Nevertheless, Southern Democrats said they are poised to make a comeback and prove Johnson’s “long time to come” is over.
They point out the generation that vehemently rejected Johnson’s Civil Rights Act is dying off. And in its place is a younger, more progressive and diverse group of Southerners.
“His prophecy was right, but that generation is about over now,” said Rickey Cole, chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party. “It can happen. In order to win in this part of the country, we have to play a nearly perfect game, and we have to capitalize on any fumbles and turnovers on the other side. But we can win.”
In looking back on the years of the “Solid South,” some Democrats said they now believe their near-century of dominance hurt the party.
“Southern Democrats never developed an opposition type or style of party that you have to be in today’s world,” said former Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, a founder of the Southern Progress Fund. “Democrats in the South have not had the ability to push back on various issues.”
Musgrove’s point: If there is political parity, each party understands winning and losing. When the massive shift of power occurred in the 1960s and ’70s, Democrats weren’t prepared to be in the minority and didn’t have the infrastructure to dig themselves out.