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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: March 2020

10 - Conclusion: The Relevance of the South in the Republican Party

from Part II - Southern Republican Party Politics at the State Level

Summary

Thus, to understand the nature of the Republican Party’s brand in the early-Twenty First Century, we must understand the electoral bedrock of its success. That bedrock is the South, which has gone Republican in every presidential election since 1980. The composition of that electoral support has been white voters, many of whom are both economically and racially conservative. Thus, the Party of Lincoln, which was built on tenets of free-soil and emancipation and emerged in the post-Civil War South thanks largely to the votes of former slaves, became over time the party of white, conservative America. Our book shows that this process began far earlier than most studies acknowledge. The GOP’s early electoral success in the post-World War II South – during the 1950s and 1960s – was only possible because it had shed its label as the “black party” in most Southern states decades earlier. Thus, as the national Democratic Party moved to the left on civil rights while the national Republican Party moved to the right, white Southern voters realized more and more that they had a real choice on election day. The GOP’s Southern dominance in contemporary America, therefore, has deep roots that extend back more than a century. Simply stated, the success of the contemporary Republican Party is linked directly to its Southern wing going Lily-White in the early part of the Twentieth Century. By becoming a Lily-White party, the GOP in the Jim Crow South helped create the Republican brand that we observe today.