Audacious in its scope, subtle in its analysis, and persuasive in its arguments, The Great Melding is the second book in Glenn Feldman’s magisterial recounting of the South’s transformation from a Reconstruction-era citadel of Democratic Party inertia to a cauldron of GOP agitation. In this pioneering study, Feldman shows how the transitional years after World War II, the Dixiecrat episode, and the early 1950s formed a pivotal sequence of events that altered America’s political landscape in profound, fundamental, and unexpected ways.
Feldman’s landmark work The Irony of the Solid South dismantled the myth of the New Deal consensus, proving it to be only a fleeting alliance of fissiparous factions; The Great Melding further examines how the South broke away from that consensus. Exploring issues of race and white supremacy, Feldman documents and explains the roles of economics, religion, and emotive appeals to patriotism in southern voting patterns. His probing and original analysis includes a discussion of the limits of southern liberalism and a fresh examination of the Dixiecrat Revolt of 1948.
Feldman convincingly argues that the Dixiecrats—often dismissed as a transitory footnote in American politics—served as a template for the modern conservative movement. Now a predictable Republican stronghold, Alabama at the time was viewed by national political strategists as a battleground and bellwether. Masterfully synthesizing a vast range of sources, Feldman shows that Alabama was then one of the few states where voters made unpredictable choices between the competing ideologies of the Democrats, Republicans, and Dixiecrats.
Writing in his lively and provocative style, Feldman demonstrates that the events he recounts in Alabama between 1942 and Dwight Eisenhower’s 1952 election encapsulate a rare moment of fluidity in American politics, one in which the New Deal consensus shattered and the Democratic and Republican parties fought off a third-party revolt only to find themselves irrevocably altered by their success. The Great Melding will fascinate historians, political scientists, political strategists, and readers of political nonfiction.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Glenn Feldman is a professor of history at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; the author of The Irony of the Solid South: Democrats, Republicans, and Race, 1865-1944 and Politics, Society, and the Klan in Alabama, 1915-1949; and the editor of Nation within a Nation: The American South and the Federal Government.
PRAISE FOR THE GREAT MELDING
“Feldman makes a powerful argument that race—first crudely and then subtly—has been an essential element in the development of southern conservative political developments from the Civil War and Reconstruction through the era of segregation and into the more recent past. Some critics may resist Feldman’s argument that racism has always been interwoven into economic ideas, but they will find it difficult to refute the persuasive evidence he has amassed and marshaled here.”
—Dan T. Carter, author of Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South; The Politics of Rage: George Wallace, the Origins of the New Conservatism, and the Transformation of American Politics; and From George Wallace to Newt Gingrich: Race in the Conservative Counterrevolution, 1963-1994
“Feldman’s work is an impressive dissection of the southern break from the national Democratic Party, superbly delineating in exhaustive detail the origins of the 1948 Dixiecrat Movement as a precursor to the Republican Party’s dominance in the South. He clearly documents the hegemonic role of white supremacy in southern cultural, economic, and political identity and convincingly argues for the inextricable association between racism and economic advantage. The Great Melding makes a valuable contribution to southern political history as well as to the history of party alignment, American politics, and of course the role of race and politics.”
—Robert Bruno, author of Steelworker Alley: How Class Works in Youngstown and Justified by Work: Identity and the Meaning of Faith in Chicago’s Working-Class Churches
6 X 9, 400 pp
ISBN: 978-0-8173-1866-6 Cloth
ISBN: 978-0-8173-8814-0 Ebook