Ronald Reagan was the second candidate to benefit from the "southern strategy" after LBJ signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The "Reagan Democrats" were Nixon's "Silent Majority", George Wallace's voting base, and Strom Thurmond's Dixiecrats.
For those who remember, Reagan facilitated the diaspora of southern Conservative Democrats by making the famous speech about State's Rig hts in Philadelphia, county seat of Neshoba County, Mississippi, in 1980 where civil-rights workers were murdered. His mission: to cement the bigot vote and to slowly dismantle what was left of LBJ's "Great Society", feed the Military Industrial Complex, severely weaken unions, render Sherman Anti-Trust laws ineffective--allowing corporations, like Walmart, to decimate small business all over the country, and legitimize the idea of financing government through debt instead of tax dollars. "Reaganomics" was such a success the DLC and Bill Clinton adopted "supply-side economics" over reasonable economic policy.
There are those who would argue the benefits of the Reagan era, such as the fall of the USSR, but they would be wrong. The Soviet Union, from the invasion of Afghanistan, was on a collision course to falling apart due to its despotic societal structure. The Soviet Union was doomed to fail from the moment Lenin forced Russians from newly formed cooperatives, into the gulag. Russian communism was doomed to fail due to its own lethal idiocy.
But Reagan was the first Conservative to blow out of proportion supposed abuses in the Food Stamp program. It follows the common talk today that assumes, if one person is abusing the system by purchasing food someone else doesn't believe they should have, that the system is flawed and should be dismantled. He was, as was most of his mindset, also the first to call attention to people on public assistance driving new vehicles, as if driving a vehicle were a crime. In making this revelation to the public, it was done with no inquiry as to how said vehicle was obtained - it is just assumed immediately that anyone on public assistance is using the help to make extravagant purchases.
One of the many horrible legacies of the Reagan era was the resurgence of exceptionalism among whites. But what also happened was an alternate version of it developed on the left. The left after 1968 fragmented into a confederacy of groups with leaders who had access to liberal politicians. They became powerful, selling their constituencies on their exceptionalism based upon common condition, overshadowing their ineffectiveness. On the right, every bigot, from the rather harmless "Archie Bunker bigot" to any bumpkin across the country barely removed from Ku Klux savagery, were beginning to mobilize into a relative strong block eventually becoming the Tea Party.
This mobilizing of largely scared whites will be the undoing of the GOP, which has long ago ditched Reaganomics for austerity, leaving the Democratic Party to continue to carry on his flawed economic initiatives. The GOP has moved on to a new mission of taking the country back to 1875 and the Democratic Party has adopted Reaganite fascism, but with a smile and sympathetic ear. Luckily Howard Dean's idea of going after the "bumpkin vote" in 2004 never quite caught on.