James Dunn and Nixon's Southern Strategy
I watched the Memorial service for James Dunn online Saturday. I was not in the inner circles of the Baptist movement of the last 30 years but knew many people in the room, including the deceased, his successor and the chief eulogizer. And I knew Dubnn's mentor Stewart A Newman who got a grand brief notice in Adeelle Banks RNS story on Dunn.
There have been a spate of books about Richard Nixon in the last several months. The Atlantic Mag had a magnificent review of about three of them and concluded Nixon's Southern Strategy was one of his darker legacies. If I understand Emory's Joe Crespino, it is still being played out in the underbelly of the Tea Party. And Robert Wuthnow accentuates that point in his book Rough Country, about how Texas Baptist fundamentalism morphed into today's tea party.
In the 50s until now, Dunn and his great friend Bill Moyers saw it coming and wrestled with it the last thirty years of their lives. I'm looking forward to Moyers tribute lecture to Dunn next fall at Wake Forest.
James Dunn and Jimmy Allen worked in Texas to help elect Jimmy Carter as President. My friend Randall Balmer has placed the Baptist aspect of the forces that came to defeat Carter in great context.
What interest me most is the core group, the inside folks at the head of the fundamentalist crusade to takeover the Southern Baptist Convention. If you look closely at Paul Pressler, Jesse Helms, and the Bircher Albert Lee Smith of Birmingham Alabama, you woill find the worst that longtime Duyke Chaplain Willimon has come close to demonizing in his recent review of Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman.
Albert Mohler recently said Billy Graham was key shadowy figure in the SBC Takeover. Randall Balmer hints as at much in in Carter bio. Grant Wacker gives Graham a pass, but over the weekend James Merritt's son Jonathan says intellectually chllaneged or not, Franklin Graham is doing some insidious work, harimng the Gopsel in his exclusivism. There are questions for an upcoming event at FBC Spartanburg SC featuring Todd Starnes, a fundamentalist fiend in the worst mold of Pressler and Helms.
There was an episode I had with my friend James Dunn at Furman in the early 90s, suggesting Nixon's southern strategist Harry Dent come up the Furman Pastors school for a conversation. Dunn was outraged and I kinda understand why, now. Between Molly Worthen and Wuthnow and Crespino and Bill Moyers la few conversations yet to be had.
I realize this rough draft is scattershot, but folks who witnessed can easily connect the dots.