Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What the GOP Lost When It Won the South

To a large extent today's Republican has become a party dominated by a mix of reactionary Southerners and religious extremists.  It is more a regional party and sectarian party than a healthy national party and the nation's changing attitudes and demographics do not auger well for its future if it continues to prostitute itself to aging white conservative Christians.  That demographic is dying off and being replaced by a mix of minority voters and younger voters who increasingly hold far right religion in disdain.  The question is, therefore, when and if sane moderates can exile the Christofascists and white supremacists from the party base.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at the GOP's predicament.  Here are excerpts:
As the Republican field and corporations like Wal-Mart slowly but surely distance themselves from the Confederate flag, a subplot involves a trend I’ve been documenting for a while now: How the GOP is being forced to engage in some major soul searching.

The coalition the GOP assembled in order to win national elections in the latter part of the 20th century has delivered the popular vote in just one of the last six presidential elections, and it’s not realistic to expect they can win many more by relying solely on old, rural, non-college educated white men.

Not only have the demographics changed—but so have a lot of attitudes.

[C]onservatives must shed negative stereotypes that, after all, have nothing to do with conservatism to begin with. My forthcoming book, Too Dumb to Fail, is subtitled: “How the GOP Won Elections by Sacrificing Its Ideas (And How It Can Reclaim Its Conservative Roots)” largely about how conservatives can adapt to the 21st century.

Regardless of his ethnicity, I think a young urbanite who manages his stock portfolio on his smart phone and then orders an Uber should be a conservative. . . . But he won’t if he associates that word with an image of, say, a fat, intolerant redneck.

The injection of Southerners into the Republican coalition—a coalition they ultimately came to dominate—couldn’t help but change the image of the GOP. There were racial, cultural, political, and even religious implications. Republicans captured the South, yes, but the South also captured the GOP. 

The Southern Strategy, As Mike Allen defined it in the Washington Post, “described Republican efforts to use race as a wedge issue—on matters such as desegregation and busing—to appeal to white southern voters.”

Around 1964, the once reliably Democratic South started to become a Republican stronghold. We may differ about what this means, and about whether the GOP deserves culpability for stirring up racial animus in order to achieve it. . . . here I’m not talking about overt racism, which I think we all condemn, but instead subtle cultural customs and signals that may seem out of touch in an America that is increasingly cosmopolitan.)

[T]he demographics of the country are changing rapidly. The electorate is rapidly becoming less white, less rural, and better educated. Yet the GOP is still culturally synonymous with, well, white, rural, less-educated southern whites, who remain a major pillar of the party’s support. And so you get to the point where guys like Scott Walker and Rand Paul spend a week ducking questions about whether the Confederate flag should be flown on government property…in 2015.

[H]ere’s what the GOP has to figure it out: how do they continue to get the Bubba vote while shedding appeals to the cultural symbolism of the past? How do they sell their conservative ideas about free markets, strong national defense, and conservative family values to 21st century Americans?

The seeds of this challenge were partly planted when the GOP became the de facto party of the South—with all the good and bad that that entails. And now the chickens have come to roost. As you watch Republicans scramble to address the changing political landscape—some more nimbly than others—keep in mind this is the backdrop.

No comments: