This book analyzes the political culture of the American Sunbelt since the end of World War II. It highlights and explains the Sunbelt's emergence during the second half of the twentieth century as the undisputed geographic epicenter for conservative Republican power in the United States. However, the book also investigates the ongoing nature of political contestation within the postwar Sunbelt, often highlighting the underappreciated persistence of liberal and progressive influences across the region. Sean P. Cunningham argues that the conservative Republican ascendancy that so many have identified as almost synonymous with the rise of the postwar American Sunbelt was hardly an easy, unobstructed victory march. Rather, it was consistently challenged and never foreordained. The history of American politics in the postwar Sunbelt resembles a rollercoaster of partisan and ideological adaptation and transformation.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Texas was rocked by a series of political transitions. Despite its century-long heritage of solidly Democratic politics, the state became a Republican stronghold virtually overnight, and by 1980 it was known as "Reagan Country." Ultimately, Republicans dominated the Texas political landscape, holding all twenty-seven of its elected offices and carrying former governor George W. Bush to his second term as president with more than 61 percent of the Texas vote.Sean P. Cunningham examines the remarkable history of Republican Texas in Cowboy Conservatism: Texas and the Rise of the Modern Right. Utilizing extensive research drawn from the archives of four presidential libraries, gubernatorial papers, local campaign offices, and oral histories, Cunningham presents a compelling narrative of the most notable regional genesis of modern conservatism. Spanning the decades from Kennedy's assassination to Reagan's presidency, Cunningham reveals a vivid portrait of modern conservatism in one of the nation's largest and most politically powerful states. The newest title in the New Directions in Southern History series, Cunningham's Cowboy Conservatism demonstrates Texas's distinctive and vital contributions to the transformation of postwar American politics.