The Southern Strategy Revisited: Republican Top-Down Advancement in the South
The 1994 elections represented a watershed year for southern Republicans. For the first time since Reconstruction, they gained control of a majority of national seats and governorships. Yet, despite these impressive gains, southern Republicans control only three of twenty-two state legislative chambers and 37 percent of state legislative seats. Joseph A. Aistrup addresses why this divergence between the national and subnational levels persists even after GOP national landslides in 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988, and 1994.
Explanations for this divergence lie in the interaction between the Republicans' "Southern Strategy" -a set of coherent ideological tactics designed to lure southern whites to support GOP candidates-and the Republicans' top-down party development efforts. Aistrup analyzes the historical evolution of the Republican Southern Strategy from Goldwater in 1961 to the "Contract with America" in 1994. Examining the roles of ideology, intra party politics, gerrymandering, and Democratic incumbency in Republican top-down advancement, he predicts the extent to which these will remain significant obstacles to GOP success in subnational elections after 1994.
Aistrup reveals the strengths and weaknesses of the Southern Strategy as it relates to candidate ideology and examines the influences of Republican victories in national and statewide offices on the party's subnational advancement. He shows a clear connection between Republican presidential success and southern Republican advancement in local elections.