No question has loomed larger in the American experience than the role of the South. Southern Nation examines how southern members of Congress shaped national public policy and American institutions from Reconstruction to the New Deal—and along the way remade the region and the nation in their own image.
The central paradox of southern politics was how such a highly diverse region could be transformed into a coherent and unified bloc—a veritable nation within a nation that exercised extraordinary influence in politics. This book shows how this unlikely transformation occurred in Congress, the institutional site where the South’s representatives forged a new relationship with the rest of the nation. Drawing on an innovative theory of southern lawmaking, in-depth analyses of key historical sources, and congressional data, Southern Nation traces how southern legislators confronted the dilemma of needing federal investment while opposing interference with the South’s racial hierarchy, a problem they navigated with mixed results before choosing to prioritize white supremacy above all else.
Southern Nation reveals how southern members of Congress gradually won for themselves an unparalleled role in policymaking, and left all southerners—whites and blacks—disadvantaged to this day. At first, the successful defense of the South’s capacity to govern race relations left southern political leaders locally empowered but marginalized nationally. With changing rules in Congress, however, southern representatives soon became strategically positioned to profoundly influence national affairs.
Awards and Recognition
- Winner of the 32nd D. B. Hardeman Prize, LBJ Foundation
- Winner of the V.O. Key Award, Southern Political Science Association
David A. Bateman is assistant professor of government at Cornell University. Ira Katznelson is Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History at Columbia University. His books include Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time. John S. Lapinski is the Robert A. Fox Leadership Professor, professor of political science, and faculty director of the Fox Leadership Program and the Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and director of elections at NBC News. His books include The Substance of Representation: Congress, American Political Development, and Lawmaking (Princeton).
“Southern Nation is a lively and engaging history of the American South’s influence on national politics after Reconstruction. It is also an illuminating analysis of how congressional policies and procedures are exploited to advance factional agendas. Bateman, Katznelson, and Lapinski have written a book that will be of great value to historians, political scientists, and engaged citizens.”—E. J. Dionne Jr., coauthor of One Nation after Trump
“Southern Nation is the most comprehensive and penetrating analysis we have of how southern legislators rebuilt their power in Congress between 1880 and 1930 and, in the process, bent the entire country to their will. This revelatory and chilling tale compels us to reckon in new ways with the deep roots of America’s political dysfunction.”—Gary Gerstle, author of Liberty and Coercion: The Paradox of American Government from the Founding to the Present
“Southern Nation makes a major contribution to the history of Congress, casting new light on the development of its rules and its policy outputs. There is nothing quite like this book in scope, sophistication, and theme.”—J. Morgan Kousser, author of Colorblind Injustice: Minority Voting Rights and the Undoing of the Second Reconstruction
“This book offers a major new interpretation of congressional politics and policymaking from the end of Reconstruction to the New Deal. Readers will be impressed by the sheer encyclopedic scope of the work as well as its profound implications for theories of congressional lawmaking and accounts of American political development.”—Frances E. Lee, author of Insecure Majorities: Congress and the Perpetual Campaign
“This ambitious book shows just how deeply entrenched white subjugation of blacks has been throughout southern political history. Southern Nation will bring new perspectives to younger generations about the seeds of racial inequality that persist in our nation today.”—Wendy J. Schiller, coauthor of Electing the Senate: Indirect Democracy before the Seventeenth Amendment