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Author Topic: why did Virginia always have such a conservative democrat party?  (Read 1875 times)
freepcrusher
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« on: April 26, 2012, 11:09:42 am »
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I had always thought that being the northernmost democrat state, that Virginia would have the most "national" democratic party of any of the southern states. But looking at old voting records and such, I found that some of the most reactionary democrats came from Virginia. Even as late as 35 years ago you had guys like W.C. Daniel and David Satterfield who often had ACU ratings in the 80s or 90s. Going back further there were guys like Tuck (can't remember first name), A.W. Robertson (father of evangelist Pat Robertson) and Harry Byrd. One of the Rules chairman, Howard Smith, was notorious for bottling up any legislation he didn't like. Virginia also had some of the lowest turnout rates of any states.

So my question is, why did Virginia have such a conservative democratic party for so long? Was it because of its location in the tidewater and historic elite presence (guys like the cavaliers)? Was it a tradition in Jeffersonian democracy favoring the wealthy planters? Was it the military presence or the Byrd family's influence?
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wormyguy
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« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2012, 11:17:03 am »
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Virginia did have the most "national" Democratic Party.  Conservatives there were predominantly concerned with conservatism, not segregation.
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freepcrusher
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« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2012, 11:24:31 am »
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Virginia did have the most "national" Democratic Party.  Conservatives there were predominantly concerned with conservatism, not segregation.

there certainly weren't many Adam Clayton Powells or William Fitts Ryans in Virginia.
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smoltchanov
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« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2012, 02:38:53 pm »
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I had always thought that being the northernmost democrat state, that Virginia would have the most "national" democratic party of any of the southern states. But looking at old voting records and such, I found that some of the most reactionary democrats came from Virginia. Even as late as 35 years ago you had guys like W.C. Daniel and David Satterfield who often had ACU ratings in the 80s or 90s. Going back further there were guys like Tuck (can't remember first name), A.W. Robertson (father of evangelist Pat Robertson) and Harry Byrd. One of the Rules chairman, Howard Smith, was notorious for bottling up any legislation he didn't like. Virginia also had some of the lowest turnout rates of any states.

So my question is, why did Virginia have such a conservative democratic party for so long? Was it because of its location in the tidewater and historic elite presence (guys like the cavaliers)? Was it a tradition in Jeffersonian democracy favoring the wealthy planters? Was it the military presence or the Byrd family's influence?

Virginia had famous "Byrd machine" (named after Senator Harry Byrd Sr.), which almost completely controlled state polirics for 35 years. And Harry Byrd Sr. himself was rather solid conservative (btw - he was racist too, a "Massive resistance" politics in Virginia was rather famous as well). Not surprisingly his "lieutenants" shared his very conservative views...
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« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2012, 02:56:49 pm »
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And Virginia by the way had Doug Wilder/Mark Warner more progressive Democrats. And it is getting bluer and bluer as Barack Obama remains as Prez because of the Doug Wilder factor.
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« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2012, 04:16:18 pm »
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So my question is, why did Virginia have such a conservative democratic party for so long? Was it because of its location in the tidewater and historic elite presence (guys like the cavaliers)? Was it a tradition in Jeffersonian democracy favoring the wealthy planters? Was it the military presence or the Byrd family's influence?
The Byrd organization was key here for sure.  It's basis was not in the Tidewater region so much as the Southside (basically in the southern part of Hurt's district and the rural white parts of Forbes'). This region was for along time both the most conservative and the most Democratic, giving the best percentages in Virginia for Stevenson and JFK, but also Goldwater and Wallace. The military areas such as in Norfolk were actually somewhat more Republican and moderate than much of the state.
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Kevin
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« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2012, 11:46:24 am »
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And Virginia by the way had Doug Wilder/Mark Warner more progressive Democrats. And it is getting bluer and bluer as Barack Obama remains as Prez because of the Doug Wilder factor.

That's a very erroneous comment to make. True that compared to the VA Democratic politicians of 40-60 years ago people like Wilder and Warner are more progressive, however compared to the Democratic party as a whole they are def more centrist and lean towards the conservative end of the party. The more liberal Democrat in modern memory in VA probably has been Tim Kaine and even he governed like a centrist or even a conservative at times.

The 2nd part of what you said illustrates the problems with many of the center-left posters on the forum as a good deal of them think that Virginia is turning into some Southern version of Connecticut or an extension of Maryland when that in reality is further from the truth.

It was once true before 2009 that Virginia was turning hard D due to the inroads Democrats made, the unpopularity of Bush, and demographic changes. However, since then the state as a whole has been shifting back the Republicans. Ex. Bob McDonnell and he state GOP as a whole whipped the Democrats in 2009. The Democrats also lost 3 House seats in the 2010 election and almost lost another in heavily Democratic leaning parts of NOVA. In addition, they lost the State Senate and most of the gains they made on the local level before 2008. he Democrats also risk losing the US Senate seat they gained in 2006

Also, I live in NOVA and my home county voted for Obama by 54-44 after voting GOP. And every local Democrat has since lost reelection since then and everytime I go home and talk politics with people many say they are simply disappointed as well as tired with Obama as a whole. Furthermore the prospect of national defense cuts mainly driven by the White House and national Democrats, has many worried and angry considering the military/defense industry is the prime driver of the states economy.

In short, Democrats have alot of work cut out for them in VA and are going to have to work hard to hold onto the state. So those Ras polls that every Democrat on here thinks is bs, will to a large extent it is not in the case of Virginia.  
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Torie
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« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2012, 09:30:05 pm »
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Virginia had a nice high poll tax, that kept the downmarket masses from voting for starters (whites as well as blacks). And NOVA back then was less of a factor.
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rob in cal
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« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2012, 11:06:23 am »
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Yeah, I kept waiting for mention of that Virginia poll tax to come up in the Waltons.  There are a few episodes about Virginia politics of the 1930's.  In one episode I think John Boy works for a state senate candidate for awhile, IIRC, but whether the Walton family would have actually been able to afford to vote is never mentioned.  I don't think they would have, as money was tight for them.
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Torie
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« Reply #9 on: May 05, 2012, 02:58:45 pm »
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Yeah, I kept waiting for mention of that Virginia poll tax to come up in the Waltons.  There are a few episodes about Virginia politics of the 1930's.  In one episode I think John Boy works for a state senate candidate for awhile, IIRC, but whether the Walton family would have actually been able to afford to vote is never mentioned.  I don't think they would have, as money was tight for them.

Didn't the Waltons "live" in West Virginia?
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rob in cal
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« Reply #10 on: May 05, 2012, 05:30:54 pm »
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No. it was supposed to be somewhere in North Central Virginia near Charlottesville I believe.
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smoltchanov
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« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2012, 01:45:51 pm »
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It should be noted, that main "distinction" of Virginia's Byrd machine was an economic conservatism. In almost every other Southern state there was a lot of socially conservative, hawkish and frequently - racist Democrats at that time. But usually these Dmocrats were more populist and appreciative of government interference in economy. Not so in Virginia, where "leaders" were economically conservative as well..
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freepcrusher
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« Reply #12 on: January 22, 2013, 02:45:01 am »
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i've always wondered what ended the rule of the Byrd machine. Was William Spong (senator from 1967-1972) the first congressional democrat to win without much support of the Byrd machine?
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morgieb
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« Reply #13 on: January 22, 2013, 03:27:40 am »
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It was still a very Southern state though - remember this was the HQ of the Confederacy.
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smoltchanov
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« Reply #14 on: January 22, 2013, 06:57:10 am »
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i've always wondered what ended the rule of the Byrd machine. Was William Spong (senator from 1967-1972) the first congressional democrat to win without much support of the Byrd machine?

Probably no. "The fighting ninth" district in western part of the state elected anti-Byrd Democrat to House in 50th, if i remember correctly... And generally, in the 60th rolls of voters in Virginia expanded greatly (partially, but only partially, with addition of black voters), which, as a rule, were not controllable by machine. Though (as you mentioned yourself) some very conservative (by present day standards - EXTREMELY conservative), Democrats in Virginia's House delegation like above mentioned Dan Daniel or David Satterfield managed to survive until 80th...
« Last Edit: January 22, 2013, 09:41:43 am by smoltchanov »Logged

Raging moderate. Big fan of "mavericks" (in all parties) and big non-lover of "reliable foot soldiers" (in all parties as well). Very much "anti-tea party". Political Matrix - E: -0.26, S: -3.48. Like to collect bans on partisan sites (4-5 on DKE (+ SSP) and on RRH).
Torie
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« Reply #15 on: January 22, 2013, 10:19:12 am »
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The Byrd machine kept the vote way down, with poll taxes and what not.
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Indy Texas
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« Reply #16 on: January 22, 2013, 03:50:48 pm »
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It should be noted, that main "distinction" of Virginia's Byrd machine was an economic conservatism. In almost every other Southern state there was a lot of socially conservative, hawkish and frequently - racist Democrats at that time. But usually these Dmocrats were more populist and appreciative of government interference in economy. Not so in Virginia, where "leaders" were economically conservative as well..

VA Democrats always had a revolving door between politics and the business community in those days. I'd assume it's because Virginia was, along with the Carolinas, the only part of the South that had a noteworthy manufacturing and industrial sector. People in the Deep South scratching out a miserable living as cotton sharecroppers, and their landlords who often didn't fare much better, could have cared less about a "friendly business climate."
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smoltchanov
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« Reply #17 on: January 23, 2013, 02:02:28 am »
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It should be noted, that main "distinction" of Virginia's Byrd machine was an economic conservatism. In almost every other Southern state there was a lot of socially conservative, hawkish and frequently - racist Democrats at that time. But usually these Dmocrats were more populist and appreciative of government interference in economy. Not so in Virginia, where "leaders" were economically conservative as well..

VA Democrats always had a revolving door between politics and the business community in those days. I'd assume it's because Virginia was, along with the Carolinas, the only part of the South that had a noteworthy manufacturing and industrial sector. People in the Deep South scratching out a miserable living as cotton sharecroppers, and their landlords who often didn't fare much better, could have cared less about a "friendly business climate."

Agree. But even in Carolinas Democratic congressmen were, usually, less economically conservative  then in Virginia.
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Raging moderate. Big fan of "mavericks" (in all parties) and big non-lover of "reliable foot soldiers" (in all parties as well). Very much "anti-tea party". Political Matrix - E: -0.26, S: -3.48. Like to collect bans on partisan sites (4-5 on DKE (+ SSP) and on RRH).
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