In the 1948 presidential election, Southern Democrats walked out of the Democratic National Convention to protest the party’s decision to embrace a civil rights platform. These defectors then met in Birmingham, Alabama, and formed their own political party named the States Rights Democratic Party, although over time they would more commonly be referred to as the Dixiecrats.
The main goal of the party was continued racial segregation in the South and a buttressing of the Jim Crow laws that supported racial segregation. Governor Strom Thurmond was selected as the party’s presidential nominee. The Dixiecrats knew they had hardly any chance of winning the election, but they hoped to siphon off enough votes from the Democratic Party to force a runoff election in the House of Representatives. There they could extract concessions from either Democrat Harry Truman or Republican Thomas E. Dewey in exchange for Dixiecrat support. Most Southern Democratic leaders refused to support the party, however, and the Dixiecrats were able to do little to influence the outcome of the election.
Although the Dixiecrats failed to perform well in the election, they did serve to put the Democratic Party on notice that it could no longer rely on a solid South in elections. The South had supported every Democratic candidate since the Civil War, but that unbroken support was now in question, and in the future, Southern Democratic voters began looking elsewhere for candidates and parties to support. Over time, Southern whites made a slow transition to the Republican Party as Democrats seemed to be increasingly hostile to their views and interests. Democrats, in turn, had to branch out to find new areas of support to counteract the loss of their Southern brethren.
Source: Platform of the States Rights Democratic Party, August 14, 1948. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273454
Unanimously Adopted at Oklahoma City, August 14, 1948
We believe that the Constitution of the United States is the greatest charter of human liberty ever conceived by the mind of man.
We oppose all efforts to invade or destroy the rights guaranteed by it to every citizen of this republic.
We stand for social and economic justice, which, we believe can be guaranteed to all citizens only by a strict adherence to our Constitution and the avoidance of any invasion or destruction of the constitutional rights of the states and individuals. We oppose the totalitarian, centralized bureaucratic government and the police nation called for by the platforms adopted by the Democratic and Republican Conventions.
We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race; the constitutional right to choose one’s associates; to accept private employment without governmental interference, and to earn one’s living in any lawful way. We oppose the elimination of segregation, the repeal of miscegenation statutes, the control of private employment by Federal bureaucrats called for by the misnamed civil rights program. We favor home-rule, local self-government and a minimum interference with individual rights.
We oppose and condemn the action of the Democratic Convention in sponsoring a civil rights program calling for the elimination of segregation, social equality by Federal fiat, regulations of private employment practices, voting, and local law enforcement.
We affirm that the effective enforcement of such a program would be utterly destructive of the social, economic and political life of the Southern people, and of other localities in which there may be differences in race, creed or national origin in appreciable numbers.
We stand for the check and balances provided by the three departments of our government. We oppose the usurpation of legislative functions by the executive and judicial departments. We unreservedly condemn the effort to establish in the United States a police nation that would destroy the last vestige of liberty enjoyed by a citizen.
We demand that there be returned to the people to whom of right they belong, those powers needed for the preservation of human rights and the discharge of our responsibility as democrats for human welfare. We oppose a denial of those by political parties, a barter or sale of those rights by a political convention, as well as any invasion of violation of those rights by the Federal Government. We call upon all Democrats and upon all other loyal Americans who are opposed to totalitarianism at home and abroad to unite with us in ignominiously defeating Harry S. Truman, Thomas E. Dewey and every other candidate for public office who would establish a Police Nation in the United States of America.
We, therefore, urge that this Convention endorse the candidacies of J. Strom Thurmond and Fielding H. Wright for the President and Vice-president, respectively, of the United States of America.