In Road to Redemption Michael Perman states that initially the Democratic-Conservatives believed that by employing a fusion policy with the Scalawags they could split the Negro vote with the Radicals, a perception prevelant across the South. I had trouble coming to grips with this, because in the 1868 Mississippi campaign to defeat the Radical agenda I saw a coalition of white Southerners (Democrats/Scalawags) united to defeat white Northerners, shored up by a Negro voter base. There was no effort then to garner the black vote, at least not a dedicated one. Yet by the spring of 1869, I see the Democratic Conservatives rallying to the Scalawag ticket, not as it turns out to replicate the 1868 victory, but to support a moderate Republican candidate and a Republican platform, little better than the Radical one. The purpose of this coalition was to defeat the Radical ticket headed by J. L. Alcorn by championing Reconstruction and siphoning off a significant portion of the Radicals’ black voters. Between the summer of 1868 and the spring of 1869, during all those visits and consultations in Washington (which no doubt included pow-wows with other displaced Democrats from all over the South...and probably the North) something had gone haywire within the Southern Democratic Party indicative of a power struggle. The efforts of 1868 and that of 1869 in Mississippi were significantly different, the change being the missing white voter who had championed the conservative call in 1868 to defeat the Radical agenda. Looks like someone figured his support wasn’t enough. But another point Perman makes is that these “enlightened” Southern leaders now perceived the evolution of a two-party system in the South based on race and class, which would have been disruptive to the social order and they would have wished to nip it in the bud.
Fusing with white Scalawags and hoping for black support from that source was not the same as taking the “competitive” approach to electioneering and wooing the Negro voter to the Democratic Party. That required autonomous acceptance of Reconstruction.
Back on point: In the newly formulated credo of the Southern New Departurist, state rights were as dead as the right to secede and life must go on. They needed to get the damn Yankees out of the South, and they needed the Negro vote to do it. Campaign policy was to influence the Negro and convert him to the Democratic Party, but not to make promises. Canvassers/campaigners were to be honest as to motives (i.e. “We couldn’t stop your suffrage, so now we’re trying to win your vote.”) At the same time they were to point out that the Yankees had not fulfilled their false promises and, therefore, Democrats weren’t going to make them any. Um, for a competitive approach, it doesn’t sound too promising does it? Nevertheless, the Democratic-Conservatives did well in 1870, winning elections at the state level in Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina (and in Texas in 1873). Victories were even more numerous everywhere at the local and county levels where whites were in the majority or where, for whatever reason, Republicans were weak. Oh, duh? Were they delusional on top of everything else? Of course those factors increased the odds for victory. Wishful thinking or not, the New Departurists in Alabama attributed this success to the black vote. Reality struck home in Alabama two years later when participating voters returned the state to Radical rule, but that’s a tale for another post.
again under the shadow of federal bayonets, who played the major role in putting the Republicans back in power across the South. Well, at least they aren’t Carpetbaggers this time around, but I bet we can find plenty of Scalawags among ’em.
There’s more to the New Departurists’ story, primarily the Democratic economic policies vis-à-vis the Republican. Those I will address during the course of my Alcorn series.