The fracturing within the GOP, reflected in the Tea Party and libertarian activists who are backing Sen. Lindsey Graham’s opponents, may be more a sign of the majority party’s entrenchment than of a major political shift, observers say.
The S.C. Democratic Party endured the same fracturing before the GOP took root.
S.C. Democratic Gov. Strom Thurmond signaled the start of the shift to the GOP, when he ran for president as a “Dixiecrat” states’ rights segregationist in 1948. Thurmond’s eventual conversion to the Republican Party in 1964 was one of the key turning points in the rise of the S.C. GOP.
What grew from there is a deeply entrenched Republican Party.
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The product of decades of party-building, the GOP’s rise in South Carolina began when conservative white Democrats, including Thurmond, defected to the Republican Party — concerned about growth in federal power and spending, and repelled by a liberal civil-rights era Democratic Party — and culminated in 2000, when Republicans took full control of the S.C. General Assembly.