Democrats, Biden look to accelerate Southern political shift

Democrats, Biden look to accelerate Southern political shift

Democrats and it presidential candidate, Joe Biden is set to accelerate the new political shift as bipartisan push across the South is chipping away at reminders of the Civil War and Jim Crow segregation, ranging from Mississippi retiring its state flag to local governments removing Confederate statues from public spaces. Vestiges of the Civil War and Jim Crow segregation are coming down across the Old Confederacy as part of a national reckoning on race supremacy. A diversifying Democratic Party hopes the changes in symbols are part of a more fundamental shift in a region that dominated by Republicans for a generation.

Southern Democrats are pairing a demographically diverse slate of candidates for state and congressional offices with presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden, a 77-year-old former Vice president from Pennsylvania, they believe can appeal to what remains perhaps the nation’s most culturally conservative region. During a national reckoning on racism, Democratic Party leaders want the symbolic changes to become part of a fundamental shift at the ballot box. Many Southern voters are getting younger, less white and more urban, and thus less likely to embrace President Donald Trump’s racial identity politics. 

A Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol honor guard folds the retired Mississippi state flag after it was raised over the Capitol grounds one final time in Jackson, Miss., on July 1, 2020.

Decades of economic development have coaxed new residents to the area. That including people from other parts of the country, African Amerian families returning generations after the Great Migration north during the lynching and segregation era, and a growing Latino population. 

The November elections will determine the extent of the change, with competitive races in the South affecting the presidency, Senate control and the balance of power in statehouses from Raleigh, North Carolina, to Austin, Texas.

Democratic victories would redefine policy fights over expanding health insurance access and overhauling criminal justice procedures, among other matters. The general election is also critical because voters will elect the state lawmakers who will draw legislative and congressional boundaries after the 2020 census.

Republicans, for the most part, aren’t as quick as Democrats to frame 2020 as a redefining year. Still, they acknowledge obvious shifts that began with suburban growth in northern Virginia and extended southward down the coastline and westward to Texas.

North Carolina, Georgia, Texas are becoming real two-party states.

Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, talks eagerly of “an expanded map” that puts North Carolina and Florida in the same toss-up category as the Great Lakes states that sent Trump to the White House. Georgia and Texas, she adds, will be tighter than they’ve been in decades. GOP-run state House chambers in Georgia and Texas are up for grabs, as are Republican Senate seats in North Carolina, Georgia and perhaps Texas. Senate contests in South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi could be much closer than typical statewide races in those Deep South states.

True two-party states in the Old Confederacy at least beyond Florida and Virginia and occasionally North Carolina would be relatively newfound. For generations after post-Civil War Reconstruction, the “Solid South” was uniformly Democratic, white voters’ visceral rejection of President Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party. Beginning with the 1960s civil rights movement, most people drifted to Republicans. That trend peaked during Democrat Barack Obama’s two terms as the first African American president. More than party identity, the common controlling force was the cultural conservatism.

Voters align first on principles, then on policy, do you think the Democrats and Joe Biden can accelerate the southern political shift?

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