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"I've kicked around in politics in Mississippi for a long time," says former Mississippi Gov. William F. Winter, "'Kicked out' is more appropriate now."
Winter lost a race for the US Senate in 1984 and returned to private life. This spring, as one of six newly-chosen Fellows at the Kennedy School's Institute of Politics, Winter plans to research state-level efforts to improve public schools and will conduct a study group on "The South and the Nation."
Winter says that he believes there is still a lot of senseless antagonism between the North and the South.
"It's no use fighting the Civil War for another 100 years," he says. Misunderstandings and biases between the two regions will dissolve as they come into greater contact, Winter predicts, cautioning that that point is far away.
Winter notes that only two presidents have been elected from Southern states. "The social and economic system of the South works against the Southerner as a national political figure," he says.
For many years, Winter adds, politicians "beholden to racial segregation" perpetuated a one party system in the South, ensuring the reelection of a number of high-ranking Southern politicians in the US Congress. None, however, could attract a national base of support from which to run for President.
Although Winter says he believe the distinction between politics in the North and South is breaking down, there are still large economic differences dividing the nation.
The South is much poorer than the North, Winter notes, adding that Mississippi has the lowest per capita income of any state. Necessary capital from the Northeast has not been invested in the South: he says.
"There needs to be a commitment to a national policy of a sharing of resources that will result in the building up of incomes of people in the South to the rest of the nation," he says.
While President Reagan widened the gap between the North and the South, Winter says, "Reagan was popular even though his policies don't necessarily serve the economic best interests of the state." Most people in Mississippi, he says, voted for Reagan because of his personal appeal.
Winter adds that the candidacy of the Rev. Jesse Jackson polarized the South, and that most whites felt disillusioned by the Democratic Party. Mondale got less than 20 percent of the white vote in Mississippi, he says.
But Jackson's Rainbow Coalition did little to counter this mood and appeal to the white voter, Winter says.
"It must not be regarded by white southerners as a totally adversary political movement. I think there must be a recognition among the Jackson political forces of the white presence and white role in the Coalition. It can't be perceived as a Black take over."
Winter graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1943. While attending law school in 1948, he won a seat in the Mississippi House of Representatives.
After all up-and-down political career during which he held a number of state positions, he was elected governor in 1979 and served until his unsuccessful 1984 race for the Senate.
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