There's no turning back.

What Happened to Southern White Democrats?

Francis Wilkinson writes editorials on politics and U.S. domestic policy for Bloomberg View. He was executive editor of the Week. He was previously a national affairs writer for Rolling Stone, a communications consultant and a political media strategist.
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Amid the many Democratic defeats in yesterday's election, the most historic may have been that of Representative John Barrow of Georgia. With his loss, in 2015 there will be no white Democrats from the Deep South in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Across the South (using the expansive definition of political scientists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein), white congressional Democrats are close to extinction. Senators Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Kay Hagan of North Carolina also lost yesterday, while Mary Landrieu of Louisiana was forced into a difficult runoff next month. So next year white Democrats will hold fewer than two dozen House and Senate seats, with a solid dozen concentrated in just two states -- Florida and Virginia -- where in-migration has changed populations and politics in recent decades.

As the above graphic shows, Democratic dominance of the South's congressional representation peaked in 1961 and has fallen steadily ever since. The biggest declines occurred in the early 1990s and in the last decade -- periods when a Democrat, one of them a Southerner, occupied the White House.

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To contact the authors on this story:
Frank Wilkinson at
Alex Bruns at

To contact the editors on this story:
Frank Wilkinson at
Michael Newman at