Honors Program

Midway Honors

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Andrew Battista

Thesis Professor Department

Political Science, International Affairs, and Public Administration

Thesis Reader(s)

Kimberly Wilson


The period of 1936-1964 in the Democratic Party was one of intense factional conflict between the rising Northern liberals, buoyed by FDR’s presidency, and the Southern conservatives who had dominated the party for a half-century. Intertwined prominently with the struggle for civil rights, this period illustrates the complex battles that held the fate of other issues such as labor, foreign policy, and economic ideology in the balance. This thesis aims to explain how and why the Northern liberal faction came to defeat the Southern conservatives in the Democratic Party through a multi-faceted approach examining organizations, strategy, arenas of competition, and political opportunities of each faction. I conclude that an alliance between the labor movement and African-Americans formed the basis on which the liberal faction was able to organize and build its strength, eventually surpassing the Southern Democratic faction by passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This passage forced the realignment of Southern states as Southern Democrats sided with Republicans at the national level. However, the party position changes that precipitated liberal Democratic support for the bill began much earlier, starting in the 1930s, another key conclusion of this thesis.


East Tennessee State University

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Withheld

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