I just happened to write a short piece about this very subject for The Guardian:

Ronald Reagan gets the monuments. Richard Nixon is credited with the "Southern strategy". But no single politician – save perhaps Strom Thurmond – embodied the manipulation of race, religion and the overarching set of issues known simply as "family values" to bring the once-solid Democratic South into the GOP fold.

Helms, using resentments as old as the South and as new as the racial tension seething in major American cities in the 1960s, built a coalition of social and foreign policy conservatives in service of the economic agenda completely at odds with the majority of those who ended up voting for him and his colleagues. The foot soldiers in this revolution were rallied to the cause based on a mutual hatred for liberals, "integrationists", homosexuals and most often the easy to apply, one-size-fits-all moniker of "Communist".

Shoud you so desire, you can catch the rest here.