The South and the Presidency

March 24, 1948

Report Outline
Threatened Southern Bolt Over Civil Rights
Role of the South in Presidential Politics
The Solid South and the Electoral Process
Prospects of Change in Southern Alignment

Threatened Southern Bolt Over Civil Rights

The threat of a southern bolt from President Truman in November as a result of his stand on civil rights legislation is now being taken with grim seriousness by national leaders of the Democratic party. Similar threats have frequently been made in previous presidential years but have blown over by election time. The present revolt has been gathering momentum steadily since early February and many southern leaders now seem too firmly committed to back down. The loss of the conservative southern vote, together with the defection of left-wing northern and western votes to Wallace's third party, would present an almost insuperable obstacle to the President's reelection.

The revolt was touched off when the President sent a special message to Congress, Feb. 2, urging adoption of a 10-point “minimum” civil rights program, including anti-lynch, anti-poll tax, and fair employment practice legislation, all of which have been bitterly opposed by southern Democrats. Southern members of Congress denounced the message as “a political sell-out,” an attempt to “barter the South's social institutions for the political favors of Negroes in the North.” And throughout the South the President was attacked by party leaders for “stabbing the South in the back” and “kissing the feet of mongrel minorities.”

Rebellion of the Southern Governors

At a meeting of southern governors, Feb. 7, at Wakulla Springs, Fla., Gov. Wright of Mississippi formally proposed that the South wash its hands of Truman and convoke a conference of “true Democrats” to plan southern strategy. The governors voted instead for a “cooling-off period” during which a committee would seek a redressment of southern grievances. After an unsucessful appeal to Chairman McGrath of the Democratic National Committee, Feb. 23, the committee announced that the President had deserted the principles of the Democratic party and that the South could no longer be counted as “in the bag” if he should be re-nominated. Three weeks later the governors reconvened at Washington and recommended to the people of the southern states that they oppose Truman “to the last ditch” at the convention and lay plans for offering a separate southern ticket in November.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Feb. 24, 2006  Presidential Power
Nov. 15, 2002  Presidential Power
Feb. 02, 2001  The Bush Presidency
Jun. 20, 1997  Line-Item Veto
Jun. 14, 1996  First Ladies
Oct. 21, 1988  Dangers in Presidential Transitions
Jun. 10, 1988  The Quandary of Being Vice President
Jan. 06, 1984  Presidential Advisory Commissions
Jul. 28, 1978  Presidential Popularity
Feb. 13, 1976  Evaluating Presidential Performance
Dec. 12, 1975  Presidential Protection
Jul. 11, 1973  Presidential Reorganization
Mar. 07, 1973  Presidential Accountability
Sep. 24, 1971  Presidential Diplomacy
Nov. 11, 1970  Vice Presidency
Oct. 02, 1968  Presidential Power
Mar. 14, 1966  War Powers of the President
Nov. 23, 1960  Transfer of Executive Power
Apr. 04, 1956  Vice Presidency
Oct. 15, 1952  Change of Presidents
Jun. 09, 1950  President and Mid-Term Elections
Oct. 20, 1948  Federal Patronage
Mar. 24, 1948  The South and the Presidency
Dec. 05, 1947  Military Leaders and the Presidency
Apr. 16, 1947  Veto Power of the President
Sep. 20, 1945  Succession to the Presidency
Sep. 12, 1940  The War Powers of the President
Feb. 11, 1938  Emergency Powers of the President
Jan. 06, 1938  The Power to Declare War
Dec. 28, 1937  Extension of the Veto Power
Dec. 28, 1936  Limitation of the President's Tenure
Mar. 12, 1935  The President and the Congress
Dec. 16, 1932  The Veto Power of the President
May 28, 1931  Presidential Commissions
Oct. 23, 1928  Presidential Appointments and the Senate
Mar. 21, 1928  Business Conditions in Presidential Years
Jan. 20, 1927  The Monroe Doctrine
Mar. 18, 1925  The President's Power of Appointment
Sep. 10, 1923  The President's Position on Patronage
Campaigns and Elections
Party Politics
Powers and History of the Presidency