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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: July 2014

Introduction

Summary

This book is about the political culture of the American Sunbelt since the end of World War II. At the heart of this story is the rise of a powerful Republican Party, increasingly detached from its establishment roots on the East Coast, shaped by grassroots organizers and business leaders in rapidly growing metropolitan communities, and fueled by an ideological conservatism that employed a populist style to champion an agenda for free enterprise, limited government, low taxes, strong national defense, fervent patriotism, and traditional family values. As a result of these and other converging factors, the Sunbelt emerged during the second half of the twentieth century as the undisputed geographic epicenter for conservative Republican power in the United States.

Yet, at the same time, the political culture of the American Sunbelt – or perhaps more accurately, the history of American politics in the postwar Sunbelt – is also a story of contestation. At different moments and with varying degrees of success, leftist radicals, reformist progressives, establishment liberals, pragmatic moderates, and even some conservatives used the Democratic Party, as well as other organizations, to fight against this Republican ascendancy. Sometimes these groups were successful. Sometimes they were not. But the conservative Republican ascendancy that so many have identified as almost synonymous with the rise of the postwar American Sunbelt was hardly an easy, unobstructed victory march. Rather, it was consistently challenged and never foreordained. The history of American politics in the postwar Sunbelt resembles a rollercoaster of partisan and ideological adaptation and transformation. This book seeks to tell that story.

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