Conservative Southern Democrats Turn Republican
In 1952, liberal Republicans pushed aside conservative Robert A. Taft in favor of a man with no discernable political principles – Dwight Eisenhower. As FDR’s Democrat Party adopted virtually every plank of the Communist Party USA platform by 1944, conservative Southern Democrats like Virginia Senator Harry Byrd, were criticized by their own party for voting against Truman’s liberal policies and with “Mr. Republican,” Ohio’s Senator Taft. In a historic shift, Eisenhower carried the State of Virginia in 1952 with more than 56 percent of the vote. Conservative Southern Democrats would have more of FDR-Truman collectivism.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Conservative Southern Democrats Turn Republican
“What would Harry Byrd do now? Four years earlier, at his suggestion, Virginia Democrats had endorsed Dwight Eisenhower for President. Now the general was the Republican presidential nominee, and the senator’s loyalists had played a part in bringing that about. But Eisenhower was a war-hero, the kind of popular figure who could capture the imagination of the American people and put an end to two decades of liberalism in the White House.
[Byrd] had become the central figure in the conservative coalition of Democrats and Republicans in the Congress that battled the President, and in 1949, Truman had declared in frustration, “There are too many Byrds in Congress.”
Facing fierce opposition from Southern Democrats, Truman decided to forego another reelection bid in 1952, but Byrd continued to hammer away at the evils of Trumanism.” “I’ve been asked what kind of Democrat I am,” Byrd told one campaign audience . . . I’m a Virginia Democrat, a true Democrat, and if any further definition is needed, I am not a Truman Democrat.”
With the Virginia Democrats having backed Eisenhower in 1948 [rather than Truman], Republicans hoped that an open GOP-Byrd organization alliance in support of the general could be arranged in 1952.
The Eisenhower strategy in Virginia was much the same as it was throughout the South. And, for the first time in years, a national Republican campaign featured the South prominently in its plans.
A confidential memorandum distributed to the Eisenhower campaign’s Southern operatives provided detailed instructions on how to woo voters who had never been Republicans. The remarkable document revealed a well-considered strategy for cracking the solidly Democratic South:
“For the South to “bolt” its traditional Democratic voting in 1952 will require a candidate who does not merely campaign under the Republican banner, but AN AMERICAN – worthy of the South’s political support.
One must understand and consider carefully the Democratic saga that pervades the Southern mind. Northerners are prone to look askance upon the traditional view that the South still has in its heart the War Between the States, and believe that the almost one hundred intervening years surely have settled the dust of that conflict. This is especially so as there is practically no living Southerner who could recall, from personal experience, the post-bellum carpet-bagger days, which history teaches did so much to alienate the South from the Republican Party.
True, a great deal of soothing water has passed over the dam that separates the South from the North, but there still remains a hatred and distrust of the Republican Party LABEL when attached to a candidate, particularly in the hearts and minds of those Southerners whose schooling has not been of the advanced type . . .
Specific suggestions for obtaining Southern support for Eisenhower include:
Do not try to sell the Republican Party to Southern voters – sell Eisenhower as the great American he is – whose principles of governing have been accepted by the Republican Party in making him their candidate . . .
Do not try to build a STATE Republican Party in the South while seeking to elect Eisenhower. In 1953, with Eisenhower in the White House and hundreds of thousands of Federal jobs available, will be the right time to build a strong Republican Party in the South . . .
Do not let the Negro question enter into the Southern campaign, for there is no Negro problem that the South cannot itself take care of. Even if it means alienating some of the Negro vote in populous Northern cities – what of it? The Negro vote no longer belongs to the Republican Party as in the days of old, for gratitude for freedom from slavery has long been forgotten.
In its place, we have 20 years of “handouts” to the Negroes by the Democratic Party, which the Negro cannot and will not forget at the polls. You cannot teach intelligent voting, except to a small number of Negroes higher education. The 136 electoral votes of the South mean more to the Republican Party than the possible loss of a few Northern States, even a big one like Pennsylvania, with its 32 votes. Absolute fairness and opportunity should be accorded the Negro, but for the South the question of segregation is holy and must not be disturbed.
Look upon the South with reality – a people sick of the type of Democratic rule they have had since FDR, but still too proud to embrace a Republican Party which would symbolize for them another surrender – another Appomattox.
Work in harmony with the Dixiecrats – they are anxious to defeat Trumanism . . .”
(The Dynamic Dominion, Realignment and the Rise of Virginia’s Republican Party Since 1945, Frank B. Atkinson, George Mason University Press, 1992, excerpts, pp. 47-51)