In January, when Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe is sworn in, he'll be the only one of his kind doing so: of all the statewide officials taking the oath of office in those nine states, he'll be the only Democrat. From Texas to South Carolina, the GOP won all the others.
Of the eighteen legislative chambers in those states, only two will be led by Democrats. On election night, Republicans seized control of four and cut the Democratic majorites in the Arkansas House and Senate by over half, while gaining control of dozens of legislative seats in the others, including over twenty House seats in Texas.
Writing in Real Clear Politics, Ben Evans argues that the "white Southern Democrat — endangered since the 1960s civil rights era — is sliding nearer to extinction."
For years, Southern Democrats comforted themselves by knowing that while Republicans carried a large majority of Congressional race and many governorships, they could still wield power farther down the ballot and behind the scenes with their much-stronger holdings of legislative seats and constitutional officeholders. Seeing the defeat of the only southern Democratic Senator on the ballot and the loss of 19 House Democrats might not have been the end of the world in years past.
But this year's GOP sweep reached from the top to bottom, presenting dire long-term consequences for Southern Democrats. The most notable effects are:
Reapportionment: Next year, most legislative and congressional districts will be drawn by Republicans legislatures and signed into law by Republican governors, including as many as a dozen new districts. Expect a number of changes, most notably in North Carolina, where Republicans have long been disadvantaged by a process which created numerous serpentine districts across the state. One source said a GOP-led reapportionment could result in a 4-5 seat loss for Democrats in that state. It also seems a safe bet to expect Republicans who struggled for years to win those chambers to draw maps that will make it tough for Democrats to ever regain control.
Candidate recruitment: According to a report form the National Conference of State Legislatures, nearly half of all members of the U.S. House and Senate were once state legislators. Here is in South Carolina, four of the six elected to the House and one of the two Senators are former legislators. Also, state constitutional officers serve as another robust recruiting pool for future Governors and members of Congress. Republicans will likely have much better recruiting pools and more seasoned candidates to produce for offices for the next decade or longer.
So last week's sweep wasn't just bad for next year - it could set the political tone in the South for a decade or longer, with notable effects on the national level as well.