"An important contribution to southern politics and a realistic view of the transition to the post-civil rights era in the South."--David Goldfield, University of North Carolina-Charlotte
In Mighty Peculiar Elections, Randy Sanders captures a moment in a time of transition when four gubernatorial races in 1970 revealed a great deal about the politics of race and changing attitudes in the South as well as the nation. He shows that even as southerners grappled with desegregation, voters in Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina and Georgia elected a group of governors who reflected a newfound attitude of racial moderation.
In the first significant exploration of the gubernatorial races of Dale Bumpers, Reubin Askew, John West, and Jimmy Carter, Sanders tells exactly what was going on in each state and in each election campaign. Incorporating evidence from archives, media records, personal papers and author interviews, Sanders' approach focuses not only on the intrinsically interesting details of the campaigns, but on important developments. The 1970 elections marked the first time that large numbers of African-Americans voted in the South, resulting in black-white coalitions that discouraged campaigns dominated by racial harangues. In turn, candidates eschewed the traditional politics of racial discord and demagoguery to appeal to hope rather than fear, and the harmonious tone of moderation began to resonate in a region long beleaguered by the cacophony of racial discord.
Although other astute political observers have noted this group of successful governors and their departure from the prevailing form of racial politics, Mighty Peculiar Elections is the first book to detail their efforts to gain office and the reactions of the southern electorate to their new approach. Scholars, historians and political scientists interested in southern politics and race relations, as well as anyone interested in the candidates and participants involved in these four states, will relish a campaign study of this pivotal election year.
Randy Sanders is assistant professor of history at Southeastern Louisiana University.