AJC has an interesting review of a forthcoming book by Sen. Zell Miller entitled A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat, wherein Miller critiques his nominal party and explains why he often votes with the Republicans.

In the sometimes piercing language that he is known for, Miller explains his views on how the Democratic Party is not representing Americans as it once did.

“Once upon a time, the most successful Democratic leader of them all, FDR, looked south and said, ‘I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill clad, ill nourished,'” Miller writes in the 255-page book. “Today our National Democratic leaders look south and say, ‘I see one third of a nation and it can go to hell.’ “


Honestly, that explanation strikes me as rather over-the-top. Saying that the Democrats ignore the South is like saying the Republicans ignore African Americans: there’s a kernel of truth but it oversimplifies things. In terms of national politics, it’s true that the GOP has become the majority party in most states in the South–although several states are always “in play” in presidential elections. If one looks at Electoral College results over time, this becomes apparent.

  • 2000: A sweep for the GOP, although the results were fairly narrow in Arkansas and Tennessee, the homes of Clinton and Gore. Not to mention Florida. [Not really southern. -ed. Well, parts are.]
  • 1996: The Democrats won Arkansas (Clinton’s home), Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee (Gore’s home), and West Virginia [But they were Union. -ed. They’re southern now, though.]
  • 1992: The Democrats won Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

    The Democratic party platform hasn’t changed much in the last 20 years or so. Indeed, if anything, they’re a more conservative party than they were in the days of Mondale, Dukakis, and the like. Zell Miller is a rather unusual southern politician who had been a Democrat for a long time and didn’t change his label once the parties realigned.

    At the congressional level, it is certainly true that the Democrats are more liberal–and thus, less friendly toward southern social conservatives–than they were twenty years ago. But that’s simply a function of the fact that most conservative southern Democrats became Republicans. It’s not surprising that politicians from the Northeast and Midwest aren’t pushing policies that sit well in the South; that’s federalism and self-interest, though, not party politics.

    (Hat tip: Kevin McGehee)

    Update (952): As Steven Taylor noted yesterday, it’s almost certain that Miller’s replacement will be a Republican, since the Democrats are having a devil of a time coming up with a candidate. But, for all practical purposes, Miller was a Republican anyway–except for his crucial vote for Tom Daschle in organizing the Senate.

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    James Joyner
    About James Joyner
    James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


    1. kdeweb says:

      that is exactly why when the dems nominate dean for prez, that george w. bush doesn’t even have to think about ordering any moving boxes for another 4 years. you can’t win the presidency without winning in the south because you can’t win the electoral college!

    2. whatever says:

      My view of the dems is that is dominated by the “bicoastals”. The rest of the U.S. is put down as “fly over country” and values there – whether is it patriotism, belief in God, etc. are put down and ridiculed. This from the party that promotes itself as one for the “masses”.

    3. Steven says:

      But the real question is, what does Zell’s staff have to say about the whole thing?

    4. It’s a great quote.

      However, one could shift perspective and say that the GOP looks at big cities and says, they can go to hell (esp. LA, SF, NY).

      It’s sort of a question of where you stand.

      The Democrats have certainly evolved. Remember JFK and the rising tide that would lift all boats . . .?

    5. As a long-time southerner, I think this is also a direct fall-out of the Civil Rights Act. LBJ said that signing the act would put Republicans in the White House for generations. Add to that the left turn the Democratic party took in ’72, the Nixon “Southern Strategy” that openly appealed to former segregationists and you have the seeds of a solid GOP south. Mix in Christian fundamentalists, the rising economic tide of the New South, and right-to-work laws and you have a south that, year after year, is the GOP’s to lose. That’s one reason we rarely see any presidential candidates stump in NC. The Republicans feel its a lock and the Democrats know it’s a waste of time.