The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985 Page: 439
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more important to the outcome of Reconstruction than differences be-
tween these parties. These parties were not monolithic, and internal
factions were the dynamic element in politics in the 1870s.
As presidential Reconstruction ended and state government re-
turned to local hands, Perman believes possibilities existed for the de-
velopment of a two-party system in the South. The leaders of the
Democratic-Conservative party accepted the results of congressional
Reconstruction and pursued fiscal policies designed to bring about the
development of the South's economy. They differed little from their
Republican counterparts. The leaders in both parties pursued what
Perman calls a competitive strategy, designed to strengthen themselves
by gaining new support from the political middle, particularly former
Whigs, and even blacks.
Continued control by the moderate leadership of the Conservative-
Democrats depended upon their ability to overthrow local Republican
governments and secure an accommodation with the administration in
the North. To stay in power, the Republicans had to maintain control
of state governments. The competitive policy worked for neither party.
By the presidential election of 1872 the failure of efforts to attract new
voters was apparent to both parties, and this failure brought about a
realignment of factions within the Democratic party and an end to
the competitive strategy.
Democrats after 1872 concentrated on mobilizing their traditional
constituency. Old leaders reemerged to demand the antebellum Demo-
cratic goals of limited government, states' rights, and free trade. They
politicized the race issue in order to mobilize the white electorate as
well as to intimidate black voters. The Republicans had no equally
strong policy with which to respond. Their only realistic alternative
was to raise the issue of class, but given the economic goals of local
and national white Republican leaders this was impossible. The Re-
publican party became increasingly an organization that consisted of
blacks and federal office holders. The Democratic strategy produced
success for that party. For the South, however, this victory proved a
heavy burden, for it left the region in the hands of leaders who were
forced to pursue policies of balance, inertia, and drift in order to
maintain their control over their party.
Perman's analysis represents a major revision of traditional interpre-
tations, especially in its emphasis on the primacy of political infighting
over economic and social issues in determining the course of Recon-
struction. Offering a wide overview of the South, his thesis should pro-
voke major reassessments of state and local Reconstruction history.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985, periodical, 1984/1985; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101210/m1/505/: accessed October 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.