On February 22, Southern Illinois University professor (and sometime contributor to the blog Liberty and Power) Jonathan Bean reviewed Donald Critchlow, Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman's Crusade. I will not excerpt from the review, but I will say that it is thorough, fair, and chock-full of important issues. Read it.
The review has led to some commentary, including questions about the directions of the historiography on conservatism in America. Yesterday, Critchlow answered some of those questions in a comment. Once again, there is all sorts of interesting information, but I found this section to be of particular importance:
I see two major areas that need further exploration: the transformation of the South into a Republican stronghold for white voters and state studies of the ERA battle in the 1970s. Byron Shafer and Richard Johnston's The End of Southern Exceptionalism: Class, Race, and Partisan Change in the Post War South (Harvard University Press, 2006) offers an important revision of this political transformation. Historians have seen race, specifically a racial backlash, as the causal factor that led white Southern voters into the Republican party. Through aggregate analysis, Shafer and Richard Johnson challenge this view. Instead they assert that "class trumped race" as the major factor in this transformation.That kind of challenges some common interpretations. Wow.
They argue that the transformation of the South into a Republican stronghold began on the presidential level, but the important shift occurred on the district level in the 1960s. Prior to 1960s higher income whites voted Democratic, while those few Republican votes occurred in lower income groups, whites and blacks. In the 1960s, however, we see a reversal. In congressional elections, upper income groups begin voting Republican, while lower income groups vote Democratic.
Even more revealing is that Carter in 1976 carried 79 percent of those districts that had gone for Wallace in 1968. In 1980, however, Republicans picked up 50 percent of the districts that had gone for Carter in 1976, with one important distinction: The only districts that Carter won a majority were those districts (58 percent) that had gone for Wallace in 1968. What this reveals is that the view that Wallace was a bridge to the GOP is mistaken. As a result, by the time Reagan left office, more southern whites were calling themselves Republican than Democrats. Shafer and Johnston provide the numbers, but historians need to test this interpretation with more detailed political studies.
It is nice to see that some serious scholarly studies on conservatism are starting to emerge.