214Black&Black

214Black&Black - 1988 Bush vat: (‘70) 2“ TI! RISE...

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Unformatted text preview: 1988 Bush vat: (‘70) 2“ TI! RISE OF SMITH“! nrrusucus Peripheral South Deep South 90 so . , WM”! 50 0. Republic x X 7|) It I .( 33‘ a... V V 'e‘ . . 60 b ’ ' o x l 50 ,3 ‘59: "x 40 so 20 7D 80 2020 so 40 so so 70 so 90 20 30 - 50 so 1984 Reag - vote (%) 1984 Reagan vote ('70) ' ' ' ' ' v ' al realignment in F: re 6.7 Presrdentral undatlons ofRepublrcan ongressron 31539905. Sources: Cal: 4 ted from Michael Barone nd Grant Uirfusa, The Abnamu: of American Politics (Washington DC: National Jou .- ), various years. after the Voting Rights Act, ere ' re only 5 black Democratslout of 116 southern representatives. as, Tennessee, Georgia, Missrssrppi, and Louisiana each sent a sin — - ck Democrat to Congress; the other six states sent none. Many ‘ ‘ca -American Democratic polrtrclans were acutely dissatisfied v ' their tr sparent congressronal underrep- resentation. They wante - realistic oppo nities to win House electrons. White Republicans energized by the unprecedented preSidentral success and confid t that drawing new in cit-majority districts would make their party ighly competitive in m -‘ other situatrons, were eager to join to ' es with black Democrats. Rea - ortronment and redis- tricting after . e 1990 Census thus promised to e exceptionally wrde- ranging ra ifications for the southern congressronl delegation. What would b the political consequences for the South 0 reatrng many ad- dition blackmaiority districts? Given the unrealize epublrcanlpo— ten -: in many districts based on improved presidential ' - ublrcanism, re portionment and redistricting might well accelerate a s - them con- _4 essional realignment significantly benefiting white Republic 5 as well as black Democrats. Exact, earl, mt Merle Blade. Chapt. ‘7 , BEAGAN'S HEALIENMENT 0F 1 WHITE SOUTHEHNEBS l"\ ill" ., 1483:: 013' gw "m Iiegu’b Hem/Ls, through in the 19905. The secular realignment of southern white voters, commenced in 1964, but the more fundamental Repubiican advantage in partisan identification emerged two decades later. The extended lag be- tween the presidential and partisan realignments allowed Democrats to dominate southern elections to Congress long after federal intervention had ended racial segregation and started to destabilize the one-party system. ‘ The Great White Switch in presidential voting appeared immediately after Congress passed and Democratic president Lyndon Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Republican Barry Goldwater easily de- feated Johnson among white southeruers. Since 1964 more whites have voted Republican than Democratic in every single presidential election. Similar changes in southern party afiiliation, however, did not immediately accompany the white switch in presidential voting. Partisan realignments require political leaders whose performance in oflice expands the party’s base of reliable supporters. Not until Reagan’s presidency did more southern whites begin to think of themselves as Republicans than as Democrats. Reagan was the first Republican presi- dential candidate to poll back-to-back landslide majorities from White In the South the Reagan realignment of the 19805 was a momentous achievement. By transforming the region’s white electorate, Ronald Rea- gan’s presidency made possible the Republicans’ congressional break- chiefly involving conservative men and women, occurred in two dis- tinct stages. Greater white support for Republican presidential candidates NM... WWWHW.W”__.WW m l numtursnururnn'nrrusucius ] southerners; and his vice president, George Bush, captured the presi- dency in 1988 by running on the strategy that Reagan had mastered: at- tracting substantial majorities from conservative and moderate whites, while implicitly conceding the votes of blacks and liberal whites. Important as his electoral victories Were, Reagan’s presidency had a far more cmcial impact upon many southern whites. His optimistic conservatism and successfiil performance in office made the Republican party respectable and usefill for millions of southern whites. Many of them, for the first time in their lives, began to think of themselves as Re- publicans.1 The Great White Switch in partisan identification created a much more competitive playing field for two-party politics, one that ul- timately encouraged, expanded, and intensified Republican campaigl activity for Senate and House seats. The Republican approach to top-down party building in the South was modeled upon its successful strategy in presidential elections: re- align white conservatives as a reliable source of Republican support and neutralize white moderates as a consistent foundation of Democratic strength. Reagan attracted a majority of white conservatives into the Re- publican party and persuaded many other conservatives to think of themselves as “independents” rather than as Democrats. The Republi- can president had a different impact on southern white moderates. He eroded their traditional attachment to the Democratic party and in- creased their Republican ties, thereby neutralizing a huge, longstanding Democratic advantage among this critically important segment of the southern electorate. By realigning white conservatives and dealagning white moderates, Rea- gan produced a partial realignment of the southern white electorate. The Republican party became more competitive with the Democratic party but still fell far short of attracting the three-fifths share of whites neces— sary to assure dominance in the South’s biracial electorate. Republican candidates can prevail if they combine their partisan base with sufficient strength among white moderate independents and conservative Demo- crats, but Democratic candidates can still win whenever they fully mobi- lize blacks and attract around two-fifths of the white vote. Analyzing what has—and what has not—changed in the southern electorate helps explain the Republican surge in congressional and senatorial elections ’ [Hill's IEMIEIIIIT I" "I"! SOUIHEIIIIS l 2|? during the 19905 as well as the persistence of truly competitive two— party politics in the twenty-first century. PEESIIIEHTIAL REPUBLIBHNISM All” TIIE PAIHIAl HEALIEHMEII During the first half of the twentieth century most white southemers, Democrats by birth and experience, despised and loathed the Republi— can party. Figure 7.1 (“Southern Presidential Voting”) shows the Demo- crats’ supremacy during the New Deal. The first important departure from southern Democratic solidarity in presidential elections occurred in 1948 after Democratic president Harry Truman reversed the party’s historical priorities and began to advocate civil rights legislation} Many racial conservatives interpreted Truman’s civil rights policies as a sign that their ultimate concem—the preservation of a racially segregated South—ranked below the priorities of satisfying blacks and organized la- bor in the national Democratic party. Ultraconservative white Demo— crats bolted and organized a makeshift regional political device—the States’ Rights Party, commonly known as the Dixiecrats—in an unsuc- cessful cfibrt to Win enough southern electoral college votes to deny the White House to the Democrats. Almost three-fourths of southern White . voters had backed President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944, but only 50 percent of them voted Democratic in 1948. The Democrats’ White losses were permanent. Not since 1944 has a Democratic presidential candi» date drawn a landslide majority from southern whites. In 1948 Democratic losses among southern whites did not produce Republican gains. For the southemers most concerned about preserving white supremacy, New Yorker Thomas Dewey, the Republican candi- date, was no better than Truman. The “leaders” of the southern Republi— can party were “neither politically influential nor politically important people” at this time.3 Dewey made no effort to campaign in the South and polled only 26 percent of the 1948 presidential vote. Matters changed in 1952, when Republican leaders believed that a candidate-centered strategy focused on General Dwight Eisenhower’s extraordinary appeal—“Ike” was the personification of a genial, non- threatening Republican—could attract conservative Democrats and in- “WW 2” "I! II“ I" SBllTIIEII IEPIILIEIILJ Southern Presidential Voting Republicans Phrcent voting for El! o SD 20 10 1932 i940 1948 1956 1964 1972 1980 1938 1996 Southern Party Identification Percent identifying as E Independents NW mm “MR 197‘ 1934 10‘)? mm Figure 7.1 The Great White Switches. Sources: Calculated from Richard M. Scam- mon ed., America at [be Poll: (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1965); National Election Study presidentialwyear election studies; CBS News! New York Times exrt polls; and Voter News Service exit polls. BEIEII'S MILISIIEIT 0F Milli SOITHEHEIS 2|! dependents and carry several southern states. Eisenhower was “a Texas native who accepted the Republican party’s timid stance on civil rights” but who also came to his feet before a South Carolina audience when the band struck up “Dixie.” The Eisenhower campaign “attracted strong support from the rising urban and suburban middle class,” and the struggling minority party began to establish a precarious beachhead in the region’s metropolitan areas.4 The Republican presidential vote of southern whites rose to 50 percent in 1952. Even without trying to convert southern whites into full-fledged Re— publicans, the Republicans scored modest gains in party identification during Eisenhower’s presidency {see “Southern Party Identification” in Figure 7.1). Democrats declined from an overwhelming 78 percent in 1952 to a still robust 60 percent in 1960 among White southemers, while the percentage of whites willing to identify themselves as Republicans rose from 9 to 21 percent. A nearly nine-to-one advantage in party identification had fallen to a three-to-one edge. Limited success in presidential elections offered little immediate help in building a southern Republican party. Most of the region’s whites had no desire to replace their Democratic senators and representatives with Republicans. Qrite the contrary. It was precisely the congressional Democrats, armed with leadership roles and committee chairmanships in the majority party, upon whom white voters depended to preserve traditional southern race relations as well as to continue the practical benefits of the New Deal. Over the next four presidential elections the Republican vote fluc- tuated wildly, depending in part on the choices offered to southern voters. In 1964 Goldwater received 55 percent of the southern white vote, the best a Republican presidential candidate had ever done. Whereas Eisenhower and Richard Nixon (in 1960) had won substantial shares of the small black vote, Goldwater’s prominence instantly trans- formed the southern Republican party into an organization uninter- ested in winning black support. “By abandoning civil rights in the name ' of states’ rights,” Numan V. Bartley and Hugh D. Graham concluded, “the Goldwater Republicans presumably sought . . . a general polariza- tion of southern voters along racial lines.” The national Republican party repudiated its Lincoln heritage and rejected the aspirations of southern blacks for freedom and equality. By nominating Iohnson, a .. ...W.MW.WMWW_-—mu..mw_.w ZII ' 'I'II! IISE (If SOIITIIEII REPIIIlllllls l Texan who had challenged Congress to pass civil rights legislation, the national Democratic party embraced the civil rights movement. Blacks, north and south, overwhelmingly rejected the Republicans and shifted toward the Democrats. With black voters permanently alienated, Republican candidates in the South have needed a massive landslide among white voters-approx- imately 60 percent is a useful rule of thumb—to prevail in contests in- volving two candidates. At a time when Republicans claimed the loyal- ties of merely one-fifth of southern whites, they needed three times that share of the white vote in order to defeat the Democrats’ biracial strat- egy. Southern Democrats, provided they could unify around an accept- able candidate, now needed only two-fifths of the white vote to prevail. Figure 7.1 shows the Republicans’ white target vote beginning in 1964 as a benchmark for measuring Republican performance. Goldwater carried the five Deep South states, where white hostility still prevented the vast majority of blacks from registering and voting, but he lost all six Periph— eral South states, where many blacks could vote. In the first test of polit- ical strength after passage of civil rights legislation, the new Democratic biracial strategy prevailed over the new Republican white strategy. Richard Nixon’s second run for the presidency in 1968 featured a skillfully crafted southern strategy to gradually realign whites into the Republican party.6 Those white southemers primarily opposed to racral change found their champion in George C. Wallace, the segregation- ist err-governor of Alabama. Forfeiting those votes to Wallace, Nixon po- sitioned himself to southern voters as opposed to segregation but fa- voring only voluntary integration. Nixon won 40 percent of the white vote (the rest was split between Wallace and liberal Democrat Hubert Humphrey), far short of the share necessary to carry all the southern states. According to Dewey W Grantham, President Nixon “saw in the South an unmatched opportunity to strengthen his political base and that of his party.” Through a deliberate and calculated southern strategy, Nixon sought in 1972 to add the Wallace vote to his 1968 supporters. “Conceding the loss of black votes and those of white liberals, the new president reached out for the backing of white southemers, suburban- ites, and ethnic workers troubled by the threat of racial equality and so- cial disorder,” Grantham observed. “He combined law and order ap- | HEIGAI‘S IEILIEIIEIT F Ill"! SIIIITIIEINEIISJ 211 peals with economic conservatism.”7 Nixon’s southern strategy worked perfectly against liberal Democrat George McGovern. The Republican polled four-fifths of the southern white vote, a feat not seen since the heyday of Franklin Roosevelt. Nixon’s strategy had the potential to pro- duce shifts in partisanship, but the Watergate scandal and his 1974 resig- nation in disgrace to avoid impeachment made the Republican party unattractive to southern whites. During this volatile era the Democratic party continued to lose white support, but most of the defecting Democrats identified themselves as independents rather than as Republicans. The share of southern whites identifying with the Republican party in 1976—21 percent—was the same as in 1960, while independents had increased from 18 to 31 percent. In 1976 Georgia’s Jimmy Carter ran for president as a Democratic outsider. \Vrnning the nomination and the presidency as a new, “centrist” Demo— crat, Carter carried ten of the eleven southern states and appeared to blunt the Republican advance in the South. Four years later a landslide majority of white southemers judged Carter a political failure. In his place came Reagan, another former governor, whose message of con— fident conservatism resonated in a time of high unemployment and high inflation, of Americans held hostage by a foreign nation for more than a year. Reagan successfirlly executed the Republican southern strat— egy of mobilizing landslide white support. BEABAN'S SOUTHERN ACHIEVEMEHI “The situation was ripe for the culmination of the Republican southern strategy,” emphasized Bartley. The California Republican turned out to be the most popular president among southern whites since Franklin Roosevelt. Utilizing “anecdote over analysis,” acting from “ideological principles when possible” but willing to “compromise when necessary,” as Charles W. Dunn and J. David Woodward characterized his style, Reagan appealed to the emotions, aspirations, and interests of the re- gion’s conservative and moderate white voters. According to journalist Lou Cannon, who had covered Reagan’s entire political career, “the ideological core of Reaganism” encompassed three priorities: “lower tax rates, a stronger military force and reduced government spending.” These objectives resonated powerfully among conservative and moder- m | rnrnlstorsnurnul answers: I ate whites in the South. Deliberately avoiding any explanation of how his priorities might be simultaneously achieved, Reaganinstead pro- moted “values that have a base in the collective subconscrous of every American,” according to Dunn and Woodward. Reagan “promised a new era of national renewal emphasizing traditional values—the dignity of work, love for family and neighborhood, faith in God, belief in peace through strength and a commitment to protect freedom as a legacy ni ue to America.”8 u Iii 1980 the Democratic and Republicans parties also differed in many important respects over the proper role of the federal govern- ment. “The Democratic party platform favored affirmative action, feder- ally firnded abortions, and busing, and it endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment to the point of denying party support to candrdates who opposed the amendment and encouraging boycotts of states that re- fused to ratify it,” Bartley noted, whereas “Reagan’s Republican plat- form disavowed busing and abortion, ignored the Equal Rights Amend- ment, demanded prayer be allowed in the schools, and advocated family values.” Throughout the campaign he emphasized “a vrsceral ha- tred of burgeoning federalism,” of the ever-growing presence of federal laws, rules, and regulations in domestic affairs. “1 would take the lead in getting the government off the banks of the people of the United States and turning you loose,” promised Reagan. As a former Democrat who had switched to the Republican party late in his life, Reagan knew how to appeal to a southern white electorate that contained many born-and- bred Democrats. “Now I know what it’s like to pull that Repubhcan lever for the first time because I used to be a Democrat myself,” Reagan would say. “But I can tell you—it only hurts for a minute.” San Antonio Democrat Henry Cisneros acknowledged Reagan’s appeal among southern blue-collar workers, a traditionally Democratic constit- uency: “Carter's hole card was that Reagan would be seen as a horrible alternative. But so far, he doesn’t look so horrible. He goes out and talks to working people in language they can understand.”9 Even to many Democrats President Carter was a tough sell. The.1980 election took place during “a recession, double-digit inflation and inter- est rates, and high unemployment, along with the Democratic party‘s usual morass of foreign policy problems.” Reagan repeatedly lam- pooned Carter’s performance in office and turned the contest into a ref-- IEAHH'S HEIUBIIEIT BF Ill"! SflflTIEIIIELl 213 erendum on the unpopular incumbent. He told a Dallas audience that Carter was “like the guy who Can name you 50 parts of a can-he just can’t drive it or fix it.” He ridiculed the Georgian as a failed Democrat: “When I look at what he has done in the last four years, you can see why he spent so little time in the [presidential] debate talking about his record,’ Reagan told an enthusiastic crowd of about 10,000 in Hous- ton’s Tranquility Park. ‘He has grown fond of referring to Franklin Roo- sevelt, Harry Truman and John Kennedy. There’s one Democratic presi- dent he doesn’t talk about, and that’s Jimmy Carter.” Toward the end of the campaign, Reagan’s central theme was, in his words, “Jimmy Carter’s demonstrated inability to govern our nation?” Carter had been helped in 1976 by the votes of some white southern- ers on the basis of regional pride, but this support had now gone soft. At a Reagan rally in Lowndes County, Mississippi, reporter Martin Schram asked a “clean-cut and well-dressed plant manager” how he had voted in 1976. “Carter-J ain’t going to lie about it,” replied the thirty~year~old white man. “I voted for him because he was a good old southern boy. But he just didn’t have it.” By October Reagan operatives were trying to induce “wholesale defections among the white conservatives who voted for Mr. Carter on the basis of sectional loyalty.” After the election Rep- resentative Carroll A. Campbell Jr., of South Carolina, who along with Lee Atwater had directed Reagan’s efforts in the South, summed up the change. “It appeared to me that the regional pride issue had kind of paled,” Campbell obServed. “People felt that their national pride had been hurt, and in the end it’s their national pride that counts the most.”“ The “main issue of the campaign” was the president’s “handling of the economy.” In Mississippi Reagan claimed that Carter had “betrayed _ the people with an inflation rate that they hope they might get back .' down to 10 percent after it had risen to 18 percent earlier this year.” His attack continued in Norfolk, Virginia. “A recession is when your neigh- _ bor loses his job,” Reagan told a large crowd, “a depression is when you lose yours, and recovery will be when Jimmy Carter loses his.” Cam- f paigning in Greenville, South Carolina, and St. Petersburg, Florida, Rea- : gan asserted that “nowhere has his inability to handle the job of the Presidency been more apparent than in his handling of the American economy” and further charged that “Mr. Carter has not answered for 2!! I THE IISE 0F SMHIIEII IEFIIILICIIS l the economic misery he’s caused.” Southern white voters responded fa— vorably to Reagan’s emphasis on economic matters. Only 18 percent believed their family financial situation had improved in the year before the election, while 38 percent thought their economic situation had worsened. Reagan’s victory was enthusiastically welcomed in the south- ern business community. “People were looking for new leadership,” said the head of a Charlotte, North Carolina, realty company. “Inflation was rampant, interest rates were high, the economy was running out of con— no] and people were just fed up with it.”12 Reagan also attacked Carter’s foreign policy. Its weakness was dramat- ically symbolized by the Americans held hostage in Iran during 1980. In addition, nearly three-fourths of southern white voters believed, with Reagan, that the United States should be more forceful in its dealings with the Soviet Union. According to Texas governor William Clements, a Republican poll found that “88 percent of the Texas voters wanted the United States to be in a position of military superiority” over the Soviet Union, and “they know Carter hasn’t kept us there.”13 Reagan especially sought to mobilize and win the votes of white reli- gious conservatives—a new force in Republican politics. John C. Green, Lyman A. Kellstedt, Corwin E. Smidt, and James L. Guth argue con- vincingly for the inclusion of “religion” as a “standard feature of analy- sis of southern politics.”14 The southern white conservative religious movement is composed primarily of evangelical Protestants and sizable numbers of conservative Catholics, who believe that secular forces are undermining their way of life and who seek to advance their beliefs, val- ues, and interests through partisan politics. In 1976 many conservative Christians had voted for Carter, a devout, “hem-again” Baptist, but his performance in office disappointed many of them. They were eager to embrace Reagan, who, as Dunn and Wood- ward noted, “attended church only on the rarest of occasions and cer- tainly never Sunday School and absolutely never with a Bible in his hand.,’15 Yet on the issues of primary concern to the religious conserva- tives—opposition to abortion and support for prayer in public schools— the Republican platform and candidate were much closer to their own views than were Carter and the Democratic party. Reagan appeared at Liberty Baptist College in Lynchburg, Virginia, to address the National Religious Broadcasters Association. “I would be I IEIBII'S IEIHGIIEIT 0F WHITE Sfllll'llEIlElS If?! absolutely opposed to a state-mandated prayer,” he told the group, “but I have always thought that a voluntary, nonsectarian prayer was per- fectly proper, and I don’t think we should have expelled God from the classroom.” He also met with the influential Rev. Jerry Falwell, the head of the Moral Majority, who worked hard for Reagan’s victory. “One of his [Falwell’s] commandments to his fellow ministers,” the Washington Post reported, was to “get them saved, baptized and registered.” At a Reagan rally in Mississippi, a fundamentalist minister prayed for Rea- gan’s election while “Reagan prayed with him, carefully humble but ap- preciative.” During the campaign, the New Kirk Times reported, “Thou- sands of fundamentalist Protestant churches became political centers for Mr. Reagan and other Republican candidates, as politicized evangelical groups moved into the political arena.”:6 By becoming an integral part of the southern Republican electoral coalition, the religious right helped the party solve its problem of at- tracting landslide majorities of white voters. As Warren Tompkins, an experienced party strategist in South Carolina, later explained, “Until the religious conservative movement broke its behavioral Democratic patterns and started voting in large part in Republican primaries and for Republican candidates, we weren’t winning elections in the South.”17 Reagan’s version of core American values did not, to say the least, _ emphasize the civil rights of minorities. Reagan was one of the few prominent northern Republicans who had opposed both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. He told David Broder in 1966 that “he was ‘in complete sympathy with the goals and purposes’ of the 1964 and 1965 civil rights acts, but opposed their enactment because they had ‘legislative flaws and faults and parts of them were, in my view, unconstitutional.m There are, of course, abundant reasons to doubt Reagan’s “complete sympathy” with the goals of the civil rights move- ment. Reagan “may not have been antiblack, possibly didn't have any hostility at all toward people of color, but to him, those people were simply none of government’s business and none of his business of poli- tics,” Richard Reeves believed. “When Reagan talked of civil rights, a rare thing for him, and of governing and the role of government, he - seemed to be describing America in the late 19205.” As Dorothy Gilliam concluded, “Reagan’s strategy is basically a negative one: to avoid arous- ing blacks to vote against him, to neutralize the black vote.”18 !“ ‘ I'll! III“ I” SIIDTIIEII REPUBLICANS l Indeed, Reagan made inroads among southern racial conservatives on the basis of his objections to the civil rights acts. “Reagan avidly courted the support of white southerners during the mid-19605,” ob- served Cannon, “and he consistently refused during his abortive cam- paign for the presidency in 1968 to criticize George Wallace’s segrega- tionist advocacies.” In turn, southern Republican leaders perceived Reagan as a valuable ally. According to Lewis Chester, Godfrey Hodg- son, and Bruce Page, “the [white] South was his natural constituency.” Reagan, they explained, “was, quite literally, adored by the party’s rank and file and by many of its Chieftains everywhere below the Mason- Dixon line. Thurmond himself had been a Reagan fan ever since the Goldwater campaign. ‘I love the man,’ he would say. ‘He’s the best hope we’ve got.’”” Reagan made his case against civil rights legislation not in the pugna— cious, arm-waving, and belligerent style of Wallace but in a polished and low-key manner. “In his years in the California govemorship and in his three presidential campaigns, Reagan showed that he could use coded language with the best of them, lambasting welfare queens, busing, and affirmative action as the need arose,” observed Dan T. Carter. “But even when he lashed out against the ‘liberals,’ he always sounded like an avuncular uncle reluctantly scolding because he saw no alternative?”J Reagan began his postconvention presidential campaign in Missis- sippi. At the urging of Mississippi representative Trent Lott, he visited the Neshoba County Fair, in the small town of Philadelphia, “3 commu- nity where three civil rights workers were slain with the complicity of lo- cal police officials in 1964.” Rejecting his pollster’s emphatic advice to cancel his scheduled appearance in a town that symbolized murderous white racism, the Republican candidate “was greeted by thunderous ap- plause and chants of ‘We want Reagan’ firom about 10,000 fairgoers.” Just as Goldwater had drawn virtually all‘white audiences in the Deep South in 1964, so Reagan was greeted by a “crowd almost entirely made up of whites.” He did not let them down. “I believe in states’ rights,” Reagan said. “I believe in people doing as much as they can at the pri- vate level.” The Republican presidential candidate promised that, if elected, “he Would reorder priorities and ‘restore to states and local gov— ernments the power that properly belongs to them.” As Cannon ob- served, “The visual statement on television the next day was a sea of DEMAI'S REMIEIMHT I” III”! SIIIITIREIHIEIIS 217 white faces at the Neshoba Fair with Reagan’s words floating above them.”21 The Mississippi event powerfully communicated Reagan’s sym- pathies and electoral targets in the rural Deep South. I Soon after, on the op—ed page of the Washington Post, veteran civil nghts leader and former Georgia representative Andrew Young ex- plained “why code words like ‘states' rights’ and symbolic places like Philadelphia, Miss., leave me cold.” He recalled Martin Luther Kinng. “standing on the Neshoba County Courthouse steps in 1966, describing how the bodies of the slain civil rights workers had been found buried in a dam two years earlier. He said, ‘the murderers of Goodman Chaney and Schwemer are no doubt within the range of my voice.’ And from the white mob guarding the courthouse door, someone called out, ‘Ya, damn right. We’re right here behind you.”’ Young continued: “Re— membering that day in Mississippi, I’m obsessed with a chilling ques- tion: what ‘states’ rights’ would candidate Reagan revive?” Because “these code words have been the electoral language of Wallace, Gold— water, and the Nixon southern strategy,” he emphasized, “one must ask: Is Reagan saying that he intends to do everything he can to turn the clock back to the Mississippi justice of 1964? Do the powers of the state and local governments include the right to end the voting rights of black citizens?”22 The Reagan campaign, of course, vehemently denied any such moti~ vations or intentions, but a message of white racial solidarity had been sent. Presumably many southemers, white and black, did not need a scorecard to distinguish the opposing sides. Three months later Reagan carried Mississippi with an estimated 62 percent of the white vote and Virtually none of the black vote. Reagan’s popularity among whites Carter argues, “allowed him to forgo the grubby manipulation of racial appeals.” A master in applying “racism—free conservative principles to each case at hand,” Reagan reinforced the reputation of the southern Republican party as a respectable version of the newest “white people’s party” for many conservatives and some moderate whites.“ On the key question—whose side are you on?—there was never any doubt about how Reagan was perceived. Goldwater and Wallace sup- porters could connect with Reagan’s emphasis on states’ rights and sym- pathies with racial conservatives. Wallace himself endorsed Carter in 1980, just as he had done in 1976. Yet many of Wallace’s “former sup— III THE IISE BF SOII'IIIEII IEPIIILIGIIS I porters,” the New York Times reported, were active in Reagan’s campaign “across the South.” As Charles Snider, Wallace’s national campaign chairman in 1972, put it, “We’re looking for a conservative indiv1dual for President, and we don’t care What party he runs on.”1 As president, Reagan would reluctantly sign the twenty-five—year ex- tension of the Voting Rights Act in 1982, oppose but finally accept a federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jn, try to preserve tax- exempt status for private schools that practiced racral discrimination in admissions, shift the government’s position on affirmative action ques» tions, and veto the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988. ‘jRonald Rea- gan, the most popular president among white Americans since Franklin D. Roosevelt,” concludes Michael Dawson, “was for African Americans the most despised president since early in the century: At the close of his political career, “by a three-to—one majority“ blacks agreed With the statement that the president was a racist."25 A And yet Reagan’s appeal to conservative southern whites went far be- yond his ability to utter racial codewords in a calm manner. After the election some southern Democrats believed that “the ideology that Mr. Reagan held out to the nation this year [was] tailor—made for the Southern majority on matters concerning the family, rehgion and mili- tary strength?“ Reagan’s priorities appealed to southern conservatives on many grounds. Those who wanted a smaller federal government and less burdensome taxation could find promise in Reagan; voters con- cerned with weakness abroad might see Reagan as someone who could restore American stature. The newly activated religious right, concerned about abortion, school prayer, and family values, found Reagan cpnsrd- erably more supportive and sympathetic than the Thorn-again” Jimmy Carter; and members of the business community, diSillusioried With the state of the economy and Carter’s ineffectual leadership, enthusiasti- cally followed Reagan. The Republican presidential candidate empha- sized these themes while campaigning in the South before virtually all- white audiences. - Southern white voters rewarded Reagan-and his immediate succes- sor, George Bushewith three conSecutive landslide majorities. In 1980 Reagan won 61 percent of the southern white vote. I—Ie executed the Re- publican strategy of sweeping the conservative whites while also Wln- ning a majority of the moderate whites. He even attracted support from 1 runs: iriiisutlr or I'll"! souriirniiriis m a sizable minority of white liberals. For reasons that are abundantly clear, he won very little support from blacks. Reagan’s defeat of Carter’s biracial coalition was a turning point in modern southern politics—con— servative and moderate whites preferred a former California governor over a sitting president from the South. It is one thing to win an election; it is quite another to remain strong while governing. “Reagan’s policies at home and abroad were popular among white southerners and received considerable support from southern Democrats in Congress,” writes Grantham. “This regional re- sponse involved more than racial considerations. White southemers generally liked Reagan’s emphasis on lower taxes, economic growth, re— duction of federal regulatory activities, resistance to redistributive wel- fare programs, opposition to a ‘predatory’ Soviet Union, and insistence upon the importance of patriotism and traditional values and institu— tions.” Although he delivered more rhetoric than legislation, Reagan's “symbolic and timely identification with the key positions of religious conservatives, such as opposition to abortion and support for school prayer, enabled him to win their support, but without producing very many substantive results.” By capturing the allegiance of the religious right, Reagan dramatically expanded the conservative base of the Re- publican party. In 1984 Reagan’s vote soared to 72 percent among southern whites.27 Running against Walter Mondale, a liberal Democrat who announced his intention to raise taxes to balance the budget, the incumbent president countered with the argument that cutting taxes was the best way to (eventually) balance the budget. Reagan captured 88 percent of conservative southern whites and 63 percent of moderate southern whites. As his presidency ended Reagan was extraordinarily popular among ‘ whites. Southern whites respected Reagan, who embodied many quali- ties they found admirable in a national leader. In 1988 huge majorities of southern whites perceived Reagan as a “strong leader” who was “de- cent,” “moral,” “knowledgeable,” and “honest.” Two-thirds felt “in- spired” by him, and slightly smaller majorities said Reagan made them feel “proud” and “hopeful.” Over half believed that he “cared” for them. “The Democrats left the South a long time ago,” a 57-year old North Carolina AT 8: T supervisor told a reporter for the Raleigh News and Observer in 1988. Although he was a registered Democrat in zzn | rutmsrurspuimn autumn: | Alamance County, he had not supported a Democratic presidential can- didate since voting for Lyndon Johnson in 1964. He was high 0:] the Re- publicans. “I think Reagan restored confidence in the country, because he “made you proud to be an American, whether you agree w1th his pol- ' ' not?" Klfiihfcor’s critical test of landslide white strength was the 1988 elec- tion of Vice President Bush, who campaigned as a Reagan protege: Most importantly for the Republicans, voters such as the North Carolina st:- pervisor perceived a crucial connection between Reagan and Bush: I think he’s trained Bush pretty well.”9 Using telewsron advertising, phone banks, and direct mail linking Massachusetts liberal Democrat Michael Dukakis with a wide variety of liberal policies, Bush carried every state in the South. During the 19805, Republican presnlential can- didates averaged 67 percent of the southern white vote while holding their Democratic opponents to 32 percent. Never before in southern history had Republican presidential candidates done so well among whites in three consecutive elections. Southern presidential elections during the 19905, however, have demonstrated that landslide Republican victories cannot be taken for granted. Bush’s retreat from his unequivocal promise not to raise taxes produced a challenge within his own party for the 1992 nomination. In addition to the weaknesses of Bush and Robert Dole as effective carn- paigners, the Republican share of the white vote declined from its earlier peaks because a third-party candidate, Ross Perot, disrupted. the coali- tion and because Democratic nominee Bill Clinton campaigned as a moderate, centrist politician who mixed liberal positions on some issues with conservative positions on others. I Even so, Bush and Dole still ran ahead of Clinton among white southemers. The Republicans won fourteen of the twenty-two preSiden— tial contests in the southern states in 1992 and 1996. Indeed, had the Republicans won only half of the Perot vote in the two elections, their candidates would have averaged about three—fifths of the white vote— their regional target. Clinton managed to split the South (Winning four of the eleven states in each election, much as Eisenhower had done in 1952) but failed to revive Democratic fortunes among southern whites. The Arkansas Democrat’s share of the white vote (35 percent) was only three points higher than Mondale and Dukakis had averaged during the | IEASAI'S EEIlIGIIEIT I” HIIITI Sfllflllflllills 221 Republican heyday. Over the five elections from 1980 to 1996, Demo- cratic presidential candidates averaged 87 percent of the southern black vote while Republicans averaged only 11 percent. In the 2000 presiden- tial election, George W Bush returned his party to the level of landslide white support common during the 19805 by carrying 67 percent of the southern white vote. Despite his message of “compassionate conserva- tism,” he won merely 8 percent of the vote cast by southern African— American voters. By contrast, Al Gore attracted the support of less than onethird (31 percent) of southern whites but won 91 percent among southem blacks. In the 1980—1988 presidential elections Reagan and Bush averaged 84 percent of the conservative white vote and 59 percent of the moder- ate white vote, groups that together accounted for over four-fifths of southern white voters. Republican losses, as in 1976, or very narrow vic- tories, as in 1992 and 1996, have occurred when the Republican candi- dates failed to draw impressive support from moderate whites. The dif- ferent patterns of support for Republican presidential candidates among white conservatives, white moderates, white liberals, and blacks suggest a strategy for exploring the partial partisan realignment of the southern electorate. Liberal whites have continued to support Democratic presi- dential candidates and have remained, for the most part, Democrats. Blacks reentered the southern electorate largely as Democrats in the '. 19605, and they have accounted for increasingly large segments of the region’s Democrats. Because these groups have remained pillars of sup- port for the Democratic party, we shall set them aside. To understand the rise of the Republicans as a competitive political party in the region it is crucial to examine the political behavior of conservatives and mod- erates, the two groups of white voters who have shown the most support I for Republican presidential candidates. THE BEAUGNMEM 11F SOUTHERN Wlll'l'E CONSERVATIVE The Republican partfs primary realignment targets have been, of course, those white southerners who think of themselves as conserva- tives.30 Their realignment has given the Republican party its largest base of reliable support. The erosion of southern Democratic conservatism started during the New Deal and aceelerated when the national Demo- 222 l "I! RISE OF SBII'I'IIEII IIEPIJIHHIS I cratic party began to champion civil rights. By 1968, merely half of southern white conservatives still thought of themselves as Democrats (see the top half of Figure 7.2). Defections from the region’s traditional majority party, however, failed to produce commensurate gains for the southern Republican party: only 24 percent of southern white conserva- tives were Republicans. President Nixon’s southern strategy during his first term enticed more conservative whites to leave the Democratic party, but his resignation in disgrace severely embarrassed and discred- ited the Republicans. For most southern conservatives the Republican party had not yet become an attractive or usefiil institution, one through which they could effectively advance their political interests. In 1976 only 30 percent of conservative white southerners were Repub- licans. Reagan’s first major impact on southern partisanship was to realign conservative whites. “Reagan’s popularity,” Broder observed in 1986, “has created a real opportunity for political realignment of the region?“ During the Reagan presidency identification with the Republican party soared among conservative southern whites, most of whom shared his values, concerns, and priorities.32 Reagan’s appearances on the ballot, as well as Bush’s 1988 campaign, were associated with sizable increases in Republican identification among southern white conservatives. Only 40 percent of southern white conservatives were Republicans in 1980 when Reagan defeated Carter. Eight years later, 60 percent of the region’s con- servative whites thought of themselves as Republicans—a 50 percent in— crease in identification. The massive realignment of conservative south- ern whites into the Republican party occurred exactly when, in theory, it should have happened—during the administration of the most popu- lar conservative Republican president in the second half of the twenti- eth century. Southern conservatives had finally experienced a Republi- can president with whom they could proudly identify. Reagan was warmly approved by 86 percent of southern white conservatives in the 1980—1988 period. Among many white conservatives repeated votes for Republican pres— idential candidates, reinforced by successful governing, presumably sev- ered their attachments of interest or sentiment with the Democratic party. Through his principal issues, performance in office, and persua- sive leadership style, Reagan effectively “sold” conservative white south- 1968 I972 1976 1930 1984 1988 19‘32 1996 2009 BEIHI'S BEMIIIIEII’ 0F IHIIE SMITH!!!“ 2221 White Conservatives: Presidean Voting Republicans I965 1972 1976 1980 1984 [988 1992 I996 2000 White Moderates: Presidential Voting White Conservatives: Party Identification 100 a 3 Percent identifying as 3 8 1968 1972 [9'76 1980 1904 1983 1992 19% 2000 White Moderates: Party Identification 90 so 70 a :50 ................................. W . . . . é .--_.pemocmts “I<-- :5 5° ‘x u _ . . ‘s g 40 .............. "3.2. D- Independents 10 Republicans [968 1972 l976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 Porgy" 22_ The partial-realignment of southern whites. Sourm: Calculated from Inparative State Elections Ptolect', National Election Study presidential-year election studies; CBS News/ New York Times exit polls; and Voter News Service exit polls. .e.apmmas~HWaw am... .wmnm..... 22‘ TIIE IISE M 5001'!!!“ IEPIIILICIIS emers on the Republican party as the institution best suited to advance their political interests. Most conservative white voters finally brought their partisanship in line with their voting preferences in presidential elections. Even more important for Republican party development, larger percentages of southern white conservatives have identified with the GOP since Reagan left office. In 1992, with incumbent Republican president Bush on the defensive because of the slowdown in the econ- omy and his broken promise to oppose tax increases, conservative southern whites were still three times more likely to identify as Republi- cans than as Democrats. Even with the 1996 Republican ticket headed by the lackluster Robert Dole, 66 percent of the region’s conservative white voters called themselves Republicans. By the 2000 elections, they preferred Republicans to Democrats by 70 to 14 percent, a margin of 56 percentage points—the biggest GOP advantage ever observed in the South. Conservative leaders have long set the policy agendas of the modern southern Republican party. Robert Steed, Laurence Moreland, and Tod Baker’ 5 1984 survey of Republican state party convention delegates in six southern states documented conservative saturation of the party leadership. Ninety-four percent of the southern Republican party activ- ists described themselves as some sort of “conservative.” Only 4 percent of the party convention delegates described themselves as “middle-of- the-road,” and merely 2 percent as some sort of “liberal.”33 Conservative whites now also dominate the mass base of the modem southern Republican party. Accounting for 64 percent of the region’s white Republicans in 1996, their preferences about public policy define the southern Republican party’s center of gravity. The worldview of conservative southern Republicanism is strongly colored by partisan- ship and ideology. Every Republican presidential candidate from 1972 through 1996 elicited warm responses from about four-fifths or more of _‘ conservative southern Whites. Reagan and Newt Gingrich have been their political heroes. Ninety-eight percent of the region’s conservative Republican voters held a favorable impression of Reagan in 1988, and 85 percent of them were favorably inclined toward Gingrich in 1996. They loathed President Bill Clinton, 83 percent regarding him with ei- ther hostility or indifference. Many conservative Republicans see the ildill's REIlIIIIEIT I" ll”! SHUTHEIIEBS i 125 modern Democratic party as an alien institution led by politicians rest lutely unsympathetic to their beliefs, values, and priorities.34 The policy preferences of conservative southern Republicans meri exploration.35 Their worldview starts with a highly developed sense 0 personal responsibility for one’s own economic well-being. The vast ma ionty think that individuals themselves—acting alone or as part of a farm rly-should be mainly responsible for finding employment and provid mg a good standard of living for themselves and their families. Wher they are asked whether “the government in Washington should see to i that every person has a job and a good standard of living” or if “the gov emment should just let every person get ahead on their own ” the im portgnce of individualism becomes clear. Eighty-one percent ,of the re 31011 S conservative Republicans place responsibility for “getting ahead’ on the individuals themselves, while only 7 percent believe that it is pri manly the responsibility of the federal government to see that individu- als have “a job and a good standard of living.” Conservative whites ac- cept the need for welfare programs to handle temporary losses ol income, but they believe that long-term welfare programs violate the in- dmdualistic philosophy, are unfair to taxpayers, and are harmful—in the long run—to the recipients. Not surprisingly, 97 percent of the conserva- tive Republicans supported the welfare reform program that passed in 1996. Most conservative Republicans oppose the growing size and cost of the federal govemment’s activities. The overarching appeal of the mod— em Republican party for many conservative southern whites is ‘ grounded in its rhetoncal insistence upon minimizing the scope of the federal government to regulate the activities of law-abiding individuals and busrnesses. Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan, Gingrich, and countless r other Republican politicians have called for downsizing the federal gov» eminent, reducing income tax rates, and allowing citizens more choice in decrsronmaking, while portraying Democratic politicians as funda- mentally opposed to these objectives. As Republican Mike Hudtabee _ut it in an interview with a Washington Times reporter in 1995: “Arkam ans may not be aware of each item in the House Republicans ‘Contract wrth Amigca, he says, “but they understand that it promises less gov- r mment. Most conservative southern Republicans believe that they 22s | m ms or suumm ntrusuuns bear an excessive burden of taxation. In 1996 74 percent of conservative Republicans thought that they paid “more than the right amount in taxes,” and these whites presumably constituted a receptive audience for the Republican message of reducing income tax rates. Most believed that the government has taken on too many problems better left to indi- viduals themselves to resolve, and that much of their tax money is wasted. Two-thirds preferred to cut government services rather than to increase taxes to finance more spending. Only 40 percent of conserva- tive Republicans wanted to increase spending on public education. It is one thing to support a smaller role for the federal government, but it is another thing entirely to reject the need for a strong govern- ment to handle the economy. Yet that was the position of two-thirds of conservative southern Republicans when asked whether “a strong gov- ernment” was needed to handle a complex economy or whether the “free market could handle the economy without governmental interfer- ence.” Reliance on the fi'ee market extended to international trade: 65 percent did not want to limit imported goods. On economic issues, therefore, southern Republicans view themselves as overtaxed to sup- port many governmental activities they believe are unnecessary and un- warranted. Conservative Republicans have definite views about governmental priorities. In 1996 one—third believed that handling the breakdown in family values was the most important priority of the new administra- tion. Twenty-six percent wanted to reduce the size of the federal govem- ment, and another 15 percent thought that reducing taxes on the mid- dle class should be the most important priority of the federal government. Few conservative Republicans believed that the priorities of the federal government should be keeping the economy healthy (14' 1 percent) or improving education, health care, Medicare, and Social Se- : curity (13 percent). They wanted a considerably smaller federal presence in their lives. While accepting integration as their preferred form of race relations, r conservative southern Republicans resisted governmental efforts to pro-w mote racial change.37 Sixty percent were warm toward blacks as a group _7 and nearly 90 percent were enthusiastic about Colin Powell, the nation’ ‘ most distinguished African-American military leader. However, a large ‘ majority was hostile or indifferent to Jesse Jackson, the civil rightsi I KEAEII'S IEILIGHHEI? 0F IIIIIT! SIITIERIEIIS ’ 227 leader, and only one in sixteen conservative southern Republicans sup- ported policies designed solely to “help” blacks. According to the 1996 National Election Study survey, substantial majorities of the conserva- tive white Republicans believed it was not the responsibility of the fed— eral gavemment to see that blacks are treated fairly in employment. They thought that too much effort had already been made to push equality in the nation, and they overwhelmingly reiected preferences for “women and minorities” in hiring decisions. Most southern Republi- cans oppose govemmentally mandated change on nearly all of the con- troversial issues separating the races. It is hardly surprising that few blacks identify with the modern southern Republican party. Many conservative southern whites were originally attracted into the Republican party because of its conservatism on economic and racial is- sues, but during the 19805 Reagan brought into the party large numbers of conservatives associated with the religious right. “The religious right provides voters for the [Republican] party,” Glenn H. Utter and John W. Storey have observed, “while the party supports evangelicals on is- sues such as abortion, pornography, prayer in the schools, and ‘family values.”’“ These Republicans have different priorities and have some- times exhibited a dogmatic and uncompromising style of debate about matters of right and wrong behavior that can bitterly divide local and state Republican parties. To gauge the importance of religious conservatism in the Republican g'party, we have classified conservative white voters according to their Half-placement on a 19% exit poll'question, “Do you consider yourself .part of the religious right political movement?” Forty-five percent f white conservative Republican voters said they were part of the reli- gious right movement. Among the issues that religious right leaders have emphasized, the most controversial, divisive, and intractable poli— rrcy question has been whether a woman should have the legal right to an born'on. The abortion issue represents the greatest philosophical con- tradiction among southern conservative Republicans, who ordinarily e K "a; ’7 218 ‘ TIIE I!!! 1" SGIITIIEIII IEPUIHEIIS I the abortion issue becomes clear: 89 percent of the religious right con- servatives want abortions to be either entirely or mostly illegal, while a slight majority of the secular conservatives prefer that abortions be al- ways or mostly legal. Finally, more than half of the conservative southern Republicans sampled in the 1996 poll rejected the notion of tolerating moral stan- dards that differed from their own, while less than a third were willing to be tolerant of other moral standards. Presumably such rigidity increases when the basis for one’s moral beliefs rests upon interpretations of re- vealed truth. From the perspective of sincerely believing conservative Christians, standing up for one’s beliefs in the political arena makes per- fect sense: “Let me tell you the craziest statement a person can make: We need to keep religion out of politics,” asserted one southern Chris- tian Coalition supporter in 1996. “If a person is trying to live for the Lord, then their life should be dominated in all areas by that principle, politics included?” Not all religious right conservatives would express themselves so bluntly, but such beliefs have probably motivated many like-minded individuals to View the southern Republican party as their ' political instrument. However, it is just this sort of view, expressed in dogmatic and uncompromising language, that has prevented many other white southemers from embracing the Republican party. Not all southern Republicans—an understatement—have welcomed the religious right into the party. “I just feel like all these preachers don’t have any business getting involved in this stuff,” commented one Geor- ' gia Republican. “I’m still one of those types who believe that church and state ought to be separated.” Another Republican was skeptical about the impact of the religious right. “I think they [the Christian Co- alition] are like organized labor,” he commented. “They are thought to have a whole lot more strength than they do. Their role has been over- stated. The perception of their power has given them power.”"” The en- try of religious right activists into the Republican party has generated countless battles over local, state, and national priorities. In the metropolitan South the realignment of conservative southern whites has been especially pronounced. Seventy-one percent of met- ropolitan white conservative voters were Republicans while only 10 per- cent were Democrats. Moreover, the bulk of urban conservative Re- publicans—61 percent—were not part of the religious right political .2 f straws ntnmnutlr or Inn: SBHTIIEIIHEIISJ zzr movement. Rural conservative whites in 1996 had also realigned into the Republican party, but the GOP advantage, 59 to 19 percent was considerably smaller than in the metropolitan areas. The religious right contributed mightily to the conservative realignment in the region’s ru- ral areas, accounting for 57 percent of conservative white Republicans. In one policy area after another, conservative whites set the tone of the southern Republican party. Conservative white Republicans, how— ever, do not constitute a majority of voters in any southern state. There are some congressional districts—chiefly suburban or mixed-suburban rural districts with large white majorities—where conservative Republi— cans do represent voting majorities. However, in all states and most con- gressional districts, conservative Republicans are a minority of the active electorate. It is useful to keep their unique worldview in mind as we consider the partisan tendencies of southern white moderates, a crucial component of the southern electorate. The challenge for southern Ree ' pubhcans, saturated with a conservative base and conservative leaders is _ to develop support among the much larger number of southern voters who do not completely share their worldview. TIIE DEALIENMEHT 0F MODERATE SOUTHERN WHITES Important as the conservative realignment has been, conservatives make up only a sizable minority of the region’s electorate—43 percent of southern white voters and 34 percent of all southern voters in 1996. Even the complete political mobilization of white conservatives would still leave Republican candidates far short of the three-fifths share of the white vote necessary to win two-candidate statewide elections in the South. The Republican party’s continuing imperative, therefore, has been to increase its strength among moderate white southemers, who also make up 43 percent of the region’s white voters and (rounding up) 3'15 percent of the entire active electorate. To become a genuine majority arr-the southern electorate, Republicans would need to realign moderate whites while retaining the loyalties of conservative whites. Attracting moderate whites into the Republican party—4nd keeping them there— has proven much more difficult than realigning white conservatives. Over the past three decades, moderate white southemers have been favorably disposed toward most Republican and southern Democratic $1? ,, m | "IEIISEIIFSOIITIIEII arm-urns 1 nominees for president. Moderates liked Nixon (1972), Ford (1976), Rea— gan (1980, 1984, and 1988), and Bush (1988 and 1992), as well as such centrist s'autbem Democrats as Carter (1976 and 1980) and Clinton (1992 and 1996). However, the two most visible national Republican leaders in 1996, Gingrich and Dole, were in no position to attract south- ern white moderates into the Republican party. Indeed, their promi- nence as party leaders may well have repelled or weakened the attach- ments of southern white moderates to the GOP. Reagan accelerated the partisan dealignment of moderate whites (see the bottom half of Figure 7.2). He neutralized the southern Democratic party’s longstanding advantage in party identification. In 1968 55 per- cent of moderate white southemers were Democrats while only 15 per- cent were Republicans. Majorities of the moderates remained Demo« crats during the next twelve years, and as late as 1980 only 24 percent were Republicans. Reagan’s performance in ofi‘ice, however, pleased moderate white southemers, prompting many to break with the Demo- cratic party. From 1980 to 1988 Democratic identification dropped from 52 to 35 percent, while Republican identification increased to 34 percent. As Reagan’s presidency ended, the Democratic edge among southern white moderates had narrowed to a single percentage point-a tremendous achievement in a region where few white moderates had ever felt close to the Republican party. Nonetheless, Reagan did not I_ convert most of the moderates into Republicans. In 1988 an immense _ gap remained between the 70 percent of moderate southern whites who V were warmly disposed toward Reagan and the 34 percent who consid- ered themselves Republicans. Bush won 59 percent of the southern white moderate vote in 1988 1 but collapsed to 41 percent in 1992. Clinton followed with 39 percent, and Reform party candidate Ross Perot won 21 percent among southern white moderates. According to the 1992 exit polls, moderate white vot- [ HEIGII'S BIMIEIMEII I" III”! SGIITIIEIIHSJ 231 gan’s achievement of appealing simultaneously to conservative and moderate whites. Filling this vacuum of national Republican leadership in the fall of 1994 was the dynamic and bold new leader of the House Republicans, Newt Gingrich.“ Untested as a national leader, Gingrich represented an overwhelmingly white and largely middle-to-upper—income suburban district in Atlanta, Georgia. Gingrich had arrived in Washington in 1979, when Democrats still dominated southern congressional elec- tions. Ambitious to transform the House Republicans into a majority party, he rapidly became the main leader of programmatic conservatives who wanted to wrest control of the party from the older moderate Re- . publicans. In 1989 Gingrich was elected minority whip, and in 1993 he signaled his intention to lead the Republicans after the 1994 elections, a move that hastened Michael’s retirement from Congress. A key part of his national strategy required Republicans to eliminate the immense surplus of southern seats that House Democrats had en- joyed throughout the twentieth century. This ambitious goal was feasi- ' ble if and when the Republican presidential preferences of southern ' whites could be transferred to Republican congressional candidates. In 1994 Gingrich and his aides devised the strategy, recruited many of the candidates, raised much of the money, and suggested aggressive tactics tier congressional candidates to build upon the opportunities that had . been created in the southern electorate during the previous decade. An- gry and dissatisfied southern conservatives, 86 percent ofwhom disliked ‘7‘ President Clinton, turned out in large numbers in 1994. According to exit polls, conservatives made up 47 percent of southern white voters, a ubstantial increase fi'orn their share of 38 percent in the 1992 elections. Eighty-four percent of southern white conservatives and 48 percent of southern white moderates voted for Republican congressional candi— dates, enough to yield a Republican majority of southern House seats. Rs a result of these gains, combined with those in the rest of the nation, Gingrich led the Republicans back into power in the House of Repre- sentatives for the first time in forty years. For better or for worse, the new Speaker emerged as the nation’s most conspicuous Republican. .. Gingrich was a hero among conservative white southemers, but his relentlessly partisan agenda, erratic judgment, and belligerent style alienated many southem white moderates. Gingrich recast the party in with each party claiming the loyalty of 38 percent. President Bush’s de- _ feat left Senator Dole of Kansas and Representative Robert Michael of ‘ Illinois as the leaders of the national Republican party. Neither of these northern Republicans was remotely capable of envisioning, much less leading, a partisan realignment of white moderates in the South. The Republican party needed a national leader who could build upon Rea- 132 "IE IISE 0F 'SIHTIIEBI IEPIIILIHIS the image of the far more strident and aggressive conservatism of Barry Goldwater, and his ascendance gave Republican conservatism a sharp— ness that was markedly different in tone from Reagan’s approach. The new Speaker was a polarizing politician who thought and acted in terms of either/or dichotomies: win/lose, good/evil, allies/ enemies. His slash- ing debate style, eagerness to volunteer advice and opinions, and vola- tile public temperament bewildered, embarrassed, and irritated large segments of the public. Many blacks, as well as liberal and moderate whites, viewed Gingrich and his fellow Republicans as a mean-spirited collection of ideological zealots who were willing to shut down the gov- ernment and take away accustomed benefits and services. “They’ re com- ing for the children,” said Georgia congressman john Lewis in the de- bate over welfare reform. “They’re coming for the poor. They’re coming for the sick, the elderly, and the disabled.” The message of some embar— rassed House Republicans—“Tell Newt to shut up!”-resonated loudly " outside Washington.” Following the Republicans’ unexpected congressional victory in 1994, Gingrich temporarily dislodged President Clinton as America’s most important elected political leader. However, the new Speaker over- reached when he tried to set the agenda in areas where the president’s interpretation of the national interest conflicted with the views of the House Republican leadership. Completely inexperienced in the craft of legislating and concentrating their elforts upon an unrealistic and un- achievable agenda, the House Republicans were unable to govern.43 In the American system of “separated institutions sharing powers,” it is against the grain of political reality for the Speaker of the House of Rep— resentatives rather than the president to establish the policy agenda of the national government.“ It is especially difficult to do so with narrow 77 House and Senate majorities and without the presidency. Only if ~ Speaker Gingrich had somehow been able to assemble bipartisan two- thirds majorities in both the House and Senate to override presidential vetoes would it have been possible for him to defeat a president of the United States. In the fall of 1995 President Clinton, not Speaker Gingrich and the House Republicans, won the political battle for the center of American politics. David Maraniss and Michael Weisskopf observed that Gingrich . “was often astute at anticipating the consequences of various courses of ' l “MAN'S IEAlliIMElT BF III“! SBI‘IHERHEBS ' 133 action, but less adept at shaping events. On the shutdown [of the fed— eral government], his missteps had so weakened him in the public eye and within his own rank—and—file that he was not in a good position to overcome members of his leadership team who pushed hardest to close the government, a policy that Gingrich privately opposed.” Clinton then skillfully used his veto power to block Republican budget propos- als, which twice led to the partial shutdown of the government. How- ever the Republicans interpreted their electoral “mandate,” it had not been to close the federal government. President Reagan’s sunny, opti- mistic yet practical conservatism had been replaced by “a Newt Gingrich shut-down-the-government scowling conservatism,” as com- _ mentator Larry Kudlow later put it.“ Blessed with the unpopular Gingrich as his principal rival, Clinton reemerged as the champion of necessary government programs and services, the reasonable defender of “strong government” against the uncompromising, extremist Repub- lican budget—cutters. Gingrich’s persona as well as his policies and actions repelled many southern white moderates. Seventy percent had viewed Reagan warmly in 1988, and 79 percent approved Clinton in 1996. By contrast, 64 per- cent of southern white moderate voters disliked Gingrich. The self- ' ~_ described “conservative revolutionary” was viewed unfavorany by 80 V percent of the region’s moderate white Democrats, 74 percent of moder- _ ate white independents, and even 35 percent of moderate white Repub- licans. Gingrich’s unfavorable evaluations in 1996 placed him in close company with such politicians as Jesse Jackson, Edward Kennedy, George McGovern, the disgraced Richard Nixon (1976), Pat Buchanan, Pat Robertson, and Ross Perot, public figures who elicited more loath- ; mg and ridicule than admiration and respect from southern white mod- ‘ 'erates. By displaying strong presidential leadership, Clinton had become fisefirl to the many southern white moderates who wanted a forceful check against Gingrich-style Republicanism. Yet Clinton, too, had a ma— jor weakness among these voters: 63 percent viewed him as dishonest and untrustworthy. In the 1996 presidential election, President Clinton ran only one point ahead of Dole, 46 to 45 percent, among southern White moderates. If the southern Republican House Speaker could not draw more moderate whites into the Republican party, neither could 23s I rntnlsnrsournm IIEI'HIUBAIS j the Democratic president from Arkansas lead many of them back into the Democratic party. Between 1992 and 1996 more southern white moderates abandoned the Republicans (5 percent) than joined the Democrats (2 percent). In 1996, according to the exit polls, Democrats had reopened a lead in pam'san identification, 40 to 33 percent, among the region’s white moderates. In the 2000 presidential campaign the Re- publican party's image among moderate white southerners was being re~ shaped by the “compassionate conservatism” of Texas governor George W Bush. White moderates voted for Bush over Democrat Al Gore by the decisive margin of 64 to 36 percent, and slightly more of them (39 versus 36 percent) called themselves Republicans than Democrats. Nei- ther party was close to a majority among this crucial group of voters. The political worldview of southern white moderates contrasts sharply with that of the region’s conservative white Republicans. Mod« crate southern whites are characterized by conservative and liberal ten- dencies; they are not polarized by party and ideology. As a group, 69 percent in 1996 were warm toward Democrats while only 49 percent liked Republicans; 57 percent were warm toward conservatives but only 41 percent were favorably disposed toward liberals. Their mixed ideo- logical preferences make them an especially diiiicult group for conserva- tive Republicans to realign. No policy matter better illustrates their di- vergent opinions than a question about government spending and services. When asked to place themselves on a scale anchored by the op- tions of “the government should provide fewer services, even in areas such as health and education, in order to reduce spending,” or the gov- ernment should “provide many more services even if it means an in- crease in spending,” moderate southern whites split into three equal subsets: 34 percent wanted fewer services, 33 percent wanted more, and 33 percent were in the middle. Majorities of southern white moderates hold conservative views in some important areas. Most assume primary responsibility for providing a good standard of living for themselves and their families. Three-fifths of the moderates prefer less government, and a majority believe they pay too much in taxes. Majorities of white moderates support welfare re« form and government efforts to prevent crime. Nearly four-fifths ap- prove of the death penalty. Sixty-five percent of southern white moder- ates approve of a designated moment of silent prayer in public schools, IHHI'S IEILISIIHIT I" MIITE SIUHIEIHIEIS 235 while only 9 percent think prayer should never be allowed in public schools. About three of every five white moderates believe there should be no special programs to help blacks, and nine of every ten oppose preferential hiring practices. More than three of every five believe that equality is being pushed too much. However, moderate southern whites do take liberal positions on other important issues. Sixty-three percent believe that a strong govern— ment is necessary to handle the economy. Three-fifths think that taking care of the economy and attending to Social Security, Medicare, public education, and health care should be the top priorities of the federal government, and more than three-fourths want to increase spending on public education. Nearly seven out of ten are favorably disposed toward the women’s movement, and a smaller majority believe it is important _ to protect the environment even if more governmental regulation of be- havior by private companies and individuals were required. Sixty per- cent Want abortions to be always or mostly legal. Finally, 56 percent of southern white moderates are willing to tolerate moral standards differ- ent from their own. Thirty-six percent of the moderates hold qualified views about tolerance, and only 20 percent say they could not put up with different moral standards. Because such ideological crosscurrents run through southern white moderates, a Republican party led by religious and secular conservatives is not an attractive institution for a majority of this group. In 1996 only one-third of white moderates identified as Republicans. These moder- ates, as Would be expected, took conservative positions on more issues than did the rest of the moderates, but their views were not uniformly conservative. Large majorities of moderate Republicans believed a strong government is needed to handle the economy, were pro—choice on abortion, supported new laws to protect the environment, and fa- vored increased spending for public schools. A plurality supported tol- eration of different moral standards. However, the moderates are clearly junior partners in the modern southern Republican party. To attract more moderates into the party, Republican politicians and officeholders would need to emphasize matters they usually ignore or deemphasize. A more sympathetic understanding of issues that appeal to women and environmental groups, more nuanced positions on abor- tion, a greater sensitivity to the practical side of governing, and above m | nunlstnrsolrnrnuntrusucsus ‘ all, perhaps, a greater concern for improving public education might help the Republicans with these groups. Republican success depends upon mixing their issue appeals—taking more liberal positions on some issues of relevance to moderate Republicans to broaden the base of their party while continuing to emphasize issues that motivate their conserva— tive supporters. Just as successful southern Democrats have learned to campaign as centrists, mixing liberal and conservative positions under the constraints of public opinion, so, too, successful Republican politi— cians will need to learn to temper their conservatism with the practicalities of politics. This segment of the electorate will probably continue to be divided in partisanship unless events or political person- alities emerge who can attract them into a new majority configuration of support. The Republican party’s attraction for moderate whites has differed - sharply along metropolitan versus rural lines. Only in the metropolitan ' South have white moderates been neutralized as a Democratic asset. Ac- cording to the 1996 exit polls, 37 percent of the white moderates who " lived in metropolitan areas identified as Republicans, compared with 34 percent who called themselves Democrats. However, in the rural and small-town South, the Democratic party continued to hold a nearly 4 two-to-one advantage over the Republican party, 50 to 26 percent, -_ among white moderates. Separating the party into its metropolitan and rural wings reveals the dilemmas as well as the opportunities confronting southern Republi- cans. In the metropolitan South Republican growth has been based on -V realigning the conservatives and dealigning the moderates. More than seven of every ten urban white conservatives are now Republicans, and most of them are not part of the religious right. However, Republicans § :: o ., U. f'b O o B 0 N 3 E o : ~52! E '5 E f'h B a c: o to 2. E' m o E. {3" er *4 % ’1: fl '2. 5 GE only to conservatives. Among metropolitan whites in 1996 there were fewer conservatives than moderates (39 versus 44 percent), and moder- ate white Republicans only slightly outnumbered moderate white Dem— ocrats. For metropolitan white voters who identified themselves as Republicans, moderates and liberals made up 42 percent, secular conser- vatives accounted for 36 percent, and conservatives belonging to the re- ligious right amounted to only 23 percent. In the metropolitan South l IElElI'S IEALIBIIEIT F Ill"! SMIHIEIIEIS j 231' the winning Republican formula is a party led by secular conservatives sensitive to the concerns of both religious conservatives and moderates. If the party is to expand in southern cities and suburbs, its growth po- tential lies in realigning white moderates. Republican penetration of the rural South has followed a quite differ- ent path. It has been based primarily upon mobilizing conservatives, es- pecially those associated with the religious right. “These southern rural folks are basically conservative, religious and believe in family values,” South Carolinian Richard Qiinn told Thomas Edsall of the Washington Pbst in 1988. “They really should be in the Republican party.”3 Nearly half (48 percent) of rural southern white voters in 1996 were conserva- tives, but fewer than three-fifths called themselves Republicans. In the rural South a majority {57 percent) of conservative White Republicans were members of the religious right political movement. However, in rural areas the Republicans have made little headway with moderate whites. In 1996 half remained Democrats, and only a quarter had be- come Republicans, a distribution similar to the pattern of the entire South before Reagan’s presidency. Many rural southern Republicans practice an ultraconservative religious and cultural style of politics that severely diminishes the party’s appeal to moderate whites everywhere. It is impossible for the Republicans to become a majority party if their candidates espouse the views of voters in the most traditional parts of the South and ignore the mix of issues that appeal to voters in the grow- ing metropolitan areas. A COMPETIIIVE IIEPIIIlIEAN MINORITY Repeated votes for Republican presidential candidates in the 1980s in— duced millions of southern whites to redefine their basic partisanship. - Reagan’s presidency changed the southern party system by making the ,Republican party socially respectable and practically useful for two- ; thirds of the white conservatives and one-third of the white moderates. 2A5 a consequence of the realignment of white conservatives and the dealignment of white moderates, Republicans outnumbered Democrats, :44 to 33 percent, among the region’s white voters and made up 37 per- " cent of all southern voters in 1996. The plurality party of the South’s ra- 23! E TIIE IISEV {IF SGIITIEII lifllllltlls J eial majority now has enough reliable partisans to support genuinely competitive Republican candidates for most Senate and many House seats. ' United by their belief in personal responsibility for providing a good standard of living for themselves and their families, most white south- ern Republicans want less government in general. They want to earn de— cent salaries, keep most of what they make, and then spend, save, or in- vest their money according to their own priorities. Most believe they pay too much in taxes. They prefer fewer services from the federal gov- ernment if additional taxes would be necessary to finance new or ex- panded programs. A majority even rejects the need for a strong govem- ment to handle the economy and is willing to rely upon impersonal market forces. Republicans accept integration as the preferred form of race relations, a change of immense importance from their support for strict segregation of the races during the 19605. At the same time, large majorities of white southern Republicans take very conservative posi- tions about governmental efforts to provide aid to racial minorities. Most do not believe that governmental programs should be specifically tar- geted to help blacks, overwhelmingly oppose preferential hiring prac- tices for blacks, and take the view that there has been too much of a push toward equality in the country. Controversies about abortion, tolerance of differing moral standards, and protection of the environment continue to divide southern white Republicans, who otherwise have much in common. The abortion issue especially splits the Republicans: 56 percent want abortion to be either always or mostly illegal, while 44 percent prefer abortion to be either mostly or always legal. Nearly half of the region’s white Republicans are intolerant of moral standards that differ from their own conceptions of right and wrong. A plurality of southern white Republicans rejects more regulations to protect the environment. ’ Southern Republican candidates for the Senate and House of Repre- sentatives still face the problem of generating sufficient support from whites who do not think of themselves as members of the party. Repub- lican positions resonate with majorities of the remaining whites about personal responsibility for earning a good standard of living, a prefer- ence for less government (at least in the abstract), a perception of paying more than the right amount in taxes, and resistance to further govern- , IIEIMI'S IEMIGIMEII I” III"! SOITIIEMIEIISJ 23! mental efforts to produce more equality in society. However, there are clear political liabilities if Republican leaders try to govern exclusively from the right. The Republican party is hurt by its separation from ma- jorities of the remaining southern whites in its preference for market forces to handle the economy, its reluctance to regulate the activities of businesses and private individuals to protect the environment, its strong opposition to legalized abortions, and its intolerance of different stan- dards of morality. The Republicans generally offer less government than majorities of the remaining white and black southemers want whenever their leaders express hostility or indifference toward governmental programs, such as Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance, that try to re- spond to the dislocations and negative consequences of market forces operating in the economy. While most southerners do not think gov- ernment should be primarily responsible for their standard of living, and while they do not support public welfare beyond a minimal period and for only a small number of children, most also do not want to aban- don the security of a “strong government” to handle the economy. In addition, Republicans are skeptical about increased regulations to pro- tect the environment. Most southerners who are not Republicans do not believe that market forces will automatically “solve” the problems generated through economic development. When Republicans fail to intervene, Democrats can portray Republicans as indifferent to and un- caring about the problems faced by individual citizens as a consequence of market-driven dislocations. In other policy areas, Republican politicians appear to be offering too much government to satisfy the preferences of southern voters who are not members of the party. The pro-life position of most Republicans on the abortion issue attracts only a sizable minority among other south- ‘ emers. The religious right’s “growing strength . . . in a region that has be- . come the party’s new base of power,” conclude Dan Balz and Ronald Brownstein, “not only guarantees greater attention by the party to divi- sive issues like school prayer and abortion, but threatens to make secular conservatives and moderates think twice about their longer-term alle- ' giance with the GOP.”47 In addition, rejection oftoleration by many Re- publicans injects moralistic and dogmatic tones into public debate that alienate many other southerners. Conservative Republicans present 24: l m IISE or sourutnu IIPIIILICIIS l themselves as adherents of personal freedom who wish to live their lives as much as possible without interference from the federal government. But their entire agenda is so relentlessly conservative across economic, racial, and cultural matters that the Republicans often appear to be try- ing to impose their own moral standards, values, and priorities upon other groups in the society who do not share them. Southern Republicans have probably gone about as far as they can with a purely conservative agenda and an overwhelmingly ideological approach to governing. Although Republicans have realigned majorities of white conservatives in rural as well as metropolitan areas, they only split the urban white moderates and continue to trail the Democrats among rural white moderates. As a governing party the Republicans’ central deficiency has been the absence of a national leader with the per- sona and leadership skills to reinvigorate and extend the Reagan realign- ment. Their ideological conservatism needs to be tempered with prag- matism. What the Republicans need are leaders and programs that unite conservatives while attracting moderates. If the Republicans wish to become the South’s majority party, their leaders will probably need to demonstrate greater interest and compe- tence in governing. Applying conservative principles of accountability to public institutions and to services valued by urban and rural moder- ates is a plausible strategy to broaden the party’s appeal beyond its c0n- servative base. Majorities of voters in the South, as elsewhere in the na- tion, expect senators and representatives to pay attention to the practical side of government as the provider of necessary services and as an adjuster of the dislocations of demographic and economic change. Republicans need more pragmatic conservative problemsolvers, politi- cians more along the lines of Georgia representative Mac Collins. Holding a mixed suburban and rural district, Collins blends rural con- servatism with a businessman’s desire to make practical decisions: “As I told President Clinton when we met for the first time and {I} looked him in the face, ‘We have different philosophies. Let’s get that out of the way right now and talk!’ I like to talk things out. I believe in dialogue.” A NEW PARTY SYSTEM llll THE SOUTH Two intensely competitive olitical part‘ 5 now structure southern po- litics. Although the partial ‘ agan re ignment has produced enough Republicans to sustain comptitive o-party politics, in 1996 self— identified Democrats still outn . ered Republicans by 43 to 37 per— _‘_ cent among all southem voters. I. despite their apparent disadvantage ' e - blicans won more House and Sen- in party identification, southe . ate elections from 1992 to 2 0 th did Democrats. To better under- , stand the Republicans’ cony essional s ge in the 19905, it is necessary ._ to characterize the regio ’s new partis ' Relying exclusively on u . balance more realistically. identification .- determine the competitive equilibrium exaggerate emocratic strength nd underestimates Republi- Can strength. Our proach is to group souem voters according to their partisanship 71d their ideology, observe eir voting behavior in presidential elec ons, and then regroup them in v “core Republicans,” “core Democr s,” and "swing voters.m Adding i ology enhances Republican strength ecause all three ! types of ' ' ublicans (conservatives, moderates, and ii rals) are supple- mented r conservative independents. At the same ti , conservative Demo .ats have not dependany supported Democrati presidential cand‘ I” ates. Using information about ideological identificati as well as pa - identification captures the strategic dynamics of the co servative lignment by treating conservative independent: as a reliable G t‘ P pillar and by understanding conservative Democrats as swing voters rath than ...
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214Black&amp;Black - 1988 Bush vat: (‘70) 2“ TI! RISE...

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