The Unsolid South

The Unsolid South: Mass Politics and National Representation in a One-Party Enclave (2018, Princeton University Press)
This book examines the causes and consequences of ideological diversity among Southern Democrats in Congess and of their rightward migration from New Dealers to pivotal centrists. Focusing on the 1930s–60s, I draw on evidence from a wide range of sources, including data on public opinion and Democratic primary elections as well as historical accounts and archival sources, and I apply Bayesian measurement models to construct new measures of the policy preferences of members of Congress and their constituents. I argue that, contrary to received wisdom, competition in congressional primaries compensated for the absence of partisan competition, inducing a qualified but real electoral connection between voters and candidates. As a consequence, Southern senators and representatives responded to the preferences of the eligible electorate, and for the white public, congressional representation operated about as effectively in the South as in the rest of the nation. By linking Southerners' behavior in Congress with the evolving preferences of their electorates, my findings offer an explanation for the South's pivotal position in mid-century national politics and for the unusually low levels of congressional polarization during this period. Further, by distinguishing the effects of disenfranchisement in the South from the effects of one-partyism, they also suggest an important amendment to the conventional wisdom that effective representation requires partisan competition.

Princeton University Press | Amazon | manuscript draft

Replication Materials

  • Estimates of state-level mass conservatism: data | codebook