The era of the Southern Reagan Democrat was ushered in by racist attitudes that perpetuated the stereotypes about race, poverty, and the deterioration of the inner city. The conservative movement of the last half of the 20th century was based on reactionary politics against the social movements that sought a redistribution of legitimate political power.
To a large extent the polarization of the political movements have been an ongoing struggle based on the politics of fear brought on by the Cold War in the 1940s and 1950s. All social movements, whether pro-labor or public health care, were labeled as communist inspired socialist programs. The Vietnam War became a significant factor in further defining the conservative movement. According to Meagher (2009), "their most notorious role in the development of the conservative coalition was to devise a post-Vietnam foreign policy in response to the perceived failures of Democrats to confront communism" (p.261). In this way, the conservative movement was able to turn the battle against liberal social programs into a front for the Cold War.
The Vietnam War was also instrumental in forming a common cause base, which several other social groups utilized to form coalitions in an effort to solidify voting blocs. Identity politics, the Black Panthers, Civil Rights, feminism, and the environmental movement all fell under the anti-war umbrella. The left viewed Vietnam as a symptom of worldwide oppression. Though this was a worldwide war being waged by the left against imperialism in all its forms, political and economic, the Left was able to be translated it into the broader issues of community and neighborhood problems of housing, jobs, and education (Nakanishi and Lai, 2003, p.172). Social progress was viewed as redistribution of wealth and progressive programs were labeled as socialism.
The conservative movement continued to