The Rise and Fall of the South Carolina Democratic Party

In my research on South Carolina’s 2010 gubernatorial election, I came upon a fascinating chart. The chart describes the number of Democrats and Republican in South Carolina’s State House of Representatives from the Civil War to the present day. The data offers a fascinating story of the Democratic Party in South Carolina, and the Deep South in general.

Here is the story:

Most individuals familiar with politics know the history of the Deep South: it seceded from the Union after President Abraham Lincoln was elected. In the resulting Civil War, it fought the hardest and suffered the most against Union forces.

Victorious Union forces were identified with the hated Republican Party, founded with the explicit goal of destroying the southern way of life by ending slavery.

Under military Union rule, the Republican Party flourished in South Carolina:


The Republican Party was the dominant political force during the Reconstruction era, as the graph above shows. During its reign in power, it enjoyed large majorities in the State House of Representatives. Its political base was the black vote, and it attempted to systemically ensure racial equality for blacks and whites. A number of blacks were elected to state and federal office; it’s probable that many of the Republicans in the State House of Representatives were black.

This enraged whites in South Carolina. When President Rutherford Hayes ended Reconstruction and withdrew federal troops, they quickly gained control of South Carolina politics. The black vote was systemically crushed, and along with it the Republican Party.

This is reflected in the graph above. In 1874 there were 91 Republicans in the State House of Representatives. By 1878 there were only three left.

This led to the next stage of South Carolina politics, the Solid South:


Unfortunately, Wikipedia does not have data after 1880 and before 1902. After 1902, however, Democrats enjoyed literally absolute control of the State House of Representatives. For more than half-a-century, not a single Republican in South Carolina was elected to the State House of Representatives. Democrats regularly won over 95% of the popular vote in presidential elections.

That’s a record on par with that of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union.

There are several reasons why this occurred. Democrats in South Carolina were strongest of all the Deep South states, because blacks were the majority of the population. Only Mississippi at the time also had a black-majority population.

This meant that in free and fair elections, blacks would actually have control of South Carolina politics. If a free and fair election took place in another Southern states, the Democratic Party would still probably have maintained power – since whites were a majority of the population. In fact, this is what happens in the South today, except that the roles of the two parties are switched.

This was not the case with South Carolina, and party elites were profoundly aware and afraid of this. Therefore the grip of the Democratic Party was tightest in South Carolina, of all the Solid South (South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union for the same reason). Other Solid South states had more than zero Republicans in the state legislature. Republican presidential candidates might gain 20-40% of the vote, rather than less than 5%.

In black-majority South Carolina, the Republican Party was a far greater potential threat – and so the Democratic Party was extraordinarily judicious in repressing it.

Racism was a useful tool for South Carolina Democrats, and they were very proud racists. Controversial South Carolina Governor and Senator Benjamin Tillman, for instance, once stated that:

I have three daughters, but, so help me God, I had rather find either one of them killed by a tiger or a bear and gather up her bones and bury them, conscious that she had died in the purity of her maidenhood by a black fiend. The wild beast would only obey the instinct of nature, and we would hunt him down and kill him just as soon as possible.

Another time he commented:

Great God, that this proud government, the richest, most powerful on the  globe, should have been brought to so low a pass that a London Jew  should have been appointed its receiver to have charge of the treasury.

This was the Democratic Party of South Carolina during the Solid South.

At the end of the graph, notice that there is a little dip, just after the year 1962. This was in 1964, when the first Republican in more than half-a-century was elected to the South Carolina State House of Representatives.

He was not the last:


The year 1964 marked the day that Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson pushed through the 1964 Civil Rights Act, against enormous Southern Democratic opposition.

It also marked the beginning of the end of the South Carolina Democratic Party. The Democratic Party underwent a monumental shift, from a party of white elites to a party representing black interests. In the process South Carolina whites steadily began abandoning it.

At first the decline was gradual, as the graph shows. In 1980 there were 110 Democrats in the State House of Representatives and 14 Republicans. Throughout the 80s the Democratic majority steadily declined, but in 1992 there were still 84 Democrats to 40 Republicans.

Then came 1994 and the Gingrich Revolution. The seemingly large Democratic majority collapsed like the house-of-cards it was, as South Carolina whites finally started voting for Republican statewide candidates, decades after they started doing so for Republican presidential candidates. Republicans have retained control of the state chamber ever since.

Since then the Democratic Party has declined further in the State House of Representatives. As of 2010 the number of Democratic representatives is at a 134-year low. And the floor may not have been reached. There are still probably some conservative whites who vote Democratic statewide, when their political philosophy has far more in common with the Republican Party.

Nevertheless, the modern era in South Carolina politics is still shorter than the Solid South era. Here is the entire history of the State House of Representatives:


It’s a fascinating graph, and it tells a lot about South Carolina and Deep South politics.


Examining Turn-Out by Race in California

California constitutes one of the most diverse states in the United States. Here is how the Census estimates its population composition:

California’s   Ethnic Composition
Asian 12.7%
Black 6.6%
Hispanic 37.0%
Mixed 2.6%
Native   American 1.2%
Pacific   Islander 0.4%
White 41.7%

(Note that the numbers do not add up to 100, due to the way the Census tracks ethnicity.)

The people who actually vote in California, however, do not reflect this composition.

More below.

California’s electorate in the 2008 presidential election is quite different from its actual ethnic composition:

2008   Electorate: Exit Polls
Asian 6%
Black 10%
Hispanic 18%
Other 3%
White 63%

These numbers were taken from exit polls – and one should be warned that exit polls are very, very inaccurate. The numbers above should not be taken for the truth, but rather as a rough approximation of it.

Nevertheless, one can take something out of the exit polls: blacks and whites punched far above their demographic weight, while Asians and Hispanics punched far below theirs. This pattern isn’t so much a racial one as much as an immigrant versus non-immigrant one.

Since blacks and whites are mainly non-immigrant communities, they vote more often than immigrant communities. Blacks and whites thus are overrepresented in the electorate. There was little racial divide between black and white turn-out, which is quite remarkable, given the lower socioeconomic status of blacks. All in all the percentage of California’s 2008 electorate was about 50% more black and white than California’s overall population.

Hispanics are the ones hurt most by this. The difference between the Hispanic portion of the electorate and the Hispanic portion of the overall population is quite striking: the electorate is just half as Hispanic as the population. Most of this is attributable to the legal status of many Hispanic immigrants, the relative youth of the Hispanic population, the lower socioeconomic status of Hispanics, and the immigrant-heavy nature Hispanic community (this is different from the first factor in that immigrants are inherently less likely to vote even if they are citizens).

It is not Hispanics, however, who are least likely to vote: it is Asians. There are several similarities and differences between the two groups. Unlike Hispanics, the Asian population is not skewed downwards, and Asians generally have a high socioeconomic status. On the other hand, Asians are much more of an immigrant community than Hispanics: a remarkable four out of five adult Asians in California constituted immigrants, according to a 2002 study. Only 59% of adult Asians were citizens (who can vote), according to the study.

The low voting rates of Hispanics and Asians naturally reduce their political power. Hispanics, at around one-fifth of the California electorate, are influential – but imagine how much more influential the Hispanic vote would be if they voted their numbers. As for Asians, their low turn-out makes their community almost a non-factor in California politics.

This will probably change, of course. A century ago one could have written the exact same words about another immigrant-heavy group that did not vote: Irish-Americans.


AZ-Senate: The Man Who Could Take Down John McCain

Since Janet Napolitano went to Obama’s cabinet and McCain announced (repeatedly) that he was running for reelection, Arizona has seemed off the table for us.  This, being followed by Sebelius’s choice to join the cabinet instead of running for Brownback’s seat, certainly but a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.  However, I’m inclined to a never give up attitude, and I think McCain is still very vulnerable, even if it would be an uphill fight.  There’s no room for naivity though.  If we’re going to win, we need a very strong candidate……..  

The Mayor of Phoenix, Phil Gordon


(Credit where credit is due: I’m not the only one who’s thought of this, SE-779 floated this idea as well, so hopefully we’re on to something.)

For those of you that don’t know about Mayor Gordon, he’s bound to be one of the best mayors in the country and a rising star in the Democratic Party, and it shows.  He was elected mayor in 2003 with 72 percent of the vote and again in 2007 with 77 percent.  And Gordon’s not just a big name politician.  The guy’s the real deal.  He’s worked hard and used creative thinking to revitalize down town Phoenix, supported light rail, and launced the Works Progress Advancementproject, the heart of which is a compelling public works project.  The icing on the cake?  Mayor Gordon is on record standing up to Joe Arpaio and for civil rights.  And for all his hard work, Mayor Gordon earns tremendous praise from his constituents and drives the wingnuts insane.

Mayor Gordon is not only a good Democrat, he’s clearly a Better Democrat of the mold that’s shown great promise in the West over the last couple of cycles.  But here’s the rub-by all accounts, he’s interested in running for Governor.  The Arizona governor’s seat was lost to the Republicans when Napolitano went to the cabinet and the Secretary of State took over.  There’s no guarantee we’ll get the seat back, and we already have a top tier candidate for the seat in Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, who’s also from the city of Phoenix.  The last thing we need is a rough primary between our two top candidates if we’re going to take back the governorship, especially when we could be working on taking down a high profile Republican senator.

McCain’s loss to Barack Obama and his conduct during the course of the campaign hurt him, so much so that it looked like Obama would be competitive in McCain’s homestate at one point.  Early on it looked like McCain would mend fences and work to keep a top challenger out of the running, but now it’s clear that with Napolitano gone he has no intention of doing anything but being a vindictive old man and an obstical in the path of progressive change.  What’s more, if Gordon were to run, he might not find himself facing McCain.  The far right has always had the knives out for the senator.  Former Congressman J.D. Hayworth gets a lot of buzz for a primary challenge.  In 2004, the Club For Growth (which will surely support any McCain challenger in the primary) tried to get Jeff Flake to challenge him.  And there’s always a few extra wingnuts drifting around Arizona like Randy Graff.  Gordon would have a strong advantage over any of these far-right nuts, but even if that dream scenario doesn’t play out he’ll still have a good shot at beating McCain.

Think about it, Arizona, like most of the west, is moving our way.  Obama will compete there in 2012 and would have competed there had McCain not been on the ballot last year.  McCain lost a lot of support among the growing Latino population in the state with his waffling on immigration, a group that Mayor Gordon has been a strong advocate for.  On top of that, McCain is working hard to further erode support among working and middle-class constituents by opposing a popular president’s economic reforms in a time where people are feeling the crunch.  What’s more, McCain has always gotten soft ball opposition in his reelection campaigns, and we’ve seen that he has a tendancy to flash his temper and trend towards self-destruct when he’s up against a real opponent.  So believe me, this one is doable.  It will be tough, akin to the Begich/Stevens contest last year, but still very, very, winnable.

So, if you think Mayor Gordon should run (and he will probably have to be drafted), why not drop him a line:… or throw his name out to the DSCC.

We can do this.  We can beat McCain on his home turf and send him packing for good while electing a Better Democrat and a great ally for President Obama to the U.S. Senate.  But first, we’ve got to make some noise and get him to run.

(Cross Posted at Senate Guru and DailyKos)

Representatives’ Race/Ethnicity and District Demographics

(From the diaries – promoted by DavidNYC)

In several diaries or stories lately there have been comments where people have wondered whether Congressperson X is the only person of Y race to represent a district that is majority-Z. I went through the list and found every one I can think of, so hopefully this diary can be the ultimate argument-settler. Please feel free to chime in in the comments if you think someone is missing.

I’m using 2005 census estimates. Interestingly, a number of districts have crossed a threshold since the 2000 census: a number of districts, for instance, have crossed from a white plurality to a Hispanic plurality in those years (CA-17, CA-21, CA-23, CA-27), while CA-13 crossed from white plurality to an Asian plurality. TX-09, TX-18, and TX-30 crossed from an African-American plurality to a Hispanic plurality (although the Houston districts may have switched back, thanks to the New Orleans diaspora). While most districts are becoming less white, one district actually crossed the other way: HI-02 crossed from an Asian plurality to a white plurality.

Districts with white majority not represented by white

Rep. Rep’s race District % white % Af.-Am. % Asian % Hispanic
Wu Asian OR-01 77.8 1.2 6.1 11.8
Cole Native Am. OK-04 76.9 6.3 1.9 5.5
Salazar Hispanic CO-03 73.8 0.4 0.7 22.4
Franks Hispanic* AZ-02 73.5 2.9 2.2 17.5
Ellison Af.-Am. MN-05 67.8 13.3 5.7 8.4
Cleaver Af.-Am. MO-05 65.2 23.7 1.4 7.0
Carson Af.-Am. IN-07 58.0 31.0 1.4 6.8
Eshoo Asian* CA-14 55.9 2.4 19.6 18.0

(Despite the Anglo name, Trent Franks identifies as Mexican-American and is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Conference, the Republican equivalent to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Anna Eshoo is of Assyrian descent; I don’t know if she would describe herself as white or Asian.)

Districts with white plurality not represented by white

Rep. Rep’s race District % white % Af.-Am. % Asian % Hispanic
Bishop Af.-Am. GA-02* 47.8 47.6 0.6 2.9
Moore Af.-Am. WI-04 44.1 35.6 3.3 14.3
Honda Asian CA-15 41.2 2.1 33.6 19.9
Matsui Asian CA-05 39.6 14.7 15.9 24.7
Lee Af.-Am. CA-09 36.0 22.5 15.7 21.4
Hirono Asian HI-02 28.7 1.5 26.5 10.8

(The Census Bureau, for some reason, does not have estimated populations for 2005 for the 110th congress (only for the 109th congress, which doesn’t reflect Georgia’s mid-decade redistricting), so the numbers for GA-02 are based on the actual 2000 census count. As you can see, it may have crossed into an African-American plurality in the last few years.)

Districts with African-American majority not represented by African-American

Rep. Rep’s race District % white % Af.-Am. % Asian % Hispanic
Cohen White TN-09 29.6 63.1 1.7 4.3

Districts with African-American plurality not represented by African-American

Rep. Rep’s race District % white % Af.-Am. % Asian % Hispanic
Brady White PA-01 26.5 49.6 4.8 17.1

Districts with Asian majority not represented by Asian

Rep. Rep’s race District % white % Af.-Am. % Asian % Hispanic
Abercrombie White HI-01 17.0 2.4 56.5 5.0

Districts with Asian plurality not represented by Asian

Rep. Rep’s race District % white % Af.-Am. % Asian % Hispanic
Stark White CA-13 30.4 7.1 35.0 22.9

Districts with Hispanic majority not represented by Hispanic

Rep. Rep’s race District % white % Af.-Am. % Asian % Hispanic
Gene Green White TX-29 17.1 10.1 1.2 70.8
Filner White CA-51 18.4 6.3 13.1 59.5
Berman White CA-28 30.7 3.1 6.0 58.4
Waters Af.-Am. CA-35 9.7 29.3 5.7 53.5

Districts with Hispanic plurality not represented by Hispanic

Rep. Rep’s race District % white % Af.-Am. % Asian % Hispanic
Pearce White NM-02 42.0 1.5 0.6 49.3
Nunes White* CA-21 40.3 2.3 6.3 48.6
Rangel Af.-Am. NY-15 19.0 27.3 3.0 47.7
Richardson Af.-Am. CA-37 14.2 22.2 12.9 47.6
Farr White CA-17 43.0 1.8 5.4 46.9
Capps White CA-23 44.7 1.6 5.2 46.3
Crowley White NY-07 24.2 15.6 15.9 42.3
Jackson Lee Af.-Am. TX-18 17.2 37.0 3.2 41.6
Sherman White CA-27 40.2 5.1 12.0 40.6
Al Green Af.-Am. TX-09 14.1 34.3 10.1 40.5
E.B. Johnson Af.-Am. TX-30 17.9 39.7 1.0 40.1
Watson Af.-Am. CA-33 20.6 27.1 12.6 37.5
Lofgren White CA-16 29.0 2.8 27.8 37.2

(Devin Nunes is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Conference, but identifies as Portuguese-American, which at least to me does not imply either “Hispanic” (from a Spanish-speaking background) or “Latino” (from a Latin American background).)

Congressional district analysis: Race and presidential vote

cross posted from daily Kos…

my first diary here

This is part of a series based on analysis of data based on Congressional Districts.  This one is the first that is really analytical.  

A word of warning: Do not infer anything about individuals from any analysis at the district level.  That would be the ecological fallacy.

Today, I look at the relationship between the racial/ethnic makeup of districts, and whom the district supports in presidential elections.

More below the fold  

The Almanac of American Politics, where I got the data used below, classifies race/ethnicity into a large number of categories.  I combined some of these into “other” and have the following: non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic, and other.

For each congressional district, I recorded the percent of the population in each category, and the Cook PVI number, which is, essentially, an indication of how much more Democratic or Republican the district was than the nation in the last two presidential elections.  E.g., a rating of R + 9 would indicate that the district gave Bush an average 9% more than the nation in 2000 and 2004 (it’s a little more complex, because they adjust for third party vote, but that’s the general idea).

Then, I graphed Cook PVI and each of the four racial/ethnic groups, and added a loess line (loess is a nonparametric curve fitting mechanism….you can think of it as a more sophisticated moving average).

So, first %Black and Cook PVI

As we might expect, districts with a lot of Black tend to be very Democratic.  But I didn’t suspect the nonlinearity of this relationship.  That is, there isn’t much difference between districts with almost no Blacks (mostly the rural north) and districts with 15% Blacks: they all have average Cook PVI about 0 (that is, close to the national average).  Districts with a great many Blacks (mostly gerrymandered districts in the South and in central cities) are very Democratic.  Among the 33 districts with more than 35% Blacks, none favored Republicans

Next, %Hispanic and Cook PVI

A couple things to note: First, although (as with the graph above) the relationship is positive (i.e. districts with more Latinos tend to vote more Democratic) the slope of the line isn’t as steep, and it is less nonlinear.  I will get into reasons for this in a diary on interactions, but the basic reason is that Hispanic districts in different parts of the country varied a lot.  A lot of the highly Latino districts were in Texas, which is, of course, Bush-country.  The highest concentration of Latinos in any districts are in TX15 and TX28 (each has just over 3/4 Latino) and these districts had Cook PVI of R+1 and D+3, respectively.

Next, % White and Cook PVI

As we might expect, the direction of the slope is the opposite of both of the above.  But, even among districts with nearly all White populations, the Cook PVI varied.  By the way, the district with the lowest percent White is NY-16, which is the South Bronx.  It’s tied for most Democratic district in the country (D + 43), has the lowest median income ($19,300), has the highest percent in poverty (42.2%), and has the second lowest percentage of veteran (3.9%).

Finally, other race/ethnicity.  Here, I’ve deleted the two Hawaiian districts from the graph, because they are outliers – by far the highest percentage nonWhite is in these districts.

Again, as % ‘other race/ethnicity’ increases, so does Democratic vote.  By the way, and not surprisingly, the four districts (other than HI) with the highest percent ‘other race’ were all in coastal CA.

What to make of all this?

I’m not sure.  But I find it interesting