The Rhetoric of the Southem Strategy
IN 1968, THE STAGE WAS SET FOR THE FORMAL BIRTH OF THE SOUTHERN Strategy. Four short years earlier, Goldwater had framed the issue positions for this strategy. He showed it to be electorally bountiful for reaping white votes in the South. Yet in 1968 it was unclear whether Nixon would continue Goldwater's states' rights rhetoric. Reinforcing this uncertainty was George Wallace's impending independent presidential candidacy, which would stress a states' rights, racially reactionary orientation. Undaunted by Wallace's potential usurpation of the states' rights mantel, Nixon cut a deal with Republican Senator Strom Thurmond (S.C.) to continue promoting policies consistent with a states' rights orientation ( Murphy and Gulliver 1971). Murphy and Gulliver describe the meeting: " Richard Milhous Nixon . . . sat in a motel room in Atlanta in the early spring of 1968 and made his political deal. Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina was there. There were others. The essential Nixon bargain was simply this: If I'm president of the United States, I'll find a way to ease up on the federal pressures forcing school desegregation or any other kind of desegregation. Whatever the exact words or phrasing, this was how the Nixon commitment was understood by Thurmond and other Southern GOP strategists" ( 1971, 2).
Since this time, the racially conservative issue appeal of the Southern Strategy has evolved from advocating states' rights and opposing busing in the 1960s and 1970s to opposing large segments of the civil rights policy agenda, including affirmative action and quotas in the 1980s. Additionally, the issue emphasis of the Southern Strategy has moved, under the guiding hands of Reagan in the 1980s, to embrace positions on a wide range of social and tax issues ( Edsall and Edsall 1992), which reinforce the initially