The Southern Strategy is the policy of the Republican Party in the United States to gain political support in the Southern section of the country. Politically, the concept generally uses themes traditionally supported by residents of the Southern states to win election in those locations. Since segregation continued well into the late 20th century in the region, the Republican Party officially attempted to utilize this wedge issue as a way of garnering support for their political faction in these states. In addition to the issue of segregation between white residents and African Americans, the party also utilized Southern values of religion, gun control and a distrust of counterculture to win votes.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the Republican Party generally opposed desegregation and the Civil Rights Movement. This stance caused a major shift in the voting practices of the African American community to the support of the Democratic Party, the faction which helped legislate laws such as the Voting Rights Act. Party officials, specifically President Richard Nixon's political strategist Kevin Phillips, understood that in order for the Republicans to win the Southern states, they needed to focus their attention on the Caucasian population.
The implementation of the Southern Strategy by the Republican Party represented a major shift in political power in the region. Since the Civil War, the Democratic Party was the primary force in the South due to its support of the region during Reconstruction. In addition, the Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln was seen as the primary instigator of the war by most Southern residents. Between the 1950s and the early 1980s, the South shifted to major support for the Republicans. At the same time, much of the North and the West became a major supporter of Democrats.
Despite the Republican shift, by the end of the 20th century, it was generally understood that the South had lost its importance as a major prize in presidential and national elections. Without a majority of electoral votes or heavy populations, the power distribution of the constituency moved to the Northeast, California, and Texas. According to the results of the elections since 1984, every president elected would have taken office regardless of the South's votes.
During the 1990s and early 21st century, the concept of the Southern Strategy focused less on the region known as the “Bible Belt” and more on a general principle. Using wedge issues such as family values, abortion and threats to gun ownership, both parties attempt to segment their ideology to different sides. Voters during this time period followed suit, making the factors involving leadership and legislation secondary to candidates positions on the wedge issues. The Republicans use the conservative principles of the Southern Strategy on a nationwide level to help generate support in new regions of the country.