Alabama remains GOP-friendly

Published 11:53 am Wednesday, November 5, 2014

You already know the results of yesterday’s general election but my column had to go to press prior to Tuesday’s vote. Therefore, we will discuss and analyze the outcome next week. More than likely there were no surprises. It would be a major upset if any Democrat won a statewide contest on Tuesday.

We are now one the most Republican states in America. It all began 50 years ago this month. The 1964 election was the bellwether year that Alabama and the Deep South dramatically changed to the Republican Party. On that November day, Alabamians voted for the GOP candidate, Barry Goldwater, and we have not looked back.

In 1964, race was the issue in the South. George Wallace had ridden it into the governor’s office in 1962. It reached fever pitch in 1964. Democratic president Lyndon Johnson passed sweeping civil rights legislation, which white Southerners detested. The only non-southern senator to oppose the civil rights legislation was Republican Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona.

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Later that year, when the Republican Party met at the old Cow Palace in San Francisco, they nominated Goldwater as their presidential candidate. Johnson and the Democrats carried the nation overwhelmingly in a landslide that fall, with the exception of the South. Goldwater won what was referred to as the Southern Goldwater Landslide.

The South had been totally and automatically Democratic all the way down the ballot from president to coroner for more than six decades. There was no Republican Party in Alabama to speak of. There were no elected Republican officeholders. There was no Republican primary. So, the Republicans chose their token candidates in a backroom convention. It was hard getting someone to even admit they were a Republican.

That all changed in 1964. Goldwater and the Republicans were known as the party of segregation and the white Southern voter fled the Democratic Party en masse. As the 1964 general election approached, the talk in the old country stores around Alabama was that many good old boys were going to vote straight Republican even if their daddies and granddaddies turned over in their graves. Well, come Election Day, there were a good many old papas turning over in their graves all over the South.

The entire South changed parties on that day in November of 1964. Alabamians not only voted for Goldwater but also pulled the straight Republican lever out of anger toward Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights plan. Alabama had all Democratic congressmen — most had more than 20 years seniority — and most were swept out of office by the straight ticket Republican voting. Alabama lost more than 100 years of congressional seniority on that day.

The Goldwater landslide of 1964 was the watershed year that Alabama became a Republican state. It does not look like it will change any time soon.