An interesting post today at thedemocraticstrategist.org, a useful political analysis website that sometimes deals with the racial issues around President Obama’s campaign and presidency. They note that only the second African American since Reconstruction in the 1860s-1870s, the Hattiesburg mayor Johnny DuPree, has been nominated for governor by a major party (in this case the Democratic Party) in any of the former eleven Confederate secessionist states. He defeated a white lawyer by a 55-45 percent margin in a runoff for Mississippi governor, and the
The contest was notably without rancor, racial or otherwise. DuPree overcame a 2-1 spending disadvantage, and showed significant statewide strength.
Now, however, he will have to win against Republican
Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who . . . will be a pretty heavy favorite, but you never quite know with off-year gubernatorial races. The last Democrat to win a Mississippi gubernatorial contest was Ronnie Musgrove in 1999.
The first black person nominated for governor since Reconstruction–and also the only one to eventually win the position–was Doug Wilder in Virginia.
What this story does not reveal is that the extreme racial polarization of the parties in most southern states means that DuPree’s Democratic Party and its voters are heavily African American, and the Republican Party and its voters are almost all white. As well as candidate Bryant, of course.
That is why the state with one of the two largest percentages of black residents at 37 percent—but are still only a large minority of all voters–cannot yet elect even one major statewide official who is black. Not one black person has been elected to a major state office since Reconstruction! Taxation without representation? Most whites seem very fearful of such racial change. Something like 85-90 percent of whites regularly vote Republican in what was once a state where whites voted in about those percentages for the Democratic Party, indeed not long ago.
But then the Democratic Party was the “white party” of the South, a designation that now applies to the Republican Party.