The Southern Strategy and Top-Down Advancement: Conclusion
TRADITIONALLY THE SOUTHERN STRATEGY HAS REPRESENTED THE ISSUE strategies used by Republican presidential candidates to create a "solid" Republican South in national elections. Since Goldwater in the early 1960s, the Southern Strategy has evolved from a states' rights, racially conservative message to one promoting in the Nixon years, vis-à-vis the courts, a racially conservative interpretation of civil rights laws--including opposition to busing. With the ascendancy of Reagan, the Southern Strategy became a national strategy that melded race, taxes, anticommunism, and religion. With Bush, it focused largely on its religious component. Finally, breaking from the Republicans' past reliance on presidential candidates to define the issues of the Southern Strategy, House Republican Whip Newt Gingrich developed the Contract with America, reestablishing a version of Southern Strategy closely in tune with Reagan's. Three root explanations have been given through the years to identify the nature of the political changes in the South: generational change (Beck), societal change (Black and Black), and racial issues ( Carmines and Stimson). The findings of this study supplement these explanations with an institutional perspective. Partisan change is not simply a function of party elites providing some issue stimulus (easy issues) and the voting public choosing sides, changing their voting habits, and eventually changing party identification. Although a significant number of voters can be directly influenced by issue strategies, for most voters the federal electoral system in the United States is far too complex to facilitate this type of direct influence.