In the wake of Democratic defections, Southern Republicans grow more powerful

Since last November’s midterm elections, dozens of Democratic state lawmakers throughout the South have switched parties and solidified the Republican Party’s control over what was once the most reliably Democratic region of the country.

According to the Los Angeles Times, 29 Southern Democratic state lawmakers have switched parties in recent months. Because of the wave of defections, Republicans in Louisiana now hold a majority in the state House for the first time since Reconstruction. In the Alabama legislature, the GOP now has a supermajority that allows them to unilaterally pass amendments to the state constitution thanks to turncoat Democrats.

Louisiana state Rep. Noble Ellington, the Democratic defector who delivered his state’s House to the GOP, made the decision to switch parties after he found himself rooting for the Republicans during the midterms. “I figured I must not be a very good Democrat anymore,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “A Louisiana Democrat is probably more conservative than some Connecticut Republicans.”

Earle Black, a professor of political science at Atlanta’s Emory University, blames the trend on “the increased liberalization of the Democratic Party” that has occurred over the last several decades. Jim Taflinger, head of the Hall County Democratic Party in Georgia, said that he believed the problem had more to do with the South’s political atmosphere.

“You know, there’s been a lot of party-switching going on,” Taflinger told the Los Angeles Times. “I think it’s not so much policy driven … so much as environment driven. The business environment is such that you have to be careful up here calling yourself a Democrat — there’s a stigma to it.”