UCL Institute of the Americas


Dr Jonathan Bartho

Whistling Dixie: Ronald Reagan, the White South, and the Transformation of the Republican Party


PhD completed 2021


Professor Iwan Morgan and Professor Jonathan Bell

Jonathan Bartho
My thesis was a historical examination of the role the South played in the presidential campaigns of President Ronald Reagan - including in his failed bid for the GOP nomination in 1976, in taking him to the White House in 1980 and in his re-election campaign of 1984. In the words of a Georgia Republican speaking after President Reagan's death in 2004, "For as long as the South is Republican, it will be because of Ronald Reagan." Reagan's political relationship with the South had dramatic consequences not only for Reagan himself but also for the region, the Republican Party and the landscape of American politics more widely.

My research explored numerous aspects of this story, particularly the appeal of Reagan to conservative Southerners, the importance of Reagan's support from evangelical Christians across the South, and how Southern states rescued and revitalised Ronald Reagan's election campaigns - and even his political career - between 1976 and 1980. By researching this previously overlooked aspect of Reagan's political life, I hope to gain a greater understanding of the impact the Southern states had on his career and, more importantly, the role of Reagan's campaigns in the transition of the formerly solid Democratic South into a loyal stronghold for Republican presidential candidates.

E-mail: jonathan.bartho.14@ucl.ac.uk