"R" is for the Reform Party

May 8, 2020

"R" is for the Reform Party. During Reconstruction, South Carolina's voting population was about 60% African American—the vast majority of whom voted Republican. In order to win elections, Democrats needed disaffected Republican votes. In 1874 a coalition of Democrats and disaffected Republicans supported candidates under the label of the Reform Party. The campaign was dominated by two sets of accusations: the Reformers accused the Republicans of being dishonest, and the Republicans accused the Reformers of being Democrats. Although the party's candidates for statewide office lost, the Reform Party and its Democratic allies won 53/124 House seats and 15/33 senate seats. There were also numerous victories in local elections. The 1874 elections illustrated that the potential existed for Democrats to retake the state through mostly peaceful means—by cooperating with the Reform Party.