Democratic South finally falls





For Democrats in the South, the most ominous part of a disastrous year may not be what happened on Election Day but what has happened in the weeks since.

After suffering a historic rout — in which nearly every white Deep South Democrat in the U.S. House was defeated and Republicans took over or gained seats in legislatures across the region — the party’s ranks in Dixie have thinned even further.

In Georgia, Louisiana and Alabama, Democratic state legislators have become Republicans, concluding that there is no future in the party that once dominated the so-called Solid South.

That the old Confederacy is shifting toward the GOP is, of course, nothing new. Southerners have been voting for Republican presidents, senators and governors for decades.

But what this year’s elections, and the subsequent party switching, have made unambiguously clear is that the last ramparts have fallen and political realignment has finally taken hold in one of the South’s last citadels of Democratic strength: the statehouses.

Protected by a potent mix of gerrymandering, pork, seniority and a friends-and-neighbors electorate, Democratic state representatives and senators managed to survive through the South’s GOP evolution — the Reagan years, the Republican landslide of 1994 and George W. Bush’s two terms. Yet scores of them retired or went down in defeat earlier this month. And at least 10 more across three states have changed parties since the elections, with rumors swirling through state capitols of more to come before legislative sessions commence in January. Facing the prospect of losing their seats through reapportionment — if not in the next election — others will surely choose flight over fight....

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