BILOXI, Miss.: Runoffs, created to protect white elites, are now a gateway for outsiders | National Politics | NewsObserver.com

17
Jun

BILOXI, Miss.: Runoffs, created to protect white elites, are now a gateway for outsiders | National Politics | NewsObserver.com

Runoffs were also important because they helped do away with fringe candidates or those the bosses couldn’t trust, said Merle Black, a co-author of “Politics and Society in the South.” The Republican Party was rarely a factor in the South until the 1960s, meaning officeholders were effectively chosen in Democratic primaries.

White supremacy was a convenient unifier. Though few blacks were able to vote in the South in those days, the Democratic bosses thought it was important to suppress that vote anyway. Blacks had majorities in South Carolina, Louisiana and Mississippi in the early 1900s, and even if only a few of them voted, they might otherwise make a difference.

By the 1960s, barriers to black voting were breaking down, and the bosses faced a new kind of trouble. The South was turning Republican, and runoffs began to acquire a new meaning. While most Southern Republicans are white, the split this time was between ideological and mainstream conservatives.

The elites thought the system was tilted in their favor. South Carolina would hold a runoff two weeks after the primary. Mississippi’s second Senate round is being held three weeks after the primary _ the thinking being that a challenger would lack the money, name recognition and organizational skill to regroup quickly.

That thinking now often proves wrong. The day after Mississippi’s June 3 primary, independent third-party groups began plotting strategy. They already had spent $5 million to boost McDaniel, and they were ready to spend plenty more.

There’s an irony to all this: Runoffs in the South tend to help unify the Republican Party, making it hard for Democrats to won. The overwhelming majority of Southern black voters are Democrats.

White supremacy is no longer the issue, said Kousser. Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican who’s black, appears headed to an easy re-election in South Carolina.

But, Kousser said, “to the extent that the Republican runoff is considered the election, it undercuts the Democratic Party.”

via BILOXI, Miss.: Runoffs, created to protect white elites, are now a gateway for outsiders | National Politics | NewsObserver.com.

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