A. Emergence of a Grassroots Movement
Although Lyndon Johnson's landslide victory over Barry Goldwater in 1964 appeared to
signify liberalism triumphant, those election results actually concealed a rising
A growing grassroots movement, especially vigorous in the South and the West and
including middle-class suburban men and women, members of the rabidly anti-
Communist John Birch Society, and college students in the new Young Americans for
Freedom, had enabled Goldwater to win the nomination.
The rise of grassroots conservatism was not limited to the West and South, a number of
factors in the Sun Belt fostered its growth in these areas.
Populations in Orange County, CA; Dallas, TX; Scottsdale, AZ; and Jefferson Parish, LA
were predominantly white, relatively homogeneous, skilled and economically
comfortable; these cities also contained military bases and defense production facilities.
The West had a long tradition of Protestant morality, individualism, and opposition to
The South shared the West's antipathy toward the federal government, but southern
hostility to racial change was much more central to the new conservatism.
Grassroots movements emerged around a number of issues that conservatives believed
marked the “moral decline” of the nation.
Grassroots protests against taxes grew alongside concerns about morality.
B. Nixon Courts the Right
In the 1968 campaign, Nixon's “southern strategy” exploited antipathy to black protest
and to new civil rights policies, making inroads into traditional Democratic strongholds.
The Nixon administration reluctantly enforced court orders to achieve high degrees of
integration in southern schools, but it stymied efforts to deal with segregation outside the
After courts began to order transfers of students between schools in white and black
neighborhoods to achieve desegregation, busing became “political dynamite.”
Although children had been riding buses to schools for decades, busing for racial
integration provoked outrage.
Nixon failed to persuade Congress to end court-ordered busing; after he appointed four
new justices, the Supreme Court moved in the president's direction, and in
(1974), the Court imposed strict limits on the use of busing to achieve racial
When Earl Warren resigned in June 1969, Nixon replaced him with Warren E. Burger, a
federal appeals court judge who was seen as a strict constitutionalist; the Burger Court
upheld many liberal programs of the 1960s, limited the range of affirmative action in
Regents of University of California v. Bakke
, but liberalized abortion laws in