A respondent to my comments about the leftist mindset of the GOP and movement conservative journalists stated an opinion that I’ve heard numerous times before. This view seems to me counterintuitive as well as undemonstrated: Republican strategists, and cooperative journalists, are flattering minorities and running down the ancestors of Southern Whites in order to appeal to White Republicans or swing voters. Wise “conservatives” (and here my respondent cites the GOP stratregist David Frum) understand that Whites would desert the GOP in droves unless their party continues to make an effort to be PC. Many Republicans and certainly swing voters would not vote for a party that was not marching in lockstep with the media in expressing horror over America’s evil racist, sexist, and homophobic past. Therefore the GOP is forced to act in such a way that while it is not likely to gain black support, it can hold on to its base by appearing as concerned as the Democrats about designated minorities.
The problem with this interpretation (aside from the fact that my respondent erroneously believes Karl Rove has deviated from it) is that there is no proof known to me that its proponent is correct. The vast majority of registered Republicans, according to all polls I’ve seen, think of themselves as being more right wing than the party they identify with. They ascribe the failure of their party to represent their views more fully to a justified fear of the media.
Although I think this reason is no more than an excuse to justify a bad electoral habit and misplaced loyalty, it suggests that GOP voters are not as far to the left as David Frum and Ross Douthat might hope. Steve Sailer has documented in his columns the progressive rejection of GOP candidates by White Christian males, who no longer bother to vote (see Sailer’s many VDARE columns on the subject). Presumably many of these abstentionists are expressing unhappiness with the Rove-Frum strategy being pursued by the Republican National Committee and those associated with that institute of funded wisdom. In my own once heavily Republican Lancaster County, the Republican turnout in 2008 was as depressed as the minority Democratic vote was elevated. Many of my Republican neighbors told me they wouldn’t “vote for that RINO McCain.” (The two-party monopoly in Pennsylvania managed to keep Ron Paul and Chuck Baldwin off the ballot.)
If my respondent were correct, then McCain and the GOP should have done much better than they did. On immigration, affirmative action, denouncing Confederate symbols and paying homage to MLK, one could not have found a more accommodating standard bearer than Arizona’s senior senator. Even in defeat, he was congratulating the American people for having “transcended our country’s shameful racist past” by electing Obama. Clearly the Rove strategy didn’t work in this case. In fact it didn’t work any better than the GOP strategy of reaching out to Jews by allying with the Israeli Right. While the Republican Jewish vote was as high as 32 percent in 1980, it fell to 18 percent in 2008. By the way, only a fool would believe that the current 33 percent of Jewish support for the GOP, as indicated by a Pew Poll last week, will hold. That increased support is entirely centered on one issue, namely Obama’s failure to do enough for Israel.
Moreover, I can’t imagine that people would reject the GOP because it hasn’t apologized for slavery often enough or because its Southern candidates aren’t insulting the Confederacy with sufficient indignation. Perhaps Southern Whites, who form an indispensable pillar of the party, would stop voting for the party of Lincoln (and the fictitious party of MLK) if the GOP stopped insulting their ancestors’ memories.
In all the years I’ve been hearing that the bogus American Right sucks up to leftist constituencies in order to preserve and expand their voting base, I haven’t encountered even a sliver of evidence for the effectiveness of this course. What I’m not saying is that a GOP candidate running from a very leftist state does not have to sound different from a candidate running in Oklahoma or Utah. The argument I’m disputing is that the national party organization and the “conservative movement” have to mimic the rhetoric of the NAACP or NOW on our evil bigoted past. These groups seem addicted to throwing dirt on the very constituencies they need to stay in business.
But there is a very plausible reason for this. The establishment Right moves left because that is the direction in which one has to go in order to gain social acceptability in the NY-DC-LA social circuit. On the other hand, one can survive professionally outside of this social network, as witnessed by Michael Savage and his very popular radio program. Although Savage rants like a neocon against “Islamofascism” and calls for further wars against this new form of Hitlerism, he is unflinchingly right wing on everything else. He denounces victimology and delights in calling attention to the high rates of violence in the disintegrated “black community” and among illegal immigrants Although is hard to think of anyone who has departed more flagrantly from the GOP’s reaching-out strategy, Mike has no trouble raking in bucks and attracting listeners.
But this shock-jock in not likely to be invited on to FOX, except when the Europeans try to keep him out of their countries for insulting Muslims and when O’Reilly subsequently decides to showcase him as an enemy of terror.. And I doubt that Mike gets invited to those swell shindigs that the NR staff attends with their liberal buds or that like Rich Lowry, Mike the chance to engage in a love-fest with the Stalinist editor of The Nation Victor Navasky. The GOP and movement conservatives truckle to supposedly victimized minorities and target Southerners, Germans, Russians, etc. because they live and move in urban leftist circles. In the process they have absorbed the mindset of those circles they are trying to penetrate. That is the most obvious reason for their behavior. And I would not deny that my subjects believe what they say about the themes under discussion. Given the society in which they travel and the education they’ve received, those beliefs must be second nature for them.
As a final comment, I would note that The American Prospect has just published the single most dishonest article on the subject of my essay that I’ve ever run into. Frum move over, you’ve met your match! The author, Alan I. Abramowitz, warns Republican leaders to stop listening to their fanatically right wing base. For “every ten percent” a candidate moves to the right, according to Abramowitz, he loses 1 percent support. In contrast every time a Democratic candidate moves leftward, he holds his numbers and may even do better in the polls. Presumably Norman Coleman would still be the U.S. Senator from Minnesota, if he had not been so right wing and had been willing to move ten percent to the left.
Note Abramowitz never suggests what moving right or left entails. Does moving left mean supporting Obama’s health plan? Or does it refer to a willingness to support more affirmative action programs for black women in higher education? Does moving right mean being in favor of nation-building in the Middle East or supporting the privatization of social security? Abramowitz claims he is able to prove his thesis by providing cogent evidence but offers nothing of the kind.
Finally his remarks about Coleman, who was one of the most liberal Republicans in the Senate, are nothing less than risible. Coleman went down to defeat against his fellow-liberal Franken because he turned off the Republican base. He also faced a third-party (Reform Party) challenge from a former centrist Republican, Dean Barkley, with whom he had to divide votes. The only way Coleman could have won was by energizing the conservative Republican base, which he studiously avoided doing. Still and all, I shouldn’t be unfairly hard on Abramowitz. He presents us with an invaluable portrait of the mindset of our esteemed GOP strategists.