Box 16, Folder 6, Document 77

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Eugene Patterson

Two Parties,

But No ‘System’

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. — Smith College

students, struggling to understand the South,
ask the ancient question: “‘When will you have

two parties?” To say the question is relative, which it is, or

to propose a general answer, which one cannot, is unsatisfactory
to them.

They want at least a guess as to when the South is going to
organize itself politically like everybody else. The answer may
even be never. But if a Southerner were required to risk a
generalization, perhaps the most sensible way of getting at it
would be this:

Southern Republicans will be wise to offer an alternative: they
apparently cannot win a mere me-too campaign against the
Southern Democrats.

Winthrop Rockefeller moved to the left of a conservative
Democrat and won Arkansas in 1966.

Claude Kirk went to the right of a liberal Democrat and
won Florida.

Conservative Republicans tried to fight a me-too campaign
.against conservative Democrats in Mississippi, Alabama and Geor-
gia, and lost all three. Georgia almost certainly would have gone
Republican as Arkansas did if a Rockefeller-type candidacy had
been present to gather in the moderate and Negro vote.

All of which brings up the relative aspect of the thing. Party
labels don’t really mean as much to the future of the Deep South
states as do the principles that are in competition. An increase of
segregationist conservatism in a region already surfeited and
stifled with it can hardly be called a political service to the
South, whether it is the result of one party factionalism or is
sanctified with the shibboleth of “two party system.’? A way out
of the past, not a thrust backward into it, is the South’s need.

And the Goldwater Republicanism of Mississippi, Alabama

and Georgia—and to some extent Scuth Carolina—offered an echo

of old Democratic practices instead of the choice of something new.

Far from being constructive politically, this right wing chal-

| lenge merely snuffed out the first glimmerings of moderation
Deep South Democrats and drove them back to the right
to defend their old base of racism and reaction.

Then which party will risk the first move toward the middle
of the road? Again, it is foolish to generalize: Georgia may be
almost as different from Alabama as Florida is from Arkansas.

Yet it would seem reasonable in Georgia at least for the Re-
publicans to lead the way out of the right hand rut and toward
the center. The Democrats would undoubtedly follow them toward
that higher battleground, since they were trying to move there
before the Goldwater debacle chased them back to their old base.

The state would benefit greatly by the moderating trend. And ©

a moderate Republicanism, being known nationally as the more
conservative philosophy anyway, might retain an advantage with
genuine conservatives while freeing itself, as well as the Demo-
cratic party, from the destructive business of courting segrega-
tionists to the exclusion of moderates and Negroes in the South,

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