A good read in the American Prospect (h/t Jonathan Bernstein) contends Democratic hopes in the South are just that — hope. (In fairness, Mark Schmitt, the article’s author, does say that Democrats can’t really abandon the south). But, as I was reminded by my friends Gibbs Knotts and Chris Cooper, other research points to the importance of the south for both parties (o.k. some southern states, namely NC, but this could just as easily apply to VA) because of the changing composition of the population in some of these states. For NC, this changing composition is the result of population growth, not from within the state, but from outside the state (in-migration as Hood and McKee term it). Hood and McKee (2010, gated) observe that these in-migrants behave as partisan independents — it is their partisan tendencies that meander, not their independence. Such is perhaps the future of our state politics — independents zig-zagging back and forth between parties from election to election. Our numbers at the Elon Poll confirm this push and pull in the state. Oh what a fun ride that will be (at least for us pointy-heads).
Yet, there is more to the story in NC. As our state continues to grow and become more diverse — ethnically, racially, fiscally, politically, etc. — we may be in for some interesting political ‘back and forth’ over the next decade. And these are the very dynamics that make me question the “death of the southern strategy.” I believe, while some southern states are not within reach for Democrats now (and some never will be), a few could be in the future. And, for Republicans, while they enjoy a tremendous advantage in their solid south now, cracks may be forming in their foundation.
As it stands, the south is important to both parties — one to pursue, the other to protect — and for neither to give up on.