DEMOCRACY HEADING SOUTH: National Politics in the Shadow of Dixie

Augustus B. Cochran, III, Author DEMOCRACY HEADING SOUTH: National Politics in the Shadow of $29.95 (328p) ISBN 978-0-7006-1089-1

Cochran, a native Georgian labor lawyer and professor of political science at Agnes Scott College, uses V.O. Key's 1949 classic, Southern Politics, as a blueprint for analyzing fundamental structural pathologies in contemporary American politics, which he does with chilling clarity. "Key argued that because Southern politics lacked strong, responsive parties, was based on a narrow electorate, and was designed to perpetuate white supremacy, Southern electoral institutions lacked the coherence, continuity, and accountability that could make Southern politics rational and democratic." Just as this politics hobbled the South's ability to become an industrial democracy, Cochran argues, its contemporary structural twin is crippling America's ability to become a postindustrial democracy, with policies shaping global market forces to serve the common good. "Specifically, the maladies of the Solid South included elections that ignored or blurred issues; weak, elitist and even demagogic leaders; a proclivity to avoid problems and coast along with the status quo; rampant corruption and policymaking by deals; voters who were confused and apathetic; an appallingly narrow electoral base, including low turnout among even those lucky enough to be enfranchised; a resulting tilt toward the elites, while the have-not majority got taken for a ride." Explaining this list's familiar ring, Cochran fuses insights from an impressive range of fields, tracing the interaction of money in politics with historical processes of party realignment and carefully nuanced racial politics to produce a poorly aligned national two-party system that bears many one-party characteristics. Attentive to differences as well as similarities between the Old South and American politics today, Cochran's argument is subtle yet sweeping, profound yet almost self-evident once his powerfully coherent picture is completed. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/26/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
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