This affirmation of the principle of “states’ rights” elicited resoundingcheers from the audience that had gathered to hear Ronald Reagan give his first campaign speech after he officially received the Republican nomination in 1980. But as news of his remarks spread through the national media, these seemingly mundane words contributed to a controversy that continues to haunt the legacy of the Reagan presidency, as well as the Republican Party and the American conservative movement more generally. In order to understand this controversy, it is necessary to appreciate the historical role of American regions in shaping the Republican and Democratic parties, their constituencies and ideologies, and the key issues that have, in turn, shaped the country’s political geography.