In an election year where the topic of race is front and center, Joseph Lowndes, assistant professor of political science, has come out with a new book that examines the role of race in shaping contemporary politics.
In From the New Deal to the New Right: Race and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism (Yale University Press, 2008), Lowndes notes that the South's transition from Democratic stronghold to Republican base has frequently been viewed as a recent occurrence -- one that largely stems from a 1960s-era backlash against left-leaning social movements, such as civil rights.
But, he argues, this rightward shift was not necessarily a natural response by alienated whites. Instead, it has been the result of the long-term development of an alliance between Southern segregationists and Northern conservatives -- two groups that initially shared little beyond opposition to specific New Deal imperatives.
Lowndes focuses on the formative period between the end of the Second World War and the Nixon years. By looking at the 1948 Dixiecrat Revolt, the presidential campaigns of George Wallace and popular representations of the region, he shows the many ways in which the South changed during these decades.
The unique characteristics of American conservatism were forged in the crucible of race relations in the South, Lowndes asserts, and his analysis of party-building efforts, national institutions and the innovations of particular political actors provides a timely look into the ideology of modern conservatism and the Republican Party.