Posts Tagged Pat Buchanan
10 Conservatives Who Have Praised American Slavery
Republican Rep. Jon Hubbard has deemed slavery a blessing. His position is not as uncommon as you’d think.
October 10, 2012
For obvious reasons, the American conservative movement has long been dogged by accusations of racism and racial insensitivity. From their famed Southern strategy to their determined efforts to suppress minority voting via phony voter ID initiatives to their race-baiting Obama attacks, conservatives have made clear their opposition to a tolerant, multicultural America. In fact, much of their electoral strategy relies on scaring older, white voters about blacks and Hispanics taking over “their” country.
So it’s not uncommon to hear a prominant conservative, even one who holds elected office, make patently offensive remarks. Yet some occasionally hit an unimaginable low. This week, it was revealed that Republican Rep. Jon Hubbard has published a book in which he wrote that “[T]he institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise. He defended his book on Wednesday,telling the Jonesboro Sun that he still believed slavery to be a blessing because it helped blacks come to America. Yes, he praised slavery. And when given the opportunity to backpedal, he doubled down.
You may think that this does not occur often. You would be wrong. Here are a few other prominent conservatives who have suggested slavery was not all that bad.
1. Pat Buchanan. In his essay “A Brief for Whitey,” Buchanan suggested that slavery was a net positive, saying that,“America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.”
2. & 3. Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. Bob Vander Plaats, the leader of the arch-conservative Family Leader, a religious organization that opposes same-sex marriage, got GOP presidential candidates Bachmann and Santorum to sign his pledge asserting that life for African Americans was better during the era of slavery: “A child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.”
4. Art Robinson. Robinson was a publisher and a GOP candidate for congress in Oregon. One of the books he published included this evaluation of life under slavery: “The negroes on a well-ordered estate, under kind masters, were probably a happier class of people than the laborers upon any estate in Europe.”
5. Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson. Peterson is a conservative preacher who articulated this bit of gratitude: “Thank God for slavery, because if not, the blacks who are here would have been stuck in Africa.”
6. David Horowitz. Horowitz is the president of the David Horowitz Freedom Center and edits the ultra-conservative FrontPage magazine. In a diatribe against reparations for slavery, Horowitz thought this argument celebrating the luxurious life of blacks in America would bolster his case: “If slave labor created wealth for Americans, then obviously it has created wealth for black Americans as well, including the descendants of slaves.”
7. Wes Riddle. Riddle was a GOP congressional candidate in Texas with some peculiar conspiracy theories on a variety of subjects. His appreciation for what slavery did for African Americans was captured in this comment: “Are the descendants of slaves really worse off? Would Jesse Jackson be better off living in Uganda?”
8. Trent Franks. Franks is the sitting congressman for the second congressional district in Arizona. As shown here, he believes that a comparison of the tribulations of African Americans today to those of their ancestors in the Confederacy would favor a life in bondage: “Far more of the African American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by the policies of slavery.”
9. Ann Coulter. Known for her incendiary rhetoric and hate speech, Coulter was right in character telling Megyn Kelly of Fox News that, “The worst thing that was done to black people since slavery was the great society programs.”
10. Rep. Loy Mauch. This Arkansas GOP state legislator has found biblical support for his pro-slavery position. He wrote to the Democrat-Gazette to inquire, “If slavery were so God-awful, why didn’t Jesus or Paul condemn it, why was it in the Constitution and why wasn’t there a war before 1861?”
There is an almost palpable nostalgia among some conservatives for a bygone era wherein they could sip mint juleps under the magnolias while the fields were tended to by unpaid lackeys. And it isn’t a vague insinuation. Mitt Romney supporter Ted Nugent declared, “I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War.” No one should regard it as a coincidence that so much of this racist animus has surfaced during the term of the first African-American president of the United States. It’s one thing to harbor such offensive racial prejudices privately, but when people in public life are comfortable enough to openly express opinions like these, it reveals something of the character of their movement. And what’s worse is that conservative and Republican leaders, given the opportunity, refuse to repudiate the remarks. Mitt Romney has stated that all he’s concerned about is getting 50.1% of the vote, and if that means tolerating appeals to racist voters in order to attain his goal, then it’s just a part of the process.
- 10 Conservatives Who Have Praised American Slavery (alternet.org)
- The Side-Eye – Slavery-Lovin’ Lawmaker Jon Hubbard Defends Pro-Slavery Comments!! (bossip.com)
- Arkansas GOP rep Jon Hubbard stands by pro-slavery comments (thegrio.com)
- Arkansas Rep. Calls Slavery “a Blessing” (wreg.com)
- Crazy Talk: Slavery Was ‘Blessing in Disguise’ (theroot.com)
- Arkansas Republican Party pulls funding for candidates who praised slavery (rawstory.com)
- Arkansas Republican on Slavery: “Blessing in Disguise” (wreg.com)
- Mario Piperni and Repug Racism (seniorsforademocraticsociety.wordpress.com)
- Arkansas Republican Jon Hubbard: Slavery was ‘a blessing in disguise’ for African-Americans (thegrio.com)
How Conservatism Lost Its Mind
Illustration by Miguel Davilla
Earlier this week the New Yorker’s John Cassidy asked, “Where are the real conservative intellectuals?” The short answer is that “conservative” once signified an intellectual tendency with partisan overtones, now it signifies a partisan tendency that would prefer not to have intellectual overtones — there are no votes in that.
The Democratic Party’s publicity apparatus isn’t producing intellectuals either, but liberalism has other institutional bases besides the Democrats, including the academy and a variety of somewhat independent magazines, so the left is not quite as monolithic as the right. The right only has institutional bases in the GOP and among the people whose dollars create and support think tanks, and neither a party nor a moneyed interest is going to be all that keen to promote thinking. Not beyond the minimal amount of thinking necessary to make rhetoric sound clever. Call me a cynic, but isn’t this an accurate, even complete, description of the GOP, Fox, National Review, and all the rest? Ideas are allowed at the edges but must never detract from the bottom line.
It’s telling that Newsweek turned to a British academic, not an American movement conservative, to produce its hackwork anti-Obama cover story. An American movement con might have got the facts right, but wouldn’t have any star power as an intellectual brand, since what makes a movement con a movement con is sticking always to lines of argument that support the team. A cover story by a highbrow movement conservative, if there is such a thing, would only amount to another conservative reciting the team’s line; nobody — left, right, center, nowhere — would treat the story’s conclusions as something arrived at by thinking for oneself. Niall Ferguson, by contrast, is his own demographic, so at least you know what he says is what he thinks (even if he has interested reasons for thinking what he does), whereas movement conservatives — perhaps that ought to be “professional conservatives” — say what they’re supposed to say and what everyone expects of them. Mild exceptions are allowed: the occasional op-ed about prison reform, for example. But that’s just frosting.
Conservatism always had its backers, but it wasn’t a career and wasn’t synonymous with the GOP until after the Reagan era. Recall just how messy the conservative world was before Reagan — when the populist New Right in the late ’70s, for example, was damning Bill Buckley as “Squire Willy” and tensions between class and ideology, expressed in tone as much as ideas, tore at the movement’s institutions. In the years after Reagan but before the solidification of the talk radio/Fox/anti-Clinton right, there was much talk of a “conservative crack-up,” and the Pat Buchanan movement tried to carve out an identity that was conservative but not just part of the by-then-standard GOP formula: Buchanan is remembered as a populist, which he was, but as David Brooks observed in a 1996 Weekly Standard piece (“Buchananism: An Intellectual Cause”), his movement was also rife with Ph.D.s and exhibited undeniable signs of intellectual vitality — a world removed from Sarah Palin and the Randian cliches of the Tea Party.
Television and radio, though, had a homogenizing effect on the right, and the tension between class (with a high tone) and ideology (rabble rousing) worked itself out, with the millionaires learning how to sound angry and enjoy it, and the grassroots getting trained to accept anger as a substitute for policy results. The populist New Right and Buchananite right lost their manpower to Roger Ailes, while the elite right gave up the fight for realism and broadmindedness.
Cassidy is wrong to say of movement conservatism, “The tensions between its social and economic wings robbed it of any internal cohesion.” The wings of the GOP coalition over the last half-century have not primarily been separated by “issues” social or economic; they were separated by class markers and style. The ideological differences were secondary to those. But now there’s a politically and economically successful, if brain dead, fusion of the classes. The rich sound like the poor, and the poor angrily demand policies that favor the rich. The only problem for the GOP is that external conditions — the real-world economy and the distaste younger people have for the Baby Boomers’ version of the Republican Party (and their version of Christianity) — are eventually going to overpower this mercenary fusionism.
- How Conservatism Lost Its Mind (theamericanconservative.com)
- How socialist will ‘conservative’ become? (mbcalyn.com)
- Russell Jacoby’s Anti-Intellectual Anti-Conservatism (theamericanconservative.com)
- Who controls the GOP? (miamiherald.com)
- Obama’s ‘Legitimate Rape’ Lifeline (frontpagemag.com)
- Todd Akin & The Secret Of Compassionate Conservatism (thedailybanter.com)
- The Narcissistic Style in Liberal Politics (americanthinker.com)
- The First Elite Conservative To Say Enough (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
- Why aren’t conservatives pro-business? (salon.com)
- Top Reagan-Appointed Judge Slams ‘Goofy’ Republican Party (thinkprogress.org)
May 10, 2012
Richard Nixon’s Model Campaign
Associated PressRichard Nixon in February 1968.
Before tacking left for the general election, Mitt Romney has to reconcile with a right flank that has never much liked him. Peace talks kicked off May 2 when Romney met with dozens of right-wing journalists and bloggers – off the record – at a private club on Capitol Hill.
Well, technically off the record. Throw a presidential candidate in a room with that many reporters and word quickly gets out. By the end of the day, The Huffington Post had the story. One of several loose-lipped attendees reported that Romney had extended “sort of an olive branch to conservative media.” A much-needed olive branch, if the primary season is any indication. During the battle for the nomination, the right dedicated a staggering amount of airtime, bandwidth and column space to thwarting Romney’s presidential aspirations.
In the fall, Rush Limbaugh made the point plainly. “Romney is no conservative,” he told his audience. “You can argue with me all day long on that, but he isn’t.” Erick Erickson, the editor of Redstate.com, piled on with a post titled “Mitt Romney as the Nominee: Conservatism Dies and Barack Obama Wins.” And at Right Wing News, John Hawkins savaged Romney as “a pampered, prissy, fake, spiteful son of a governor being served the G.O.P. nomination on a silver platter because he kissed the right establishment behinds, benefitted from an enormous media double standard, and has more money than everyone else.” Little wonder the Romney camp decided outreach was in order.
The meeting was a start, but for Romney to win in November, he has to find a way to woo, but not wed, conservative media. And there’s no better example to follow than Richard Nixon in 1968. The only president ever to resign, Nixon usually serves as a cautionary tale, not a how-to guide. But like Romney, Nixon faced a skeptical right-wing media that lambasted him as a “political weathervane” and a “dedicated phony.” Tough words, but Nixon couldn’t simply write off the conservative broadcasters who said them. As his speechwriter Pat Buchanan explained, Nixon understood that to win in 1968 “he had to make his peace with the Goldwater wing of the party.”
Unlike the “Massachusetts moderate,” Mitt Romney, Nixon should have been a shoo-in for conservative affection. As a first-term congressman and aspiring “Red-hunter,” Nixon won over the right with his service on the House Un-American Activities Committee. There he broke the Alger Hiss spy case, siding with the frumpy former Communist Whittaker Chambers to expose Hiss, a State Department employee who was later convicted of perjury for lying about his involvement in a Soviet spy ring.
But maintaining ideological purity while navigating party politics proved an impossible task. In 1952 Nixon joined Dwight D. Eisenhower on the Republican ticket. The problem? Conservatives considered Ike at best a Democrat and at worst (according to the founder of the John Birch Society) “a dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy.”
By the time he ran for president in 1960, the once-popular Nixon found right-wing media particularly hostile terrain. At National Review, William F. Buckley Jr. was persuaded Nixon would prove “an unreliable auxiliary of the right.” Clarence Manion, host of the “The Manion Forum” radio program, agreed. “Like you,” he wrote Buckley, “my first 1960 objective is to beat Nixon. He is an unpredictable, supremely self-interested trimmer and has never been anything else.”
The only president ever to resign, Nixon usually serves as a cautionary tale, not a how-to guide.
So solid was the resistance to a Nixon candidacy that in 1960, no conservative media outlet endorsed the vice-president either in the primaries or in the general election. Instead, they threw their energies into last-minute long-shot candidates and third-party alternatives. Manion began organizing a Draft Goldwater movement on behalf of “the courageous leader of conscientious American conservatism.” The editors of The Independent American went a step further with their (ultimately aborted) New Party Rally.
Nixon lost but didn’t learn. In 1962 he ran for governor of California, taking out the conservative Joe Shell in the primary and alienating the state’s substantial right-wing voting bloc. Conservatives stayed home, and he lost again. The morning after his humiliating defeat, a bleary-eyed Nixon famously growled at reporters, “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.” His retirement from politics didn’t stick, but the lesson about the conservatives and their media finally did. Having cast out the mainstream press, Nixon concentrated his attention on conservative alternatives.
Nixon began courting right-wing journalists and writers in August 1966, when he held his own off-the-record meeting with members of conservative media and organizations at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington. Like the Romney meeting, the secret rendezvous quickly went public. A front-page story in The Washington Post divulged all the details, including Nixon’s prediction that conservatism would be “politically respectable” by the next election. And while Nixon didn’t spell out his intentions for 1968, one attendee told the paper: “Lines of communication were opened that should be helpful later on.”
Having made his intentions known, Nixon dialed up the charm. In January 1967 he invited Buckley, Bill Rusher (publisher of National Review), and other members of the conservative media to his sprawling Fifth Avenue apartment. There he exhibited his virtuosic command of foreign and domestic policy. Rusher remained unmoved — Rusher would always remain unmoved when it came to Nixon — but Buckley? There was no surer way to Buckley’s heart than a vigorous display of intellect and insight. As Neal Freeman, Buckley’s personal aide, recalled: “I knew when we went down the elevator, early in the evening, that Bill Buckley was going to find some reason to support Richard Nixon.” True, Nixon was no conservative, but the heart wants what it wants. And a smart, experienced, electable Republican was exactly what Buckley wanted in a 1968 candidate. More than a year before the election, he was recommending Nixon as the “wisest Republican choice.”
Not everyone was so enamored. Rusher and a small contingent of fellow writers did everything in their power to forestall a Nixon endorsement at National Review. Devin Garrity, the owner of right-wing publishing house Devin-Adair, threw in for Reagan. Reagan himself had plans to swoop in and steal away the nomination, banking on Nixon’s unlikability to create an opportunity (a safe bet most of the time). Eyeing the 1968 race, Reagan dismissed Nixon as “the fellow who doesn’t get the girl.” After all, Reagan had already succeeded where Nixon failed. In 1966 he won the California governorship against Pat Brown, who had defeated Nixon four years earlier. But Reagan underestimated how much his own inexperience diminished his standing as a would-be suitor. Though he had many fans on the right, most agreed the former actor wasn’t ready for prime-time.
Eventually, conservative media lined up for Nixon. Once he clenched the nomination, endorsements sprouted up everywhere: the newsweekly Human Events, National Review, The Manchester Union-Leader. True, the editors of National Review admitted, Nixon was far from the ideal candidate. But they urged readers to keep the faith, “faith that when he gets the votes he needs, and no longer has to submit to that frightful wooing ritual mass democracy imposes on its leaders, he will speak with a clearer, firmer, less neutrally balanced voice.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement. And it got worse. They noted that Nixon was hardly “as passionate a believer in the ingenuity of the free marketplace as, for instance, Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan.” And as president, “there will undoubtedly be plenty to criticize in his administration of the nation’s affairs.” Yet with all the ways Nixon was likely to disappoint, the editors encouraged conservatives to cast their ballots for him. At the very least he could give America “the impulse it needs on the way back to sobriety.” Nixon couldn’t take the nation to the Promised Land, but he could at least help them survive the wilderness.
In 1968, members of right-wing media fell in line, if not in love, hoping to make a go of pragmatic politics. Just as his failed campaigns taught Nixon to move right, Goldwater’s catastrophic 1964 loss persuaded conservatives they would have to move left. “No sense running Mona Lisa in a beauty contest,” Buckley said in 1967 before clarifying: “I’d be for the most right, viable candidate who could win.”
Associated PressRichard Nixon at the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, Fla. on Aug. 8, 1968.
But in making Nixon “their president,” right-wing media swung too far in the other direction. Tom Huston, a conservative White House aide, begged National Review to come down hard on “the disastrous series of liberal appointments” following the inauguration. But the resulting editorial shrugged off Huston’s concerns, calling the appointments “mostly of non-ideological types.” The editors instead counseled conservatives to wait for a major foreign crisis to test the president’s mettle. “Then we shall see what stuff Nixon is made of,” they held, “then and not before.”
It would be one thing if they were Republican partisans, but these messengers of the right were keepers of a different faith. Their calls for patience, both during Nixon’s campaign and his presidency, cost conservative media their readers, their reputations and ultimately their leadership role in the movement. In its inaugural issue in November 1955, National Review had declared itself a “vigorous and incorruptible journal of conservative opinion.” Could it still make that claim when backing Nixon, a president who supported a guaranteed annual income, extensive environmental regulations and détente?
It turned out there was, briefly, a limit to how far they would follow “their president.” After he announced his plans to open relations with Communist China, the leaders of right-wing periodicals and publishing houses broke with Nixon. Rusher and Tom Winter of Human Events even spearheaded the search for another leading man, recruiting Ohio Congressman John Ashbrook to challenge Nixon in the 1972 primaries.
But just as they were reclaiming their oppositional voices, conservative media relinquished them again. When the Ashbrook candidacy failed to take off, National Review endorsed the Nixon-Agnew ticket. The editors chided their readers: “Now is not the time to be churlish.” Their advice went unheeded. The magazine had traded ideological purity for a seat at the table, and readers began to slip away. By 1973, National Review’s circulation lagged 20 percent behind its pre-Nixon heights. As Rusher explained in a memo to the editors: since National Review had failed to provide real opposition to the Nixon administration, “the conservative troops increasingly march off to tunes drummed out by latecomers.”
With this year’s nomination battle winding down, conservative media are making the same pivot toward Romney. As the nominee, he is their only chance to beat President Obama. And they are his only chance to keep the base on board while he Etch A Sketches his way to the center during the general election. Aware that full-throated conservatism won’t win over those crucial swing voters come November, some members of the right-wing media are willing to provide cover for Romney. National Review, which half-heartedly came out in support of Romney last December, has now thrown itself fully behind him. As the magazine’s editor Rich Lowry declared to Howard Kurtz at The Daily Beast: “If I have to manufacture enthusiasm, I’ll happily do so.”
Not everyone shares Lowry’s conviction. Erick Erickson claims that many on the right still “think Romney is not really a whole lot better than Obama.” He criticizes the Romney campaign for not reaching out to evangelicals, a group already hesitant to fully back a Mormon candidate. “Romney just expects their vote,” Erickson argued in a recent post. “He may get it, but not their passion or energy.” How much to stir up that passion and energy is a critical question facing conservative media. If Romney’s moderate turn toward the general election is actually a permanent return to his technocratic, nonideological roots, how far will conservative media follow him down that path?
Yet the partner most at risk in this relationship isn’t the media; it’s Mitt Romney. There’s an important difference between 1968 and 2012, one Romney must heed if he wants to successfully navigate the general election. In 1968, conservative media lost their identity as they compromised in favor of pragmatic politics. But today’s conservative media are far more powerful than their predecessors, and politicians far more likely to play second-fiddle to them.
The danger in 2012 is not that pragmatism will blunt conservative media. Rather, if these media insist on ideological purity, they could cost Romney both conservatives and moderates. His history of flip-flopping ensures he’ll never persuade conservatives that he shares their core values. And any attempt to prove he’s “severely conservative” will drive away independents wary of extremes.
Nothing highlights this danger more than the coming debate over same-sex marriage. When Obama declared his support for marriage equality on Wednesday, he forced Romney into a precarious position. If he fails to take a strong enough stand in opposition, Romney risks losing evangelicals’ already-soft support. If he fails to distance himself enough from same-sex marriage’s more provocative opponents, he risks losing swing voters with little appetite for cultural crusades.
Here Nixon is again a valuable guide. Richard Nixon never claimed to be a movement conservative, just someone who would attend to the right’s political desires. Like Nixon, Romney is a pragmatist who changes his views to match the political mood. From the perspective of the right, what Romney must now demonstrate is his belief that the current mood is fundamentally conservative, and that he will do what he must to keep the right on board. True, it’s not particularly inspiring. It’s practical and calculating, just like Nixon — who, remember, won a close election in 1968, won re-election in a historic landslide and built a coalition that sustained the Republican Party for 40 years.
- Gingrich Out Of Campaign But, Like Nixon, Not Giving Up On Power (thepracticalvegetarian.wordpress.com)
- “Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.” Richard Nixon Good night, my friends. Sweet dreams. (waselife.wordpress.com)
- “Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.” Richard Nixon Good night, my friends. Sweet dreams. (wincharles.wordpress.com)
- Was Richard M. Nixon a Closet Marxist: Forward Together (littlegreenfootballs.com)
- The Bush-Nixon Connection (economicpolicyjournal.com)
- Sen. Marco Rubio Has A Richard Nixon Slush Fund Problem (dekerivers.wordpress.com)
- POLL OF THE DAY: Here’s The One Thing Holding Romney Back In The Polls (businessinsider.com)
- Obama, Romney talk little about health care laws (mysanantonio.com)
- Richard Nixon’s love letters to wife to go on display (telegraph.co.uk)
- Recording reveals Richard Nixon’s anger over NFL blackouts (profootballtalk.nbcsports.com)
March 26, 2012, 12:37 AM
The Renegade Republicans
For nearly three decades, South Carolina served as the bulwark of the Republican establishment. The state has been the killing ground of insurgent presidential bids again and again: John Connolly’s 1980 challenge to Ronald Reagan, who finally had the backing of the party establishment; Pat Buchanan’s attempt to oust George Bush in 1992; John McCain’s bid to push aside George W. Bush in 2000; and most recently Mike Huckabee’s 2008 assault on McCain.
This year, tradition went out the window. South Carolina cast a plurality of votes for bomb-thrower Newt Gingrich, rejecting Mitt Romney, the candidate of the lobbying community, campaign operatives and party officials.
The results in South Carolina and in other states suggest that major segments of the normally compliant Republican primary electorate have run amok and that the party’s powerbrokers are no longer able to control the anger and resentment released by the Tea Party movement, the mobilization of the Christian right or the realignment of white working class Southerners.
Until now, presidential strategists had a basic rule of thumb: Democrats kill their crown princes — Edmund Muskie in 1972, Hillary Clinton in 2008 — while Republicans consistently honor the next in line, the candidate with the most seniority. Romney, the next-in-line candidate of 2012, remains the favorite to win, but he is running into stronger head winds than any of his recent predecessors.
In past years, Gingrich and Rick Santorum would have been knocked off early in the process, dismissed as marginal candidates. This year, Santorum has won Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Colorado, Tennessee, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Kansas, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Gingrich, in turn, took Georgia and South Carolina.
There are a number of additional, well-publicized factors behind these outsider victories. The most talked about is the emergence of super PACs whose multi-million dollar contributions have lengthened the lifespan of normally peripheral candidates. Second, the Republican Party has largely abandoned the winner-take-all primaries that tended to swiftly force out second and third place finishers. Now proportional delegate allocation rules encourage losers to keep on fighting. Third, Romney’s Mormon faith has created a major hurdle to winning the votes of Southern Baptist and evangelical Christian voters.
The Jan 21 upheaval in South Carolina was most revealing:
Exit poll data show that the percentage of South Carolina Republican primary voters identifying themselves as born-again or evangelical shot up between 2008 and 2012, from 55 to 64 percent.
It was hard for the South Carolina Republican turnout to get any whiter than it was in 2008, when 96 percent of the voters were white, but it did. In 2012, 98 percent of Republican primary voters in South Carolina were white.
The share of voters over the age of 45, in turn, grew from 65 to 72 percent and the share of those 65 and over grew from 24 to 27 percent.
By these measures, South Carolina is on the cutting edge of a national Republican primary trend.
In an analysis of the contests so far, the Faith and Freedom Coalition found that evangelicals are now a majority, 50.53 percent, of all Republican presidential primary voters. The ascendance of the religious right has produced “the highest percentage recorded in a presidential nominating process, 4.29 million votes out of 8.49 million cast,” according to the coalition.
This represents a significant increase from 2008, when 44 percent of Republican turnout was made up of evangelical Christians. According to Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition:
Conservative people of faith are playing a larger role in shaping the contours and affecting the trajectory of the Republican presidential nomination contest than at any time since they began pouring out of the pews and into the precincts in the late 1970s.
A plurality of Christian evangelical voters, 32.85 percent, has backed Santorum, while Romney is second with 29.74, a tiny fraction ahead of Newt Gingrich, 29.65.
The race issue goes beyond South Carolina: Ron Brownstein described in the National Journal what he called “an epic failure by the G.O.P. contenders to attract and engage minority voters. White voters, especially older ones, are routinely casting 90 percent or more of the votes in G.O.P. contests this year.”
These trends, while not predictive of the outcome in November, are problematic for the Republican Party. As the general public becomes more tolerant on issues like gay rights and premarital sex, it is moving farther and farther from the cultural and moral agenda of the religious right. The party’s dependence on whites runs counter to a trend in which this demographic is expected to be a minority by 2050, or possibly as early as 2040. And a party dependent on older voters must worry about the fact that its supporters are dying off.
In addition to the partisan vulnerabilities signaled by the changing composition of the Republican primary electorate, a long season of divisive primaries has taken its toll on the candidate who is still expected to win the nomination, Romney.
Surveys tracking Romney versus President Obama show the Democratic incumbent pulling ahead as the primaries progress. The process can be seen in the following chart put together by RealClearPolitics:
Real Clear Politics
The immediate test facing both Romney and the power brokers behind his bid is whether the former Massachusetts governor can capitalize on a strong win last week in Illinois and the endorsement of the quintessential establishment Republican, Jeb Bush. The Bush endorsement apparently was of little importance to Louisiana Republicans, who backed Santorum over Romney on Saturday by nearly two to one, 49 to 27. Gingrich trailed at 16 percent.
The long-range question facing Romney and the Republican Party is whether the ultra conservative primary electorate has pushed presidential candidates past the point of no return.
Last June, for example, Romney staked out a position on global warming in clear defiance of Republican orthodoxy, playing down its importance and the role of human beings in causing it:
I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world’s getting warmer. I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that. I don’t know how much our contribution is to that, because I know that there have been periods of greater heat and warmth in the past but I believe we contribute to that. And so I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you’re seeing.
Romney’s stance was clearly geared to the general election, when a major focus will be on winning support from independent voters, many of whom are anxious about global warming.
Four months later, in October 2011, with the first primaries and caucuses fast approaching, Romney switched positions, taking a stand far more in accordance with the opinions of hard-right Republican voters:
My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.
Republican strategists are acutely aware that their party must maintain a delicate balance between an intensely conservative primary constituency and a more moderate general electorate.
Last October, Tea Party favorite Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina described to Neil Cavuto of Fox News the kind of presidential candidate he feels the Republican Party needs:
I want to see the one who’s appealing to independents; I want to see the one who’s gonna win the general election, because 2012 might be the last chance we get to turn this thing around.
Assuming Romney is the 2012 nominee, renegade primary voters are doing their level best to submarine general election appeals to independents. There are signs that base Republican voters won’t turn out for Romney. Gallup found that only 35% of such voters would “enthusiastically” back Romney in the election, far fewer than the 47% percent who said they enthusiastically supported McCain at this time in 2008.
These lukewarm Republican primary voters are, in effect, threatening to abandon the nominee after forcing him to pass ruthless ideological litmus tests.
The core of the party, then, the men and women who cast primary ballots and attend caucuses, has become a liability in much the same way that the liberal wing of the Democratic Party pushed presidential candidates off the deep end from the late 1960s through the 1980s.
If Romney is going to have a chance of winning the general election, he cannot get caught in the ideological trap set by the Republican primary electorate.
Much of the battle in November will be over corralling independent voters, especially the large bloc that Third Way, the moderate pro-Democratic think tank, calls “Obama Independents.” Half of these 2008 Obama backers did not vote for John Kerry in 2004, either backing George W. Bush or not voting at all, and one in four voted for Republican House candidates in 2010, according to American National Elections Studies data compiled by Third Way.
Centrist voters have hostile views towards partisan orthodoxies and candidates beholden to them. Romney will have roughly five months before the general election to persuade these voters of his own independence, a tough sell after his performance over the past year.
Thomas B. Edsall, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, is the author of the book “The Age of Austerity: How Scarcity Will Remake American Politics,” which was published in January.The Renegade Republicans – NYTimes.com.
- South Carolina Voters Weigh Priorities – NYTimes.com (mbcalyn.com)
- Newt Gingrich Is Having Trouble Raising Money – NYTimes.com (mbcalyn.com)
- The Outsourced Party – NYTimes.com (mbcalyn.com)
- Republicans Brace for Possible Open Convention – NYTimes.com (mbcalyn.com)
- South Carolina Raises New Doubts About Republican Contest – NYTimes.com (policyabcs.wordpress.com)
- South Carolina’s Divisive Message – NYTimes.com (wpvins.wordpress.com)
- In South Carolina, a Final Blizzard of Appeals Before the Primary – NYTimes.com (policyabcs.wordpress.com)
- Gingrich Wins South Carolina Primary – NYTimes.com (policyabcs.wordpress.com)
- Santorum calls Romney ‘worst Republican to put up against’ Obama (thegrio.com)
- ‘Math isn’t adding up,’ Gingrich delegate says (politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com)