Zachary Gordon ’11, of Wilmington, Del., comments on his Liberal Arts Symposium’s topic:
What was your presentation topic?
It was on the politics of the South and what the Democratic Party could do to reverse its losses.
Why did you pick this topic?
It was my Honors Thesis and I was required to present on it. I picked it for my thesis because I had gone to a College Democrats Conference and I had spoken to some Tennessee College Democrats. I was fascinated to hear that the Democratic Party was still really strong in Tennessee. At the presidential level, you always see that the Democrats get crushed in the South, but I really wanted to see if there is anything that the Democrats can do.
What did your research conclude?
I was mainly looking at American political science journals, and also some books on the topic. Earl and Merle Black are two of the biggest authors out there, so their work has guided my research.
One of the biggest things is that race still matters at some point. One of the biggest suggestions for Democrats is that they work to do well among African-Americans. The strategy is that if get an overwhelming support of African Americans, then your losses among the white voters aren’t as important. They call it Bi-racial coalition, the super majority of African Americans against plurality of white voters. You add it up and you get 50 percent of the vote and you win.
Another emerging strategy is the youth vote. A site called Future Majority looks at presidential elections and what would have happened if only 18-29 year olds voted. It should that even in the South, Democrats would have won the majority of the southern states. There is a lot of room for youth voters because their turnout is lower than the older age groups. There is a lot of room for the Democrat party to grow.
My most controversial strategy only works if the Democratic Party can form bi-racial coalitions. One of the biggest problems for this is racial redistricting. The problem is that if all of your supporters are in one district, then there is no support in the outlying districts. You are going to have some backlash. But overall, if you convince African-Americans that we will have more people representing their views but less African American congressmen, (it will benefit the Democrats).. Instead of there being one majority black district, there will be four competitive districts.
What were people’s reactions to your presentation?
This is such a broad topic that it was hard to get it into a 15-minute time slot. To really explain what the party can do, you have to look at why these changes occurred. There are a lot of different theories on why they changed, so you have to briefly go over that. It was difficult to transition between the backgrounds and what the party can do.
~ Erin Kreischer ’13, Juniata Online Journalist