The Republican Party was founded in the 1850s by disaffected Whigs and Democrats involved in the antislavery movement. But from the graft and profiteering during the Civil War and Reconstruction the party of Lincoln and freedom quickly became the party of wealth and privilege.
A small but affluent constituency, the Republicans have always had to dupe other groups into cutting their own economic throats by voting against their own real interests in order to garner the needed majorities to win elections.
In the 60s it was Goldwaters Southern Strategy and Nixons Hard Hats. Then Reagan pulled the slickest coup of all in seducing the susceptible, auto-suggestive Southern fundamentalist-evangelicals into making common cause with the party of the Credit Mobilier, Teapot Dome, Watergate and several ruinous depressions. Still smarting from the 1954 Brown vs. Board desegregation decision, these Dixie divines were ripe for the picking.
In 1980 an issue-by-issue debate spelled sure defeat for the G.O.P., so they shrewdly substituted emotion for reason on such controversial issues as abortion, school prayer, gay rights and evolution. And the Southerners fell for it hook, line and sinker. The Solid South switched party labels, making Bourbon Democrats honest men for the first time in the process.
But today evolution and school prayer have lost much of their resonance. Roe vs. Wade still has not been reversed as the Republicans promised almost 30 years ago, gay rights are gaining acceptance, Democrats no longer need the Old Confederacy to win elections and a man has become president who, in the South of 149 years ago, could not have legally become literate.
In our free, functioning democracy, the pendulum has swung again.
George B. Reed, Fort Oglethorpe