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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Jimmy Carter [exact date unavailable], 1974. Interview A-0066. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A Democratic presidential candidate could win by catering to southern voters

A Democratic candidate could win the presidential elections if he properly appeals to southern voters because they are linked to voters nationwide.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Jimmy Carter [exact date unavailable], 1974. Interview A-0066. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACK BASS:
On the presidential level, there's always been something called "presidential Republicans" in South Carolina, even when Key wrote his book. In the last two presidential elections, Texas in one of them went to the Democratic party, narrowly, and it's the only southern state that did. Do you see the South moving back into the Democratic party in presidential elections? If so, what would you require to bring that about?
JIMMY CARTER:
Yes, I do. The only thing that we'd have to do, I think, would be to provide a candidate that would exemplify the feelings of the southern voter, and also would show an overt inclination to acquire the southern vote. In the last . . . well, in 1964, Johnson deliberately wrote off the South in order to cast himself as a nationwide candidate. He didn't come to Georgia, he didn't campaign in our state, and so forth. And I think this was a very wise strategic move. He was from Texas, and he had to show the rest of the country that he wasn't just a southern politician. Humphrey, in 1968, again deliberately wrote off the South, emulating what Johnson had done, and because of his natural tendencies in that direction. He thought he could beat Nixon in doing so. It was a mistake. But in both instances, there was a deep wound inflicted on the southern people, who were kind of like a scorned bridesmaid who had been loyal to her fiance for twenty years or a hundred years, and then at the time of the wedding, you know, the bridegroom ran off with other females. That's not a very good metaphor to use. But, in effect, we felt like we had been scorned by Johnson and Humphrey. They didn't want our vote, and, in effect, we said to hell with them. Well, I don't think that's going to be the case next time. I think that anybody who hopes to be the president in 1977 has got to come to the South with a major effort. To say, "I want to be your friend." There's another overlooked factor, and that is, when you go to Michigan or Indiana or many other northern states, just the fact that a candidate overlooks deliberately the southern people puts him in a position of being suspect. Because, I'd say the third largest ethnic group, for instance, in Michigan, is the southern white. I would say maybe the Poles first, and maybe the blacks second, and the southern white would be third. And there's a strong tie and allegiance, you know, to the South by many people who live in the midwest and in the swing states. And I think just the fact that a candidate woos the South helps him indirectly, at least, among the moderate to conservative worker in states like Wisconsin.