The expected weekend defeat of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) not only gives Republicans 54 seats in the U.S. Senate next year, but also what amounts to almost complete political control of the South, capping what has been a sweeping change in recent years.
In the aftermath of the Civil War and Reconstruction, white southerners flocked to the Democratic Party, Democrats had the “Solid South.”
But since Republicans made big gains in the 1980 elections that saw Ronald Reagan win the White House, the GOP has steadily chipped away at Democrats – and now, the takeover is almost complete.
As my neighbor David Leonhardt rightly notes, the Deep South has now gone to the GOP – the “Solid South” of the Democrats has been transformed into a “Sold South” for the Republicans.
In 2015, only two states in the South will have a Democratic Senator – Virginia, where Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) barely won re-election, and in Florida, where Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) holds a seat.
Just as Republicans have dropped off the map in many areas of New England, so too have Democrats in the South.
Even more dramatic is what has happened at the state level, as Republicans in January will hold the Governor’s seat in almost every southern and border state, as the GOP also controls almost every southern state legislative body as well.
When I got my current job 26 years ago, the Georgia Congressional delegation in the U.S. House had 10 members – nine were Democrats and one Republican (Newt Gingrich). Both Senators were Democrats.
Georgia had a Democratic Governor. A Democratic state legislature.
Now in 2015, Republicans control the Georgia state government. Both Senators are from the GOP. The U.S. House delegation is 10-4 in favor of Republicans.
It’s the type of switch that has happened all over the south – especially the Deep South.
114th Congress now almost set
With the victory of Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) in Louisiana, Republicans will hold 54 seats in the U.S. Senate in January, when the 114th Congress convenes.
The last time the GOP had 54 seats in the Senate was 2004; they also reached that plateau in 1982, 1996 and 1998.
Since the direct election of Senators began in 1913, Republicans have never held more than 59 seats in the Senate – that after the 1920 election; the GOP had 56 after their 1928 victory.
By contrast, Democrats have had many elections produce Senate majorities with 60 or more votes: 1934, 1936 (their high point at 76 seats), 1938, 1940, 1958, 1960, 1952, 1964, 1966, 1974, 1976 and 2008.
On Saturday, Republicans also won two runoff elections for U.S. House seats, giving them 246 seats. One seat remains in limbo, the race in Arizona’s 2nd district, where Republican Martha McSally holds a very narrow lead over Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ).
If that seat stays in McSally’s favor, then the GOP will hold 247 seats – that would eclipse the GOP majority in 1946 of 246 votes.
Republicans held 270 seats after the 1928 elections; their high point in the last century was 302 after the 1920 election.
As in the Senate, House Democrats have been over the 246 threshold many more times; just a few years ago, they held 257 seats after the 2008 elections.
In other words, this is a rare time when Democrats find themselves not only in the minority – but a distinct minority in the Congress.
The same thing has happened nationally in state legislature, and for Governor.
Is this just a blip? Or are we about to see a lengthy period of Republican domination?
Finally, here’s a very interesting graphic about the change we have seen in just the last few elections, as the Republicans have flipped the majorities on the Democrats.