In 1968, when Richard Nixon called for Law and Order, a term used by Goldwater in 1964 and Reagan in 1966, he was appealing to working-class voters who would normally be expected to vote Democratic but were becoming more and more uneasy about a perceived increase in crime and frequent stories of protests in the streets. In 1968, the real domestic issue was the economy, but that was far too complicated for American political discourse, and, besides, this group might have found Nixon’s and the Republican Party’s real thoughts on economic policy unsettling. While Johnson had waged a War on Poverty to end a very real poverty in America, Nixon would wage a War on Crime to stoke fear and paranoia. Though economics, poverty, and crime are inextricably linked; that wasn’t a connection he was going to be making publicly lest he affront one of his Party’s most sacred cows. Catchy phrases and slogans can win elections; the under the hood stuff like economic policy might turn off voters; is best left for think tanks, universities, and board rooms. Richard Nixon was not above appealing to baser instincts; both the Law and Order and War on Crime phrases intentionally connoted racial overtones. Besides, there was the specter of George Wallace. Wallace an overt racist, nominally a Democrat, was in reality a Dixiecrat, aka Southern Democrat; one of those Dixiecrats who did not switch over to being a Republican after the Civil Rights Acts of 1964. Getting the vote of those yet and former Dixiecrats was all a part of Nixon’s and the Republican Party’s Southern Strategy. As a consequence of the success of these strategies, we would see more and more of this fine art of appealing to baser instincts being practiced by Republican candidates in the coming years. No more of that aspirational stuff for the once GOP, thank you. The once GOP was soon to become a Republican Party controlled by southern white Republicans, née Dixiecrats, who brought along with them their attitudes toward democracy. In the 1968 presidential contest, George Wallace carried Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Thanks mostly to his friendship with Billy Graham, Nixon got 69% of the national Evangelical Christian vote. — Evangelicals felt that Nixon would protect the nation against Catholicism. Became gatekeepers to nomination.
When Reagan gave his ‘Birth of a Nation’ speech in Philadelphia Mississippi in 1980; he was telling white segregationist Mississippians, some yet Southern Democrats/Dixiecrats and some recent converts to the Republican Party, that it was OK to think about race the way they thought about race. In doing so, he validated their racism, and abetted their mendacity; accorded dignity to their odious opinions. By pandering to their racism and bigotry, he had, to their minds, legitimized their racism and bigotry. Reagan stooped for, welcomed, their votes.