When LBJ signed civil rights legislation he told Bill Moyers ‘We’ve just handed the South over to the republicans for a generation’. Its actually been 2 generations and counting. Southern whites, who were once one of the biggest supporters of democrats (they were part of FDR’s new deal coalition which was needed to pass progressive legislation in the 30s and 40s), turned GOP. Now southern whites vote GOP roughly 60-90% of the time. This was, from my impression, seen as a major loss for the democratic party. Losing the south meant losing tons of congressmen and electoral votes for presidential elections. People like Paul Krugman talk about how w/o this defection of southern whites, the GOP would have little real power to affect the US’s direction.
However, black voters were registered and became heavily democratic, voting democratic 9-1.
The Southernization of the GOP also has alienated many moderates which has pushed the northeast and west coast in a more liberal direction. As of the 111th congress, of the 26 senators in the South and 19 are GOP. But of the west coast and northeast (including Pennsylvania, NY & NJ), 21 out of 24 senators are democratic or caucus with the democrats. That is including Specter.
Black voters make up roughly 10-15% of the electorate in many important states, which because of the 9-1 voting ratio results in a huge net gain in important states when it comes to presidential elections. If not for the massive support from black voters (who in part are rebelling against the direction the GOP took after they became the party of southern whites) states like California, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Maryland & Ohio would not be solidly democratic or swing states. They’d (if you just went by white votes) be states that were far more conservative than they are now. If you add up the electoral votes in the 13 southern states is 168 votes. But the list of states which are democratic because of black votes adds up to 202 votes.
So the dems lost 168 votes, but gained either solid margins or swing state status in 202 votes (I’m counting Florida in both situations). Plus NC, TX and VA may be reaching swing state status. In part due to the black vote.
Plus democrats from the south tend to be more conservative fiscally and socially. And republicans from the northeast tend to be more liberal. So losing southern dems in exchange for gaining dems in the northeast is a good trade. Losing Zell Miller in exchange for Sheldon Whitehouse or Bernie Sanders is a pretty good bargain.
All in all, it worked out pretty well from a strictly realpolitik point of view. The dems lost tons of electoral votes in the south due to defections from white voters, but gained tons of electoral votes in the midwest, northeast and west coast due to higher support from black voters. Plus by abandoning the more conservative democrats to the GOP, the democratic party was more free to act like a democratic party (fiscally, foreign policy wise and socially) since its base was more heavily based on the northeast and west coast rather than the south.
Plus the southern strategy has backfired. White Christian heterosexuals who oppose government are rapidly becoming the minority in the US, and they aren’t sharing their party with anyone.