Dave Bridge

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From 1962—1980, the Republican Party proposed hundreds of constitutional amendments attacking Supreme Court decisions on school prayer, busing, and abortion— issues which were highly salient to Southern voters. A s uncovered behind-the-scenes GOP documents reveal, court-curbing attacks conformed to the Republican Party’s conscious strategy to politicise the three social issues in order to attract wavering Southern Democrats. Using a new database on attacks, as well as in-depth textual analysis of the debate surrounding those attacks, I offer two conclusions. The first is a new historical explanation for the building of the post-New Deal GOP majority: Republican officials intentionally introduced court-curbing bills so as to send socially conservative signals to Southern voters. While attacks were not the sole cause of realignment, they seem to have played an understudied role in garnering enough Southern votes so that the GOP could compete for national majorities. The second conclusion is theoretical and points to a new hypothesis that spans across American political development: court-curbing proposals and their accompanying ideological dialogue are heretofore unrecognised mechanisms of coalition building.

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