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The Southern Strategy Revisited

The Southern Strategy Revisited: Republican Top-Down Advancement in the South

Joseph A. Aistrup
Copyright Date: 1996
Edition: 1
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    The Southern Strategy Revisited
    Book Description:

    The 1994 elections represented a watershed year for southern Republicans. For the first time since Reconstruction, they gained control of a majority of national seats and governorships. Yet, despite these impressive gains, southern Republicans control only three of twenty-two state legislative chambers and 37 percent of state legislative seats. Joseph A. Aistrup addresses why this divergence between the national and subnational levels persists even after GOP national landslides in 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988, and 1994.

    Explanations for this divergence lie in the interaction between the Republicans' "Southern Strategy" -a set of coherent ideological tactics designed to lure southern whites to support GOP candidates-and the Republicans' top-down party development efforts. Aistrup analyzes the historical evolution of the Republican Southern Strategy from Goldwater in 1961 to the "Contract with America" in 1994. Examining the roles of ideology, intra party politics, gerrymandering, and Democratic incumbency in Republican top-down advancement, he predicts the extent to which these will remain significant obstacles to GOP success in subnational elections after 1994.

    Aistrup reveals the strengths and weaknesses of the Southern Strategy as it relates to candidate ideology and examines the influences of Republican victories in national and statewide offices on the party's subnational advancement. He shows a clear connection between Republican presidential success and southern Republican advancement in local elections.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4792-5
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Figures, Tables, and Maps
    (pp. viii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-2)

    Taking advantage of President Clinton’s lack of popularity in the South, the 1994 mid-term elections represented a watershed election for the Republicans in the South and in the rest of the nation. Republicans won five of six U.S. Senate contests in the South, including both senate seats in Vice President AI Gore’s home state of Tennessee. The Democrats’ only senate win was in Virginia, where incumbent Democrat Charles Robb beat Oliver North of Iran-Contra fame. Adding insult to injury, Senator Richard Shelby (Ala.) defected from the Democrats, joining the Republicans the day after the election.

    At the gubernatorial level the...

  6. Section 1

    • [Section 1 Introduction]
      (pp. 3-4)

      The Southern Strategy is more than just a recipe to attract various disparate political groupings to the Republican party’s presidential ticket; it is an ideological carrot for wooing presidential supporters into the Republican party. Reinforcing the South Strategy’s messages are the Grand Old Party’s (GOP) efforts to build on their presidential triumphs by transferring this success at the top to other levels of electoral competition (Bass and De Vries 1976, 31). Once the party has built a successful presidential coalition in a state, it concentrates its resources to build a winning coalition at the lower levels of competition—contests for...

    • Chapter 1 Seeds of Change
      (pp. 5-17)

      For thirty years, the Republicans’ Southern Strategy has built winning coalitions for presidential elections in the South. For Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, this strategy was simply “to go hunting where the ducks are” (Bass and De Vries 1976, 26). The ducks to which Goldwater referred were strongly ideological, racially motivated, white conservatives. In short, the Goldwater Southern Strategy was merely an attempt to attract states’ rights voters to the Republican party (Bass and De Vries 1976, 27-28).

      In the Nixon years, the Southern Strategy evolved, melding economic conservatives with states’ rights advocates. In large part, the Southern Strategy was...

    • Chapter 2 The Rhetoric of the Southern Strategy
      (pp. 18-64)

      In 1968, the stage was set for the formal birth of the Southern Strategy. Four short years earlier, Goldwater had framed the issue positions for this strategy. He showed it to be electorally bountiful for reaping white votes in the South. Yet in 1968 it was unclear whether Nixon would continue Goldwater’s states’ rights rhetoric. Reinforcing this uncertainty was George Wallace’s impending independent presidential candidacy, which would stress a states’ rights, racially reactionary orientation. Undaunted by Wallace’s potential usurpation of the states’ rights mantel, Nixon cut a deal with Republican Senator Strom Thurmond (S.C.) to continue promoting policies consistent with...

    • Chapter 3 Colonizing the South
      (pp. 65-89)

      These statements illustrate three ways that GOP presidential candidates and the Republican National Committee (RNC) influence Republican subnational advancement. Indeed, the consistent feature of Republican efforts to build more competitive state and local parties across the South is presidential influence. Because of this emphasis on the presidency, Southern Republican advancement can be thought of as occurring from the top down.

      The progression of top-down advancement is partially illustrated in table 3.1. Republican success in the South first appeared at the presidential level where Eisenhower, Goldwater, and Nixon received a sizable percentage of Southern presidential electors. As the percentage of presidential...

    • Chapter 4 Contesting and Winning Elections
      (pp. 90-110)

      Presidential influence can translate into Republican top-down advancement—the contesting and winning of elections—in two interrelated ways. The first is that Republican advancement begins at the top of the federal electoral hierarchy and then trickles down to the lower tiers of office-holding. In this sense, top-down advancement represents an organizational method for building the party. Former Tennessee Senator Howard Baker (R) defined this aspect of top-down advancement: “First one wins for president, then for the senate, then for governor, and lastly adds more congressmen and comes close to winning the legislature” (Bass and De Vries 1976, 294).

      The second...

  7. Section 2

    • Chapter 5 Ideology: Conservatives versus Moderates
      (pp. 113-142)

      Unknowingly and unintentionally, the Democrats were about to surrender a minor political windfall to the Republicans in the spring of 1988. Super Tuesday, the Southern presidential megaprimary, the political event whose designers, the southeastern wing of the Council of State Governments and the Democratic Leadership Conference, hoped would produce a moderate Democratic presidential candidate and bring defected Southern Democrats back home from the Republican party, became a tool in the GOP’s twenty-year struggle to push the ideological image of Southern Democrats to the liberal left. Republican operatives in the Southern primary states sought, in the words of Haley Barbour, coordinator...

    • Chapter 6 Intraparty Coalitional Politics: The Coleman Paradox
      (pp. 143-166)

      Although this 1976 debate represents only one rupture in otherwise a peaceful convention, this conflict was the first of many instead of the final word. This intraparty conflict, which bubbled up in 1976, continued to haunt the Texas Republicans throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. This chapter analyzes the nature of intraparty conflict resulting from the implementation of the Southern Strategy. In building a broad-based coalition in the South, the Southern Strategy attracts numerous white voters with conflicting interests and ideologies, transforming the politics of the Southern Republican parties into a rather fractious affair.

      This chapter focuses on three...

    • Chapter 7 The Redistricting Explanation
      (pp. 167-182)

      When Southern Republican state party chairs attempt to explain their party’s slow progress at the Congressional and subnational levels in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, almost all point to Democratic gerrymandering as one of the most significant impediments to their party building efforts. George Strake, chairman of the Texas Republican state party during the mid-1980s, boasted that the GOP would control “ten more Congressional districts” in Texas if it were not for the Democrats controlling the redistricting process.² Strake’s remark represents just one voice in the GOP’s chorus line concerning the Democratic party’s atrocities in the South. Florida Republican party...

    • Chapter 8 Democratic Incumbency
      (pp. 183-210)

      Providing candidates for elections is a primary function of a political party. Candidate recruitment and helping candidates fulfill state election laws can take organizational time, effort, and money (Sorauf and Beck 1988). Contesting elections is important for the Southern Republicans, because the activities that surround a bid for an office result in party advancement payoffs in the form of recruitment of new activists and candidates. The most important of these is the development of a set of activists who potentially can be tapped by other Republican candidates. Republican contesting of elections is one of the major signs of party advancement.¹...

    • Chapter 9 Top-Down Advancement
      (pp. 211-242)

      The previous chapters demonstrated that Republican efforts in the South have generally followed the outlines of the top-down advancement process and that political obstacles such as the Republicans’ past efforts in an area and the Democrats’ incumbency advantage tend to define the lack of Republican subnational advancement. While suggestive, these analyses did not directly assess the effects of national and statewide Republican successes on GOP subnational advancement or the extent to which the GOP’s Southern Strategy successfully appends Old South regions to the New South Republican strongholds. Estimating the direct effects of this topdown advancement process on GOP subnational advancement...

  8. Chapter 10 The Southern Strategy and Top-Down Advancement: Conclusion
    (pp. 243-248)

    Traditionally the Southern Strategy has represented the issue strategies used by Republican presidential candidates to create a “solid” Republican South in national elections. Since Goldwater in the early 1960s, the Southern Strategy has evolved from a states’ rights, racially conservative message to one promoting in the Nixon years, vis-à-vis the courts, a racially conservative interpretation of civil rights laws—including opposition to busing. With the ascendancy of Reagan, the Southern Strategy became a national strategy that melded race, taxes, anticommunism, and religion. With Bush, it focused largely on its religious component. Finally, breaking from the Republicans’ past reliance on presidential...

  9. Appendix 1 Interviews
    (pp. 249-250)
  10. Appendix 2 Demographic Clusters
    (pp. 251-254)
  11. Appendix 3 Measures of Policy Conservatism Using CBS Congressional Polls
    (pp. 255-257)
  12. Appendix 4 Pool Time-Series Design
    (pp. 258-259)
  13. Appendix 5 The Measurement of Republican Subnational Advancement
    (pp. 260-262)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 263-269)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 270-286)
  16. Index
    (pp. 287-294)