubs.The present day voters are FOOLS if they don't realise the new dems. are socialist.....
He voted for Clinton....twice! No way is he a Conservative.