Monday, February 16, 2015

Southern Evangelicals & The Southern Strategy

An excellent article on the Republican Party and the religious right.

While Mainline Protestants North and South had lined up fairly consistently in favor of Civil Rights, Southern evangelicals, especially the powerful Southern Baptist congregations, had been solid defenders of segregation. Within a decade after their decisive failure to protect Jim Crow they had emerged from their defeat under a new brand.
The Moral Majority and other groups mobilized initially to block the desegregation of religious schools but very quickly adapted their rhetoric behind an officially race-neutral “culture war.” Starting in the late ‘70’s they were the first to begin organizing precinct-level activism inside the Republican Party in the South.
Before the fundamentalists began to mobilize inside the GOP‬, the grassroots structure of the party in the South was practically empty. By the mid-80’s, the party had been able to elect Senators and even a few Governors in Southern states, but the absence of ‘feet on the street’ made it nearly impossible to compete for most state and local positions. The Southern Strategy assembled by Nixon’s strategists did nothing to fill that gap.
Local party officials, where there were any, were mostly business figures, a few Taft Republicans and Birchers, and a collection of migrants with Northern Republican roots. The party was commercially oriented, anti-union, and quietly sympathetic to Civil Rights in a manner similar to Republicans elsewhere. Fundamentalist activism in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s began to change the character of the party and led to clashes with the so-called Republican “establishment.”