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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Lindy Boggs, January 31, 1974. Interview A-0082. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Overview of the changing landscape of southern politics in the mid-twentieth century

Boggs discusses changes in southern politics in the period before the 1948 election and in the years following, focusing on Louisiana as a model. According to Boggs, increasing voter participation and registration, a growing dedication to integration, the growing impact of suburbanization, and the role of the national media all played decisive roles in altering the landscape of southern politics. One of the most significant changes, Boggs explains, was the gradual overthrowing of a virtual one-party system in the South that had ensured that southern congressional seats would stay in the same hands for years at a time. At the same time, Boggs believes that southern problems increasingly grew to be synonymous with broader national issues reflecting a burgeoning tendency towards homogenization.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Lindy Boggs, January 31, 1974. Interview A-0082. 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

WALTER DeVRIES:
As you think back over the period to 1948, both in terms of Louisiana and the Congress, what are the major changes that you have seen occur in terms not only the state politics, but also the politics of the southern delegation?
LINDY BOGGS:
As you have said, our state politics are different. They are very interesting. I think that generally that state politics from that time on there has been a great deal of citizen participation. Some of the so-called reforms of that era are probably registration, voting machines in larger cities. Larger areas, I think, led to more active participation by a larger number of people from different economic, racial, ethnic backgrounds. That probably could be so of every southern state.
WALTER DeVRIES:
Did the issues change during that time?
LINDY BOGGS:
Of course, the issues, the national issues always change. We were hampered for many years from doing many other things because we had to strengthen integration. It was always hanging over our heads, I mean the South's head. The South has always produced, I think, remarkable Congressional leaders mostly because people of ability offer themselves forelection and their constituencies from the years gone by have kept them in office long enough for them to gain an expertise and power and effectiveness in Congress.
WALTER DeVRIES:
In other words, do you see that changing?
LINDY BOGGS:
I think that no seats are any longer safe. There was a time when various seats were considered safe, if it were a one party state. Louisiana was and several of the southern states were and as you well know, that has changed considerably in the last seven years.
WALTER DeVRIES:
But isn't the tradition of sending the same person to Congress, is that changing too? It used to be, at least we have heard in some southern states that once you got the nomination, the election was assured.
LINDY BOGGS:
I don't really think that is true anymore. I think that rapid communication, particularly television communication, has changed the voting patterns, well, the life style of a great many people because instantly, everywhere all over the country at the same time, people are hearing the same things, seeing the same things, evaluating the same things from a national viewpoint, projected from a national viewpoint. There are so many particles that go into what makes a campaign click and how a person is elected that it is impossible really to pick out any one thing. In our area, in Louisiana, of course, the growth factor, people in suburbia more or less have the same problems that they have everywhere else, and they have almost the same attitudes. We have been fortunate in New Orleans that we still have a viable inner-city situation, and that hasn't been depleted. Of course, the downtown business district is alive and well. Mostly, I think, because it is the local shopping center to the French Quarter, which is really a year round residential community as well as a tourist attraction. In so many cities, of course, you have all the urban problems from the people paying taxes fleeing the inner-city and the people who need tax money spent on them overcrowding the inner-city. The urban problems are so much the same as they are in any other city in the country, that it is hard to think of them as a southern problem.