Monday, February 29, 2016

The Southernization and Dumbing Down of the Republican Party

Having lived in the South now for well over 40 years, I know first hand that at times the region is like one huge insane asylum, or perhaps more specifically, it is inhabited by those who suffer from wholesale bi-polar disorder.  On the one hand, many people can be charming and hospitable yet in the next moment show themselves to be racists and/or ignorance embracing evangelical Christians consumed by hatred of gays, liberals, non-whites, and anyone they deem "other."  Once the South came into the GOP tent, that inherent insanity slowly and steadily took control of the party, driving sane and rational people out as they could no longer stand the hypocrisy and ugliness that the "godly folk" personify.  Making matters worse, the primary calendar increasingly has allowed the ugliest elements in the South to have a disproportionate role in shaping the type of GOP candidate that can obtain an early lead in the nomination process.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at this growing problem.  Here are excerpts:

Southernization is a special problem for Republicans because their Southern supporters tend to be far more socially conservative than the rest of the party or the country. Southern politics is also more deeply polarized around race, giving backlash candidates a leg up. The GOP’s slide rightward creates electoral difficulties for it in presidential elections and is the central factor in Washington’s inability to find consensus on much of anything.
True, the whole carnival starts in Iowa, which is as Midwestern as you can get. But the caucus system gives more conservative Iowa Republicans an outsize influence because white evangelicals play a disproportionate role in what is a relatively low-turnout contest.
It is to the evangelicals’ credit as democratic citizens that they organize, mobilize and participate. But their civic virtuousness only makes the final result less reflective of opinion in the party, in Iowa itself and elsewhere.
New Hampshire comes next, and its voters frequently reach verdicts at odds with those Iowa renders. This means that South Carolina often plays a tie-breaking role on the GOP side. Talk about shifting the dialogue right: The site of the opening skirmish of the Civil War is not only one of the most conservative states in the nation; it is also one of our most racially divided polities. 
All of 1 percent of this year’s Palmetto State Republican primary voters were African American, according to a network exit poll — yes, 1 percent. Some 96 percent were white.
[N]ow we confront Super Tuesday. It includes primaries in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Yes, this Southern-fried, hickory-smoked mix is leavened by primaries in Massachusetts and Vermont, caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota, and, on the Republican side, a “preference poll” in Alaska. But there’s a reason the day is often called the “SEC primary,” after the Southeastern college sports conference.
The Dixiefied calendar is now an issue in Republican presidential maneuvering, with the possibility that the Midwest would be further disenfranchised. Republican honchos may have presided over a party that “brought to life” and “fed” the “Frankenstein monster” they see in Donald Trump, as Robert Kagan wrote in The Post recently. Never mind. The feckless establishmentarians now have the temerity to tell Ohio Gov. John Kasich that he should do his part in their belated anti-Trump operation by dropping out in support of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — even though Rubio has yet to win a single primary.

High-minded thinkers regularly bemoan the sharp polarization of American politics and wring hands earnestly over why this has come to pass. One of the principal causes is the Southernization of Abraham Lincoln’s party, and our primary process makes it only harder for those who would reverse the trend.

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