Academic journal article American Studies

THE GREAT MELDING: War, the Dixiecrat Rebellion, and the Southern Model for America's New Conservatism

Academic journal article American Studies

THE GREAT MELDING: War, the Dixiecrat Rebellion, and the Southern Model for America's New Conservatism

Article excerpt

THE GREAT MELDING: War, the Dixiecrat Rebellion, and the Southern Model for America's New Conservatism. By Glenn Feldman. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. 2015.

Concern for disparities in income and power tend to be cyclical in American political life, even if such inequity remains constant. In the current era, when discourse about the "top 1 per cent" produces voter backlash and distinctions of race, religion, and national origin have renewed salience, history offers lessons on how our democracy both allows and encourages a politics that is distinctly undemocratic. Voter acquiescence to conservative economic and political oligarchy is a necessary condition for the persistence of such stark inequity in a democracy, and this political fact is by no means new.

In his historical analysis of twentieth-century Southern politics, focusing most directly on Alabama as prototype, Glenn Feldman offers a comprehensive accounting of how political manipulation and popular reaction in the South of 1942 to 1952 laid the groundwork for a new conservatism that eventually manifested in Reagan's election in 1980. Feldman demonstrates that white reaction against the economic and racial liberalism of the New Deal, which activated lingering anxiety over federal intervention during Reconstruction, made the 1948 Dixiecrat rebellion and defection of Southern Democrats to the Republican Party inevitable.

Within the cultural logic of Jim Crow, poor whites saw themselves as having racial affinity with white elites rather than class affinity with blacks, allowing poor whites to develop reverence for the economic fundamentalism on which the accumulation of white wealth was predicated. Racial alliance with white elites required poor whites to embrace free-market principles and deride federal programs, even though poor whites were victims of the free market and stood to benefit from New Deal-era government initiatives.

Feldman characterizes this mid-century convergence of Jim Crow and economic orthodoxy as the First Great Melding; the addition to the mix of religious fundamentalism produced a second. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.