Was not just a way of simplistically race-baiting; it set the framework for the modern Republican party. And it’s not just the standard racist dog-whistles that we mostly recognize (welfare, state’s rights); it’s covered up in supposedly race-neutral issues like taxation.
And this stuff wasn’t left in the 1980s with Ronald Reagan (who, notably, modern conservatives will still argue was totally not racist in any way).
In 2005, the political scientists Nicholas Valentino and David Sears demonstrated that a Southern man holding conservative positions on issues other than race is no more likely than a conservative Northerner to vote for a Democrat. But when the relevant identifier is anti-black answers to survey questions—like whether one agrees “If blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites”—white Southerners were twice as likely than white Northerners to refuse to vote Democratic. As another political scientist, Thomas Schaller, wrote in his 2006 book Whistling Past Dixie (which naturally quotes the infamous Atwater lines), “Despite the best efforts of Republican spinmeisters…the partisan impact of racial attitudes in the South is stronger today than in the past.”