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Earl Black
Earl Black
The Vital South: How Presidents are Elected
ISBN: 0674941314
The Vital South: How Presidents are Elected
Twin brothers Professors Earl and Merle Black discussed their book, The Vital South: How Presidents Are Elected, published by Harvard University Press. They talked about the politics of the eleven states comprising the old Confederacy, which they argued were of vital importance in presidential elections because of their size and their political unity.
The Vital South: How Presidents are Elected
Program Air Date: May 3, 1992

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Earl Black, you and your brother Merle -- I assume it's your brother ...
LAMB: Is he a twin brother, by the way?
E. BLACK: He's a twin brother.
LAMB: Do you accept this, -- who's older?
LAMB: All right. You two, the Earl and Merle Black team, have written a book called "The Vital South." How come?
E. BLACK: Well, the South, I think, is the key to the Republican control of the White House. It's a vital South, because the South is the largest region in the United States, and it's usually the most unified. And that combination of size and unity gives the South great leverage in control of the White House. And since 1972, that's meant that the Republicans, by capturing the South or most of it, have had a huge head start on winning the presidency.
LAMB: When you say the South, what do you mean?
M. BLACK: The 11 states in the Old Confederacy, from Texas to Virginia. It's the same states that V.O. Key used when he wrote his tremendous book, "Southern Politics," back in 1949.
LAMB: V.O. Key.
M. BLACK: V.O. Key Jr., right.
LAMB: Who is V.O. Key?
M. BLACK: V.O. Key was a Texan who ended his political career at Harvard. He was one of the most important political scientists in 20th century America. But his most famous book is a book called "Southern Politics," written in the late 1940s, and describing a very different South than the one that we're analyzing now.
LAMB: We're going to talk a lot about the South, obviously, but before we do that, where do you both live and work and...
E. BLACK: Well, I'm a professor of political science at the University of South Carolina, and I've been there since 1975.
LAMB: And where is the University of South Carolina?
E. BLACK: In Columbia, South Carolina.
M. BLACK: I'm professor of politics and government at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
LAMB: So you're not in the same city, not in the same university, but you're twin brothers.
E. BLACK: That's right.
M. BLACK: Right.
LAMB: How do you write a book together when you're that far apart?
M. BLACK: Well -- or that close together.
E. BLACK: It probably helps that we're sort of far apart. We start out with a division of labor, and I'll draft some chapters, he'll draft some chapters, and then we exchange, and it becomes -- by the time that we end, a really collaborative venture. He does more work with survey research, and I do more with county-level data and maps and things like that, so we try to blend the interest that we have.
LAMB: What do you hope to accomplish with this book?
M. BLACK: Well, we hope to bring to the greater attention of viewers the importance of the South. I think it's really not recognized that the South, as we define it, is the largest region in the United States. It's a growth region. Many of these states here are experiencing population booms. They're going up in terms of representation.

And the other important part about this is the South at the center of American politics in helping to define winners and losers. Historically, when people look to the South, they look to the South as something so utterly different from the rest of the nation, that the South was not at center stage, it was off in the wings. It was a different South. When we began scholarly interest in the South back in the 1960s, the only reason you really looked to the South was because it was so different. And today when we look at the South, the more you look at the South, the more you see America. The South's the most Republican part of the country in presidential politics. It's one of the reasons the Republicans have usually held the White House. But in terms of Senate elections, congressional elections, the South is still the most Democratic part of the country.
LAMB: Where did you grow up?
E. BLACK: In northeast Texas, small town -- Sulphur Springs, Texas, it's about halfway between Dallas and Texarkana. So we moved there when we were, I think, five years old and stayed there until we left to go to university. So our upbringing was in a small east Texas town, sort of on the periphery of a really Deep South experience. It wasn't Deep South, but it was close enough to that to give you the experience of what the traditional South was like.
LAMB: And you went to school where?
E. BLACK: Well, I went to undergraduate work at the University of Texas, and then I did...
LAMB: In Austin.
E. BLACK: In Austin, and I did my Ph.D. at Harvard University.
M. BLACK: I was undergraduate at Harvard and then did my Ph.D. at the University of Chicago.
LAMB: So you led the way at Harvard for your brother.
M. BLACK: That's right. That's right.
LAMB: And the difference in your age again?
M. BLACK: Fifteen minutes.
E. BLACK: Fifteen minutes. I'm 15 minutes older. We were born in 1942, so we're 50 years old.
LAMB: Is it unusual for twins to do the same kind of work?
E. BLACK: I think it's very unusual, and it's almost happenstance. We started out, and I didn't have kind of a professional interest in trying to understand Southern politics until I left Texas and was in Cambridge doing graduate work in the mid-1960s when the civil rights movement was erupting, and that was sort of the stimulus to try to understand this region. And then Merle, I think, came to the same kind of conclusion. That was sort of what he was interested in a little bit later, but by coincidence, we wound up both as political scientists and then as political scientists, sort of interested in the same area of the United States, both to understand developments within the South and then now, particularly in the vital South, to try to understand how the South has an impact on the nation.
LAMB: What was it like growing up? Are your parents still alive?
M. BLACK: My mother died a few years ago; my father is still alive. Our parents are very strong Democrats. My father kind of set the tone in the family. He's never voted for a Republican in his life, couldn't even consider doing something like that. My mother told me one time, in a moment of weakness, that she had voted for Eisenhower in 1952. My father still doesn't know that and, I think, wouldn't believe it if I told him that. He always thought that he kind of set the political tone for the family.
LAMB: What did he do for a living?
M. BLACK: He worked with the Soil Conservation Service in the Department of Agriculture.
LAMB: How did you get interested in being a political scientist?
E. BLACK: Well, I think we were interested in politics from an early age, sort of small-town Texas politics. And politics was just intrinsically interesting. A lot of other things weren't so interesting, and I think those early experiences just led us, over a period of time, to want to find a way to make a living and still be interested in politics, and it turned out that academia was the answer to that question.
LAMB: What about your own political views? Do you state them?
M. BLACK: Well, I consider myself probably a moderate Democrat, fairly weak Democrat, out of that old tradition, but I'm not a strong partisan and I don't take part in party politics.
E. BLACK: Pretty much the same. I think of myself as a Democrat, but I'm not actively engaged in helping elect anybody. More observing and really trying to understand the results that we see.
M. BLACK: And in terms of analyzing politics in the South, we're really not doing it in partisan terms. We're really trying to make an analysis that you could give to a Democratic audience or to a Republican audience and just, you know, let the chips fall where they may.
LAMB: We're going to talk a lot about what's in the book, but how would you describe the book for someone that says, “I like those guys. I'd like to know more about the South, but what am I going to get in the book?”
E. BLACK: I think you're going to get in the book an understanding of why the South has come to hold center stage in American presidential politics. This is a South where we talk first in the book about the national setting, and we try to show that the South, in modern times, by becoming as Republican as it has, has given the Republican Party, really for the first time in its history, a tremendous national base. The Republicans start off in terms of behavior of states with almost unbelievable advantage in presidential politics.

We have a map in Chapter One, where we classify the Southern states -- all the states in the nation -- as usually Republican, usually Democratic, or mixed. And the map will show a tremendous Republican advantage. It'll show that the states that have usually gone Republican in -- well, that's a map that is, I think, quite original. This is based on counties rather than states. But it shows the tremendous Republican advantage since the late 1960s. All the dark counties there are counties that are part of the Republican base. They're particularly prominent in the Western half of the country. The light counties -- the white counties -- are the usually Democratic counties, and they are much harder to find. In fact, we have at the county level here, a really lopsided distribution of the grass-roots base for both parties.
LAMB: Lots of statistics in the book, lots of charts and graphs. Did you do anything special to show those?
M. BLACK: Well, I think Earl did most of the maps here, and these are -- particularly at the county level -- these are computer-drawn maps that provide a kind of detail about American politics that I don't think anybody else has done. And we've done this, also, for different periods of political history. The book is contemporary, but it also has a lot of political history in it. We're trying to make the case for the importance of the modern period, '68 through '88, by comparing it with previous eras in American political history.
LAMB: Let's go back -- oh, I don't care how far you want to go back, but talk about the major changes in the South in this centur.
E. BLACK: Well, I think, historically, the South was the solid Democratic South. That was a cliche, but it was also a reality.
LAMB: Why were they Democrats?
E. BLACK: They were Democratic, largely, I think, because of the Civil War and the impact of Reconstruction. The South comes out of the Civil War, really -- and after Reconstruction -- really only Democratic. The Republicans did not send a presidential candidate into the South to campaign until Dwight Eisenhower came in 1952. It was only in the second half of the 20th century that the Republicans set foot in the South. They just conceded the 11 Southern states to the Democrats.
LAMB: Who were the heroes in the South in those early years of this century --politicians that the South really admired?
M. BLACK: Woodrow Wilson.
LAMB: Why would they admire Woodrow Wilson?
M. BLACK: Well, Woodrow Wilson's was the first person born in the South who achieved the presidency. For many a decades after the Civil War, a Southerner couldn't even get on the ticket.
LAMB: Now we think of him as being a New Jerseyite.
M. BLACK: That's right.
LAMB: But where was he born?
M. BLACK: Yeah. He was born in Virginia and raised in other Southern states. He lived through the Civil War in the South. See, he was kind of a half-Southerner or kind of a hybrid Southerner. And you're exactly right. The reason he was on the ticket had nothing to do with the South. It was because he was the governor of New Jersey and the president of Princeton University. But he was viewed by many Southerners -- white Southerners -- as the kind of return of the South to power at the national level.
E. BLACK: And then I think Franklin Roosevelt in the period of the Great Depression became a great hero for the Democrats as well. This was a period when the Great Depression sort of reinforced the Southern Democratic bias against the Republican Party because the Republican Party, in their view, was the cause of the Depression. So Roosevelt became a tremendous hero as well. But this was at a time when the whole issue of civil rights, broadly defined, was not an overt issue. And so the racial conservatism of the South really wasn't tested during the New Deal.
LAMB: Who were the great leaders from the South during those years?
E. BLACK: Well, a number of the Southern leaders, I suppose, would be particularly the people in the Senate who served for long periods of time. You think of someone like Richard Russell as a dominant figure who came to the Senate from Georgia in the 1930s and who remained until the late '70s.
LAMB: And they named one of the Senate buildings after him.
E. BLACK: Indeed they did. And Lyndon Johnson, I suppose, is another classic Southern Democratic leader who comes to the Senate in 1948, and until he leaves to be vice president is a very powerful figure.
M. BLACK: And Sam Rayburn in the House, too.
LAMB: Sam Rayburn was?
M. BLACK: Speaker of the House for a long time, majority leader, Democratic leader from Texas -- small-town Texas politician.
LAMB: Let me show you this list here, because for people who haven't thought about the 11 states, I assume this is the 11: Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Texas. And then, of course, the Deep and the Peripheral South. What's that mean?
E. BLACK: Well, the Deep South consists of the five Southern states that are the most traditionally Southern in their voting data.
LAMB: Name them.
E. BLACK: Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama--those five states. These were the states that historically had the largest black populations and, hence, with blacks not voting, produced the most racially conservative whites. So it's the Deep South states, for example, who are going to be most supportive of Strom Thurmond in 1948 when he's the Dixiecratic candidate for president. It's the Deep South states, and only the Deep South states, that vote for Barry Goldwater in 1964. And in 1968 it's the Deep South states, minus South Carolina, that vote for George Wallace when he's a third-party candidate.
LAMB: Why minus South Carolina?
E. BLACK: Because South Carolina in 1968 was sort of the leading indicator of trends to come. In South Carolina in 1968, George Wallace, running for president as a third-party candidate, opposing the Great Society, runs up against Strom Thurmond. And Strom Thurmond, by 1968, of course, is a veteran senator, elected originally as a Democrat, who had changed parties in 1964, and now in 1968 is telling his supporters in South Carolina, `Don't follow a third-party candidate. That's futile. South Carolina should stay with Richard Nixon.' Strom Thurmond, interesting enough, in 1968, was a critical figure in helping get Southerners to support Richard Nixon's nomination in the Republican Party. And that was really one of the first-rate instances of the South having an impact on Republican nominations.
LAMB: Merle Black, let me ask you about this -- there's Mississippi, and you talk about Thurmond in '48 ...
M. BLACK: Right.
LAMB: Let's go next to this one over here, Mr. Goldwater in '64, and then the next one over here is George Wallace in '68. But the interesting thing I wanted to ask you about -- I'm not sure you find it interesting...
LAMB: ...but why is Mississippi, in each case, such tremendous supporters, and what makes Mississippi so much like it is?
M. BLACK: Well, Mississippi has always had a politics of very strong racial polarization. It was a state, historically, that disfranchised blacks, that strongly resisted any change in the racial status quo, had very high black populations, historically, as did South Carolina. And so whites in these states had the most, they thought, to lose from changes in the racial status of blacks. So they fiercely resisted any changes in civil rights. And when the electorate was restricted only to whites, the whites voted in a very large bloc for the most conservative racial candidate.
LAMB: Alabama is next. Now are they the same?
M. BLACK: Well, it's George Wallace. That's Wallace territory. These are the states that provided most of the support for the candidates who wanted to maintain segregation or to prevent, or to keep down as much racial change as possible in the regions.
LAMB: Let me ask you about -- go back to '48 and Strom Thurmond. What was he all about then?
E. BLACK: In 1948, Strom Thurmond was the candidate, particularly of the Deep South whites, who resented and resisted President Harry Truman's efforts to put civil rights on the political agenda. Truman sponsored the Civil Rights Commission --well, not the Civil Rights Commission, but was trying to bring forward a civil rights commission. By placing that issue on the Democratic Party's agenda, that led to a walkout of many of the Deep South Democrats at the Democratic National Convention in 1948, and Strom Thurmond, who was then the governor of South Carolina, came forward as the candidate to oppose what Truman was doing. The Southern white solidarity on behalf of the Democratic Party rested on the Democratic Party nationally suppressing the issues of civil rights. And that was maintained through Franklin Roosevelt's presidency and then Truman began to move in the opposite direction.
LAMB: Has Strom Thurmond changed over these last...
M. BLACK: Oh, yeah. He's changed a lot.
LAMB: ...I mean, '48 to '88, that's 40 years.
M. BLACK: Yes ... I mean, Strom Thurmond is a kind of an indicator of lots of different things. In 1948, he's leading the charge against any kind of racial change. In 1964, he follows Barry Goldwater, decides he's a Republican, not a Democrat, switches parties. In 1968, as Earl just said, he's very active in the Republican convention, the king maker here for Richard Nixon in 1968. 1970 one of his proteges tries to run for governor of South Carolina, Albert Watson, and loses a close contest. Now that was a contest that involved a lot of racial issues, and I think at the conclusion of that contest, Thurmond realized that he could not win with the politics of essentially assuming that blacks still didn't vote. Because if a politician in the South tries to get votes without any black support, that politician has to win a landslide majority among the white votes just to get a bare majority of the total vote.
LAMB: Was Strom Thurmond in 1948 what you would call a racist today?
E. BLACK: Well, Thurmond certainly represented the traditional Southern view that white supremacy was the ordained nature of society. He talked not so much about segregation as separation, but he really was defending the legalized segregation by law, which was the practice in the South at that time. He resisted any attempts to overturn that. And in 1948, he ended up winning every Deep South state, I believe, with the exception of Georgia, which, for idiosyncratic reasons, stayed with Harry Truman. But Strom Thurmond's appeal in 1948 didn't really go beyond these Deep South states. The other Southern states, the Peripheral South states -- Texas, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee -- these states really didn't perceive much of a threat. At this time, there had been no real racial change. It was simply the prospect of racial change that had galvanized Senator Thurmond.
LAMB: What's the most important things that have happened for American blacks in the South in this century to get them into the mainstream?
M. BLACK: Well, I think several things. One would be the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the change in public accommodations in the region. The South, historically, was a completely segregated society. Places of public accommodations run by private businesses were racially separate, and the '64 Civil Rights Act changed the law on that and made it a federal crime if someone discriminated against blacks or other minorities in places of public accommodations. So that's one of the major changes.

The other major change has to do with the Voting Rights Act in 1965, which in the Deep South states and in the state of Virginia, where majorities of blacks were not registered to vote, federal enforcement or the threat of federal enforcement began to bring about changes in those states, so that in every Southern state, majorities of blacks came onto the books as voters. And as blacks came into the system as voters, then that produced not so much a liberalization, but probably a modernization or a moderation of Southern politics.
LAMB: What percentage of the population in those 11 states are black?
E. BLACK: Roughly 20 percent for the entire region, but tremendous variation within the South, so that in Mississippi, which has the highest black population -- I think that's around 35 percent...
LAMB: Compare that with the national average.
E. BLACK: National average would be around -- what? 12 percent ...?
M. BLACK: Something like that.
E. BLACK: ... or so. Most of the Southern states -- well, all of the Southern states are above the national average, but states like Texas and Florida have relatively small black populations compared to the rest of the Southern states. They're closer to 12 percent, 11 percent or so.
LAMB: What happened to the participation on the part of blacks from, say, before '64 to after '65?
M. BLACK: Well, participation by blacks increased in all the Southern states.
LAMB: Can you give us any idea of what the size is?
M. BLACK: Well, black voters across the region as a whole in 1988, for example, blacks made up about 14 percent of voters according to the exit polls. Blacks usually turn out at slightly lower rates than whites do, and so blacks may make up 20 percent of the total population, only 14 percent of the voting population. And that would vary from state to state.

I would say, you know, the key point here is that even though blacks are now in the system as voters, probably the most important political reality is that the vast majority of votes in the South today are cast by whites, not by blacks. You know, over 80 percent of the presidential vote in '88 came from whites; 14 percent from blacks. And that has a lot to do with the Republican advantage, because the presidential vote today is very polarized. Typically, about 67 percent of whites are voting Republican; about 90 percent of blacks are voting Democratic. So the region still has enormous racial polarization in voting choice.
LAMB: I know this isn't in your book, but I would assume that you've looked at the primaries, the Super Tuesday, down in the South. What did you learn from the voting patterns down there that might impact in the fall?
E. BLACK: Well, I think in Super Tuesday this time, the Super Tuesday primaries did work from the standpoint of the creators of Super Tuesday. They produced a more moderate Democratic victor, Bill Clinton of Arkansas. But these results were achieved on very low turnout, and the most interesting thing to me from the Super Tuesday primaries of 1992 in the Deep South states -- this is true of South Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi, the states that I've been able to look at -- is that for the first time in history in those primaries, more white voters voted in the Republican primary than in the Democratic primary. I think this is a leading signal of increasing white indifference to the Democratic Party; many whites just not really caring too much about what the Democrats do. For many of the Southern whites who are more racially conservative, I think the Democratic Party has dropped off their radar screen. They're not thinking very much about the Democrats anymore.
LAMB: Is it race based?
E. BLACK: Race is a substantial part of it, but I think it's usually more than that. I think it's usually a combination of race, economics, tax policy, where the final conclusion is reached by the more racially conservative whites, that the Democratic Party's not representing their interest.
LAMB: What do you know about Arkansas? Arkansas one of the 11 ...
M. BLACK: Arkansas is one of these traditionally Democratic states. It's usually produced moderate politicians, relatively few Republicans -- no Republicans elected to the Senate from Arkansas in this century. Occasional Republicans elected to the governorship, but Bill Clinton's really been able to dominate that over the last decade. Arkansas is a small state. You know, except for Orval Faubus' resistance to desegregation in federal troops in the '50s, Arkansas is kind of not in center stage in terms of Southern politics. But I'd say what Bill Clinton is doing here is positioning himself as a moderate Democrat. That's certainly how he ran in the Deep Southern states.

And this is how Democrats are still able to dominate state and local politics in the region, by mixing up liberal positions with conservative positions. He's liberal in some issues, but he also be conservative -- supports the death penalty, has signed death warrants, that sort of thing. He's not running as a true liberal Democrat. It's not a Massachusetts Democrat. It's not a California Democrat. It's the kind of an Arkansas Democrat. That's a positioning that gives the choice to voters of a moderate Democrat vs. a conservative Republican, and when that choice is made in a lot of state elections, the victory goes to the moderate candidate.
LAMB: I don't know if you've watched it this closely, but, I mean, have you followed Arkansas in your own studies?
E. BLACK: Well, to ...
LAMB: And Bill Clinton?
E. BLACK: ... to an extent, yes.
LAMB: I guess I wanted to ask you -- on a national basis, a lot of his personal life has been covered, also, a lot of the things that have to do with things like the draft and all that. Have those issues been covered in the past when he has run for governor?
E. BLACK: My impression is that it has not received anywhere near the scrutiny that he's received as a national candidate. I think the standards of journalism probably are quite different. In Arkansas, some of these issues have received no coverage at all. Newspapers there would probably think that some of these issues don't belong in newspapers, and they're too divisive, so they don't really cover it. Others, I think, may have been covered, but at a very superficial level. So I think Bill Clinton may have misgauged how the national press would treat him by extrapolating from how he'd been treated in Arkansas.
LAMB: Who are some of the most innovative politicians you've watched in the South over the last few years?
M. BLACK: Innovative. Anyway, I think from almost a negative example, Jesse Helms, because Helms goes against the conventional wisdom. He's doing it the hard way. He's still winning, but he's doing it the hard way.
LAMB: What do you mean by that?
M. BLACK: Well, you can draw a real contrast between Helms and Thurmond. Helms runs every campaign that Helms has been involved in has involved racial issues of one sort or another, from '72 up through 1990.

Helms still operates as though blacks didn't vote in North Carolina, so he starts out a campaign, in essence, by throwing away about 20 percent of the voters. That means the only way he can win is by getting over 60 percent of the vote, and that's all from whites. So he's locked himself into a strategy where he's seen as defending the interest of conservative whites on racial issues and -- without getting any black votes. So he's got to get this over 60 percent. And the only way he can do this -- because Helms, essentially, is not that popular in the state; most North Carolinians are not little Jesse Helms in miniature -- but if he can do a negative enough campaign against his opponent and make the issue the opponent and what the opponent might do, then he can still win, even though he's relatively unpopular in the state. And I think that's doing it the hard way.

The same election that Helms had to fight in the last two weeks to win against Harvey Gantt, Strom Thurmond in South Carolina was coasting to victory with no strong opponent at all. Thurmond has moderated enough so that Thurmond doesn't mobilize large numbers of blacks, automatically, against him. He can get black votes. He also gets a lot of white votes. Thurmond's doing it the easy way; Helms is doing it the hard way.
LAMB: Earl Black, do you have another politician in the South that you find interesting?
E. BLACK: Well, I think Lyndon Johnson is a truly innovative and important politician for the 20th century. Here's somebody who's elected to the Senate from Texas in 1948 and before his first term is over, he's just about to become majority leader of the United States Senate, exercise a tremendous influence over that Southern bloc, but sort of positioning himself as someone who is not simply a defender of the traditional Southern perspective, but as someone who had national ambitions and someone who saw himself more as a Westerner. So I think Johnson grew up with the politics of race in a more modest level in Texas, not as harsh as it would be in South Carolina or Mississippi. But, nonetheless, had aspirations that eventually, when he became president, led to the Civil Rights Act of '64 and the Voting Rights Act of '65, by far the most important laws that Congress has passed that's dealt with race relations in this century.
LAMB: When did you two start working on this book?
E. BLACK: Well, you know, it's been a process over several years. I think, you know, in the actual writing of it was last year. It took about six, eight months to write.
LAMB: Who got the first idea here to ...
E. BLACK: Well, this is actually the second book of a series that we've been doing. We did a book with Harvard University Press in 1987 called "Politics and Society in the South," and that book sort of looked at the changing demography of the region and got into the politics -- a little bit of it. But that was really setting up studies that we hoped to accomplish that dealt more with the pure politics of the South. And this one, dealing with presidential politics, "The Vital South," is the first of what I hope will be some more studies that will take us to look at the South and Congress and maybe Southern state politics as well.
LAMB: You both went to Harvard at different times for different reasons, but why the Harvard Press on this? How do you do that?
M. BLACK: That's his ...
E. BLACK: Well, I had done a book with Harvard University Press in 1976 called "Southern Governors and Civil Rights," and from that experience, they were interested in a more general book on the South, which "Politics and Society in the South" turned out to be. And then it turned out they were even more interested in a book that dealt with presidential politics in the South. So we've had a working relationship for a long time, that has been quite beneficial to all of us.
LAMB: Who owns the Harvard Press?
E. BLACK: Well, it's a unit of Harvard University -- one of, a handful of very prestigious university presses that anybody would be happy to publish with.
LAMB: You were going to say something?
M. BLACK: Yeah, and I just forgot what it was.
LAMB: Let me ask you a little bit more about the two of you. You're twins, 15 minutes apart. How old are you?
E. BLACK: Fifty now, born in 1942.
LAMB: And what are you two not alike -- on what issues and what way of life and all that? Are you married, children?
E. BLACK: Yes. We're both married. I have one daughter, who is 16 years old. And I think in terms of probably a lot of interests and so forth, we're pretty similar. Main interest, I would say, is -- as kind of a hobby -- is bluegrass music. We do not play instruments, but when we left Texas and left the Northeast and settled in the South, we became exposed to this form of music, and we've had kind of a fan's interest in that for some time.
LAMB: Now you live in Columbia...
E. BLACK: Yes.
LAMB: ...South Carolina.
E. BLACK: Yes.
LAMB: What's the University of South Carolina like?
E. BLACK: Well, the University of South Carolina is the main state university in South Carolina, with a student body of around 25,000 or so, located in the state capital with a broad variety of programs for undergraduates and a lot of graduate students as well. We draw primarily from South Carolina, but a lot of students come from outside the state now as well.
LAMB: You teach?
E. BLACK: Yes. I'm chairman of the department of government international studies at the University of South Carolina, and I teach in the general area of American politics, and Southern politics is my specialty.
LAMB: And you are the Olin D. Johnston ...
E. BLACK: Yes.
LAMB: ... professor.
E. BLACK: Yes.
LAMB: Who is Olin D. Johnston?
E. BLACK: Olin D. Johnston was one of the great Southern senators, governor of South Carolina in the New Deal period, and then later went to the Senate, and he was in the Senate throughout the 1950s and into the early 1960s. He came from the up-country of South Carolina and had a primary interest in looking after the textile workers in the state.
LAMB: You're the Asa G. Candler professor ...
M. BLACK: Right.
LAMB: ... at Emory in Atlanta.
M. BLACK: Right.
LAMB: Who is Asa G. Candler?
M. BLACK: He was part of the Coke family. The Coca-Cola people in Atlanta have given enormous amounts of money over the years to Emory University, and Mr. Candler's part of that tradition.
LAMB: Do you differ from your brother in any way?
M. BLACK: In any way? I think, probably, psychologically, we're probably quite different. I don't know that I'd want to get into it on this program.
LAMB: Oh, come on. Psychologically ...
M. BLACK: Psychologically.
LAMB: That's a loaded word.
M. BLACK: Yes indeed. I think I'm more introspective than he is. I'd put it that way. I'm married, have two wonderful daughters, and like bluegrass music, too.
LAMB: What Emory like?
M. BLACK: Emory is a really fine liberal arts institution, historically an undergraduate institution, now increasingly more of a graduate institution, also. It's come up enormously in the last 10 years as a result of a huge $100 million grant from the Coca-Cola people, but it's become one of the most important and, I think, leading universities -- liberal arts universities in the South.
LAMB: How big is it?
M. BLACK: About 10,000.
LAMB: And what's the difference between being in Atlanta and being in Columbia? Are there any differences in the cities? I mean, is it -- and having a university in the capital cities.
M. BLACK: Yes, there are lots of differences in the cities. I mean, Atlanta is much more in the ball game. Columbia's kind of in the backwaters of things.
LAMB: Do you agree with that?
E. BLACK: Well, there's are some obvious differences. Columbia is a smaller city. You're talking about a half million metropolitan area population, which actually is quite livable. It's easy to get around. It's a good place to raise children and so forth. And it does not have the attractions nor the vices of the Atlanta metropolis.
LAMB: All right. If you were asked to make a list of the differences today between a Northerner and a Southerner, could you do it?
E. BLACK: I think it would be harder to do it today because I think the differences are less, although you can certainly see -- for example, in Bill Clinton's recent venture into New York state and the kind of greeting that he gets and so forth, I think some of the cultural differences come out. In general, at least in terms of politics, the Southern audiences are less rude. They're more civil. There's more of a genteel attitude to part of politics there. A lot of that, I think, just flows from basic population differences. The Southern states are a much larger percentage of native white population, plus native black population, and far fewer ethnic groups are really prominent in the population the way they are in the great metropolises of the North.
M. BLACK: I think Southerners anyway, this is an overgeneralization, but Southerners are very concrete, like people, information about people, things --something you can touch, feel, not really that interested in abstract ideas. I think Northerners are more interested in concepts, abstract ideas, than Southerners are.
LAMB: How come Oklahoma, which is right there on the -- I mean, why Texas and not Oklahoma in the South? Why Tennessee but not Kentucky?
E. BLACK: Well, we had to distinguish in trying to argue for the importance of "The Vital South," and to do this on a more conservative basis, we tried to adopt a more restrictive definition of the South to the kind of classic 11-state definition. States like Oklahoma and Maryland and Kentucky -- these are border states; and actually, in terms of their political behavior, if you go back into American history, they're really sort of intermediate between the purer Democratic Southern states and the heavily Republican Northern states. The border state is literally almost a border. Much of the Civil War was fought on their territory, and so they ...
M. BLACK: I think the border states were states that had slaves, but they did not secede. They didn't leave the Union, so their political histories are somewhat different from those of the solid South.
LAMB: On a difference basis, you both went to Harvard. By the way, what years were they? I know yours were...
E. BLACK: Well, I was a graduate student there from 1964 through 1968.
M. BLACK: I was there '60 to '64.
LAMB: What's the difference -- maybe Harvard's not that good example, but what's the difference between a Northern education and a Southern education?
E. BLACK: Well, I think Harvard simply had a much stronger faculty, much greater resources, library resources and so forth; and basically higher standards. I think that the University of Texas in the early '60s where I went, if you were very careful in selecting your courses, you could get a very good education, because there were a lot of very good faculty there. But across the whole range, there'd be a lot of variation, and I think in Harvard, it was pitched at a higher level.
M. BLACK: I think most of my education has been in Northern institutions, at least at the graduate level. I remember when I went to Harvard my first year, I was just overwhelmed by it all. You know, here were a lot of kids reading -- had already read things that I hadn't even heard about before. And I felt that I was really, you know, just running hard to keep up and never really got up. So it was kind of a shock going from small-town Texas to Harvard.

I remember one thing when I arrived there and was going there a week earlier because I was working, doing some stuff, and we were met by a person who had a coat and tie on, and I took him to be a professor. And then the next morning I saw him carrying out the trash. I'd never seen a janitor with a tie on before. It was a different level.
LAMB: Why did Jimmy Carter win the presidency back in 1976?
E. BLACK: Well, I think Jimmy Carter is the exception to the main pattern that we found here, because Carter won every Southern state except Virginia in 1976. He did it, really, I think, largely aided by the Republican misfortune of Watergate, the scandal of Richard Nixon's resignation, Spiro Agnew's resignation. And then Watergate creating opportunities for the Democrats, and then Jimmy Carter, as a very long-shot governor, seized upon those opportunities very shrewdly.

He was helped in 1976 by the fact that at that time, there were a lot more Democrats in the South than there are today. For Jimmy Carter, it was more a question of uniting the Democrats. If he could really do that and had some independence and a few Republicans, that made majorities. Today, as we show in the book, it's a lot harder to do that because voting patterns have changed quite a bit, and there's been a tremendous erosion of white support for the Democratic Party in the region propelled by the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and, to a lesser degree, of George Bush. So today, for someone like Jimmy -- Bill Clinton, as the likely Democratic candidate, he might seem comparable to Jimmy Carter, but I think he's going to have a harder time because there aren't enough Democrats. There aren't as many Democrats as Jimmy Carter had to work with.
LAMB: Let me ask you about -- there's a possibility that it would be George Bush, Texan by choice, Bill Clinton, Arkansan, and Ross Perot, Texan.
M. BLACK: Right.
LAMB: Born Texan. What will that do to the South in their voting patterns, do you think, if it all turns out that way in the fall?
M. BLACK: Well, this is a very interesting question. I think it's impossible to answer right now. Ross Perot is the wild card here. He has aroused enormous interest just from the announcement of his possible candidacy. He has a huge fortune that he's willing to put into this contest. We've never had a candidate who could put $100 million of his own money into a race or even more, if that were necessary. He's extremely well known in Texas, and I think fairly well respected in Texas. So he could certainly change the outcome of a Texas primary if he were able to, you know, take on ...
LAMB: In a Texas general ...
M. BLACK: Right --In a Texas general election, if he were able to do that. If he's on these other states, too, you know, he might be able to pull votes away from the candidates. I think he would take away votes that might go to Clinton as well as to Bush. It wouldn't be just Bush that he would hurt here. And there's, I guess, a possibility that he could throw it to the House of Representatives.
LAMB: Well, how would that work?
E. BLACK: Well, it would be hard for him to do that unless he actually wins some states, because he won't get any electoral votes unless he's finishing first in some states. I ...
LAMB: Winner take all.
E. BLACK: Winner takes all in the Electoral College. I think that's going to be hard for him to achieve unless traditions really change dramatically between now and the election. So I think his role is more that of a spoiler.

You know, Texas in 1968, when George Wallace was on the ballot there, Wallace did not carry Texas, but he took enough votes away to allow Hubert -- from Richard Nixon to allow Hubert Humphrey to win a plurality of the Texas vote. I don't know that Ross Perot would draw the same way that George Wallace did, but he would probably, because he's so well known in Texas, he'd probably have a greater impact on the Texas outcome than on many of the other states.
LAMB: For those people that are younger, I know he's still alive, but who was George Wallace in politics?
M. BLACK: George Wallace was the governor of Alabama in the early 1960s, and then got in the '64 Democratic presidential primaries against Lyndon Johnson largely on racial issues, got out when Barry Goldwater became the Republican nominee, and then ran as a third-party candidate in 1968. And he carried a number of the Deep South states during that period. He came back in and ran as a potential Democratic candidate in '72, carried the Southern states, and had gotten more votes than anybody else when he was shot and paralyzed for life in Maryland in 1972. Came back again in 1976 and ran, and that's where Jimmy Carter defeated George Wallace in the Florida primary in 1976. And that became the symbolic resurgence of the New South candidate, like Carter, vs. the Old South candidate like George Wallace, and Wallace was through after Carter had beaten him then.
LAMB: In history, how does George Wallace shape up as third-party candidates in the number of votes and the percentage of votes?
E. BLACK: Well, George Wallace ran the strongest third-party campaign since Theodore Roosevelt in 1912. He carried, I believe, five Southern states. He lost South Carolina, carried the other four Deep South states and he carried Arkansas. He did not do well in most of the Peripheral South states. But that was the strongest showing of anybody since Theodore Roosevelt. And that really represented a kind of counter-mobilization to the civil rights movement. Wallace was really providing a lightning rod for many of the racially conservative whites who had opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of '64.
LAMB: What would be your message to any candidate -- oh, first, let me ask you, first of all, can you win the presidency without the vital South, your 11 states?
M. BLACK: Oh, yeah. Yes, you can.
LAMB: Has it been done?
M. BLACK: Well, Republicans have done it a lot, historically. That's Abe Lincoln's strategy.
LAMB: I'm talking about today.
M. BLACK: Today? Well, no one has ever done it. I mean, no Democrat has ever simultaneously won enough Northern votes while losing the entire Southern vote to win. But you can certainly do it. On paper, you can draw up the states that would get you 270 votes.
LAMB: But let me just ask you for advice for this ...
E. BLACK: In order to do it -- it can be done, but it's unlikely that it will be done. And the reason is simply the numbers. The South is the largest region in the nation. It's going to control 27 percent of the electoral vote in 1992. If the Republicans can once again sweep the entire South, all they need to win is 31 percent of the electoral vote in the rest of the country. Now that's a very achievable target for the Republicans if they can keep a solid South.

For the Democrats, if they continue to lose the entire South, then they must win on Northern electoral votes alone, and that will require, in 1992, 69 percent of the electoral vote in the rest of the nation. Now that is a target that has never been achieved by a Democratic candidate while losing the South. Under that condition, the Democrats would have to find some kind of Democratic Abe Lincoln.
LAMB: Is there a spot in the South that you could pick where you could go sit and watch this election and, as that area goes, so goes the nation?
M. BLACK: You could probably pick some metropolitan areas. Maybe you could get some swing counties out there. You know, most of the vote has now been cast in the metropolitan areas of the region. I wouldn't pick one single spot, but you could take an area where the Republicans usually win and if they're doing strong, they're probably still going to do it this time. If they're really down, say in Gwinnett County, Cobb County, and metropolitan Atlanta would be interesting places to look at that contest. You also might pick some...
LAMB: Gwinnett County right around Atlanta?
M. BLACK: Gwinnett County is to the northeast of Atlanta, and Cobb County's to the northwest. Those are typically big Republican counties in presidential elections. And whereas Fulton County itself and the city of Atlanta itself will be going Democratic, the suburban areas will be going Republican.
LAMB: And is there a way to describe what those folks want out of a leader?
E. BLACK: Well, I think they want peace and prosperity at the minimum.
LAMB: Thanks.
E. BLACK: That's the ...
LAMB: I mean, are there things you have to say or...
E. BLACK: Well, I think for the Republicans, the basic necessity is to find ways to create these huge white majorities. Now that cannot be done on the basis of country club whites alone. So what the Republicans have to do is--and what they have done in recent presidential elections is to build white coalitions that go from the country club to Kmart, to find ways to bring in blue-collar whites to make them feel that their interests are similar. And you need different appeals for those kinds of groups.

In general, much of the Republicans' negative campaigning, I think, has been directed at bringing in those less affluent whites, giving them reasons to vote against Democrats that go beyond just their economic interest. But I think that, you know, the general themes that the Republicans have put together have been some combination of bread-and-butter economics, some combination of successes as defending the nation's external interests -- commander in chief, strong military forces, and so forth. And it's been that pattern that I think the Republicans have really emphasized and the Democrats have frequently been put on the defensive.
LAMB: What happened to David Duke?
M. BLACK: Well, David Duke overreached. David Duke made his reputation by winning majorities of the white vote in election in Louisiana for the Senate and then for the governorship. But when David Duke put himself forward as a presidential candidate, I think even his own followers said, “Enough's enough.” He couldn't raise any money. He couldn't get any money. I mean, his support was really shriveled down to kind of elements of the KKK in various states. And that's not enough. That's a fringe candidacy by definition. I think Duke was also hurt by the entry of Pat Buchanan. Buchanan kind of took over some of Duke's issues and did it in a much more politically effective way than Duke could ever have done.
LAMB: Looking, by the way, jumping ahead to 1996, are you seeing anything in the South that would be something that people will -- thinking about the new generation that might come -- although if Bill Clinton were elected this time, it would be a new generation. But looking at the Republican Party, because you mentioned Pat Buchanan, what would you say about...
E. BLACK: Well, the Republicans are going to have a real problem in 1996 because they don't have a unifying figure at this point. They don't have a Ronald Reagan out there as a logical heir apparent who could unify the party. And I think we'll see the Republicans in '96, if George Bush is re-elected, with a very broad field and a lot of fierce competition -- Buchanan, Kemp, a variety of other Republicans who are likely to enter.
M. BLACK: Phil Gramm.
E. BLACK: Phil Gramm of Texas, maybe Carroll Campbell of South Carolina.
M. BLACK: Jim Baker, perhaps.
E. BLACK: There'd be a long list, I think, of likely Republican nominees.
LAMB: What do you both constantly see people write about the South or talk about the South that makes you mad and you say, “You just don't understand it. It's changed.”
M. BLACK: Oh, well, I think the biggest stereotype right now is the use of Bubba.
LAMB: By the way, what does that mean?
M. BLACK: Bubba is a kind of a low-income, less-educated white who's assumed to have very conservative views on everything.
LAMB: Is that a slur?
M. BLACK: Oh, yeah. Well, to me, it's a slur. It's kind of taking the whole voter group here and just categorizing them in a certain way, in a very dismissive kind of way.
LAMB: Why do the press so often use Bubba then, and is it in headlines and do they use it in their story?
M. BLACK: Well, it's a cute term. You know, it's an easy kind of over-simplification. I think the big mistake is that many of these people don't vote. They certainly don't vote in primaries. Most of these whites without much of an education don't vote in Democratic or Republican primaries, and they don't even vote in general elections. They're part of a vast group of non-voters in the South.
E. BLACK: You know, we have nationally extensive non-participation; about half the population vote in presidential elections nationally. And in the South, it's well less than half. The South has never had a presidential election where 50 percent of the voting age population took part.
LAMB: Never?
E. BLACK: Never. Certainly not in the 20th century. Came close a couple of times--came close in 1968 when...
M. BLACK: '68.
E. BLACK: ...when George Wallace brought in some people to combine with the votes of normally Democrats and Republicans.
LAMB: Georgia was the last on the list the last time, had something like--if the nation was 50 percent, they were 38 percent.
E. BLACK: Yes. And a number of Southern states are pretty close to Georgia in that category. And these Democratic primaries in Super Tuesday and so forth --Republican primaries, too -- voter participation is quite low. You know, it's not uncommon to have somewhere between 4 percent, 5 percent to maybe 15 percent of the voting age population taking part. In South Carolina in the Democratic primary this year, voter participation involved only 4 percent of the voting age population. Bill Clinton won...
LAMB: Say that one more time.
E. BLACK: In South Carolina in the Democratic presidential primary, Bill Clinton wins majority of the vote, but that vote drew only 4 percent of the voting age population of South Carolina. The Republican primary in South Carolina drew 5 1/2 percent. So you had in South Carolina, as kind of an extreme example, almost--slightly less than 10 percent of the voting age population made a choice in those presidential elections; 90 percent of the pop -- for the voting age population was on the sidelines.
LAMB: Why?
E. BLACK: Long-standing patterns of non-participation. In most of the Southern states today, blacks and whites register at comparable rates. There aren't great differences in the rate of black registration and the rate of white registration anymore. Historically, there were. But there is a long-standing pattern of non-involvement. Goes back to patterns of non-participation -- deliberate exclusion of blacks, and then with whites, the use the poll taxes and other devices that also discouraged white participation as well.
LAMB: Any other...
M. BLACK: I'd say interest also follows the arena of politics that's most important, and now the outcome of the primaries. In the old days in the South, you won a Democratic primary, you're in. The general election didn't amount to anything. Today, and particularly in presidential politics, the general election is what counts. So I think that there are a lot of citizens out there who really don't bother to pay much attention to politics, or get involved in this messy process of helping one of the two parties to find a nominee. If they're going to vote, they're likely to vote in November.
LAMB: What was the hardest part about writing this book?
M. BLACK: Hardest part --
E. BLACK: The hardest part was getting it finished on time.
M. BLACK: Yeah.
E. BLACK: We’ve been researching this book for about five years. The actual writing was in the latter part of this, but we've been working on it for about five years. And then we obviously wanted to get this out in a timely fashion for the 1992 presidential campaign. And it takes quite a while to produce a book. So it was a real challenge to get the book written by last spring.
LAMB: How did you divide the chapters?
M. BLACK: Well, I did the chapters that largely deal with survey research and the chapters on the nomination process, and Earl did the other chapters.
LAMB: And if there was a way -- and this is not fair, but if there was something that you found in your research that was new and different that you think most people will, you know, glue on to, what is it?
E. BLACK: I think it's maybe spelling out what is generally understood in the political community, that the South's important and there's Republican advantage there. I think what most people don't really understand is how the creation of this solid Republican South really has revolutionized the structure of American presidential politics. To bring it to a fine point, by adding the South to a Republican base that was there historically in the North and the West, the Republican Party, since 1968, has really become a national party for the first time in its history. And the end result of that is that the states that are usually part of the Republican base are going to control, this year, 74 percent of the electoral vote. The Republicans have this massive base. They've never had a base like that before.

The Democratic base, as we categorize it, includes only 2 percent of the electoral vote. That's Minnesota and the District of Columbia. Those are the only stalwarts for the Democrats. So we've got this 74-to-2 battle, which looks a great deal like the New Deal reversed. It's the kind of advantage the Democrats had during the New Deal period, now with the Republicans having the advantage. And that's why the Republicans, by adding the South and depriving the Democrats of their only traditional base in the regions, that's really changed the structure of presidential politics.
LAMB: Let me ask you, is there a way to define -- we kind of talked about this before -- the reason why this has been reversed, since the FDR days in the early part of the ... Mr.
M. BLACK: I think there are several reasons. You know, if you look at it historically, the racial issues are, I think, paramount. The switch in the Democratic Party's position from being a conservative force nationally on racial issues to being the party of racial liberalism, that has certainly been one of the factors that led whites -- conservative whites -- to abandon the Democratic Party in presidential politics. And then you've got lots of other racial issues that are still viable and out there today -- issues of affirmative action, racial preference, busing; a whole range of issues that are still out there. And I think for most whites in the South, they probably still see the Republicans as closer to their own views on this than do the Democrats.
LAMB: What would you expect ... say Bill Clinton were the nominee of the Democratic Party in the fall, what would you expect him to do in order -- or this summer -- in order to get that South vote?
E. BLACK: Well, I think he will have to position himself as someone who can bring in the swing white voters, the moderate independents and the conservative Democrats, to add to blacks and liberal whites, part of the Democratic base. The Democratic base of blacks and the more liberal whites does not make majorities any longer in the South. So for a Democrat to achieve, they've got to have some attraction that brings back these swing whites. Those are the critical groups.

As Clinton started off, by talking about the middle class and so forth, that seemed to me to be an attempt on his part to forge a shrewd general election strategy, because he was talking to exactly the kind of people the Democrats must attract. But he's got to go beyond the party label, because just uniting Democrats is not going to be the key to victory anymore.
M. BLACK: And I think he's also got to make the case that George Bush is not performing in terms of the values and interests of people who usually vote for George Bush. The recession in the South has reached into the middle classes and these upper middle classes. There are people out there in suburban counties in the South who supported Bush in '88 but may or may not support him here in '92. So one of the things that Clinton has to do is really make an effective case that George Bush is not delivering to you on the things that you think are most important. If he can do that, then he might be able to attract enough whites back to his cause and put that together with a large black turnout to win some states.
LAMB: This is the book called "The Vital South: How Presidents Are Elected" by Earl and Merle Black. They're twins. They're both 50 years old. Earl Black teaches at the University of South Carolina, and Merle Black teaches at Emory University in Atlanta, and we thank you both very much for joining us.
E. BLACK: Thank you.
M. BLACK: Thank you.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 1992. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.