Friday, February 08, 2008

The South is Like Another Country

Live by the Religious Right, Die by the Religious Right?

Exactly one year ago I put up a post asking, Will Mitt Romney Fly With Evangelicals?

He didn’t.

Goodbye, Mitt. At least for this year. I’m sure we’ll see you again in 2012. In a Super Tuesday speech, Mike Huckabee had a pretty good line. He said, “Some people are calling this a two man race… It is.” After seeing Mike Huckabee, presumably left in the dust in the weeks following an Iowan fluke, capture a broad swath of southern states, Romney realized it was all over. One also has to wonder if Mrs. Romney was getting impatient with seeing too many millions of the milk money spent on this hobby, too. After all, he’s a venture capitalist, he knows when to cut his financial losses.

The fact of the matter is, if Mitt Romney had been an evangelical protestant, he would have won the Republican nomination in a cakewalk, despite the documented history of flip-flops. He would have won it going away.

The South is different. We’ve seen a lot of regionalism reflected in the outcomes of these primaries, on both sides. The South has been looking like an entirely different country from the rest of us for a long time, but perhaps no more so than now. Evangelicals, particularly those in the South, simply will not accept a Mormon any more than they would a Catholic. In Mitt’s case, the suspicion may not be entirely unjustified. He did not run like Kennedy did in 1960. He ran as if he wanted a place at the theocratic table, and he was actually a bishop at one time.

(Just a side note to the Catholic neo-cons of the world and their supporters such as George Weigel, Michael Novak, Fr. McCloskey, etc… who believe in Rev. Neuhaus’s ECT project. As we saw with your Opus Dei candidate Sam Brownback, the evangelicals are just never going to get behind your guy. Ever. They aren’t. Understand? Especially if he’s viewed as an apostate like Brownback was. They are not going to go for a Catholic any more than they will for a Mormon, no matter how conservative he is on social issues. Drop these pretensions to a partnership.)

Which brings up the issue of the stress fracture points we are seeing in the Republican Party. It’s been a strange and fascinating campaign season on the GOP side. We have a real maverick in the case of Ron Paul, hanging in there with college kids and net support, swimming against the tide in every debate. We had Fred Thompson being talked somehow into entering the race, despite the fact that he had little desire or inclination to do so, and we had Rudy Giuliani entering the “Real Men of Genius” pantheon with his snowbird-strategy of skipping the early primaries and running for President of Florida. It will probably go down as the most stupid campaign strategy of all time.

Now that McCain is the undisputed front-runner, we see absolute panic on the part of the conservative talk show hosts as if McCain wasn’t actually a conservative. Rush Limbaugh is apoplectic. Anne Coulter and Glenn Beck are throwing conniptions, with Coulter claiming she’d rather vote for Hillary than McCain, and Sean Hannity, William Kristol, and Laura Ingraham on the verge of tears.

Never forget who this party really belongs to and what it is all about. McCain has a strong pro-life record, but does that get him any cachet as a “true conservative” at all? Does his determination to win the war? Apparently not. Despite pro-military sentiment and the importance of social issues for the voters in the evangelical South, that is not where the true GOP orthodoxy lies according to its real power brokers.. It still lies in the country clubs, executive boardrooms, libertarian think tanks, and K Street lobbying offices.

GOP orthodoxy is all about, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, and fear of brown people and unions.

Of course, there have never been enough millionaires and supply-siders to carry though on that alone in order to win elections, so a marriage of convenience was arranged with the religious right and with disaffected white southerners. Now we are seeing centrifugal forces tearing this alliance apart, and the chickens are coming home to roost.


cowboyangel said...

Excellent work, Jeff. some very good observations - I like, particularly, your aside to the Catholic neo-cons.

Don't know if I agree 100% that Romney would've won in a cakewalk if he were Protestant. Maybe 98%. But I think you're forgetting one critical point about Romney, which is covered in my post today, called "Romney and Huckabee."

As the analyst in the piece says, this essential problem will also make it difficult for Romney in 2012.

It will probably go down as the most stupid campaign strategy of all time.

Thank you! I'm glad I'm not the only one saying that. It's truly stunning, isn't it? In fact, it appears so incredibly stupid, that now I'm beginning to wonder if he never really intended to be president at all but was only starving for media attention. Was it just an ego thing? A business thing - to boost his consulting firm in the future (though it took a hit during the campaign)? A ploy to get a cabinet position? Or was it simply the stupidest and laziest presidential campaign ever run? (or NOT run.)

I'm thoroughly enjoying the spectacle of the weepy lunatic fringe freaking out. My hope is that Huckabee - now as the only rightest-wing candidate - will win Lousiana and some other states, forcing McCain to continue spending time, money, and energy (he really did look old the night of Super Tuesday), and keeping the whole vituperous circus going. Wear the old guy down so Obama's superior ground game can knock him out in the 4th quarter.

Garpu the Fork said...

You know, eight years ago I would've said that someone like Huckabee could never win in the US. Now? I hope like hell he gets knocked out sooner rather than later. At least McCain isn't hell-bent on establishing a theocracy. (Not that I'd like to see McCain win the election.)

Liam said...

I've seen the second video before, but not the first one. The first one encapsulates beautifully why Romney is such a see William's post. Someone insults your religion, you should call him a bigot. Romney, on the other hand, just says, "let me in on your bigotry." What a horrible person.

I second your thoughts on both the Catholic neo-cons and Giuliani's campaign.

Huckabee doesn't have a chance of getting the nomination and less of a chance of beating either Obama or Hillary (as likable as he is), so I too would love to see him hand around a bit and complicate things for McCain.

Liam said...

...ah, "hang around," I mean...

crystal said...

Great post, Jeff. I wish I understood enough about this stuff to comment intelligently :-)

Steve Bogner said...

Well, as a marginal Republican I've been amused and bemused by all the stuff going on in their primaries. It is good to see the religious-right getting tempered.

The only candidate I can see out there that I like is Joe Schriner ;)

Jeff said...

Hey William,

Are the Daily Show guys right about New Jersey too? ;-) Can't comment on the second vid, it's been pulled.

Wasn't that something, the way Giuliani handled that campaign and just squandered his front-runner status? The guy is from New York, for crying out loud. He's supposed to understand how the media works. How did he think he was going to keep his mojo working by letting everyone else capture the 24-hour news cycles during the early primaries for weeks on end??

The night the Florida primary wrapped up I was watching Chris Matthews on MSNBC. He was doing a post-mortem interview with Giulianis' campaign manager Michael DuHaime. Matthews said to him, "Gee, I had no trouble getting a hold of you tonight." If DuHaime could have crawled through the camera, I think he would have throttled him.

Speaking of which, how do you think Pat Robertson feels after going out on a limb and throwing his support to Giuliani so early on? He must want to pistol-whip Giuliani now.

What an arrogant and cynical strategy, thinking you could just ignore people all over different parts of the country, and concentrate all your energy on a delegate-rich state... You know, I think Rudy just isn't very bright. Thank God he won't be president. And Romney too.

Hi Garpu and Liam,

I too would love to see him hand around a bit and complicate things for McCain.

Hand around a bit. :-) Might not be far off... Do you get a sense that Huck is kind of mean in an understated, sneaky kind of way?

I don't think the delegate math could possibly work out for Huckabee at this point, but he's now positioned as the most powerful evangelical leader in America. We'll be hearing a lot about him and from him for a long time to come.

I have a lot of reservations about McCain. My wife voted for him (the kids tell me that she called me a socialist the other day). Despite my reservations, I have to say that the Republicans (with some help from Independents) chose the best man out of their field for their inevitable nominee. I have more respect for McCain than the rest of that whole crew put together.

Hi Cyrstal,

You've got a grasp on it, don't worry. :-)


So you're going to pull the lever for old Joe for real, eh? A protest vote? A conscience vote? I respect that. I love that guy. I know what you mean, but I've made a lot of protest votes in the past. I want to make some kind of impact this time, even if I do have some reservations that trouble my conscience.

Jeff said...

Just an extra remark, regarding these right-wing talk-show pundits lambasting McCain.

For years now, all we've been hearing from these people about Iraq is that we MUST win there, that this is the central front in the war against terrorism, and that al Qaeda must be met and defeated there.

McCain is the guy who is most serious about actually winning that war, yet he is too "liberal" to be their president. In fact some of them say that they will actually vote for Hillary Clinton in order to see the Republican Party purge itself and rebuild and regroup for 2012.

How important, therefore, can the Iraq war and Iran's nuclear ambitions be, if they are willing to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2008?

Apparently not as important as tax cuts. Such phoniness would be comical if it wasn't so tragic.

Mike McG... said...

Excellent commentary, Jeff. I particularly endorse the final paragraph. It steams me no end to think about the contempt GOP leadership had for my conservative Catholic parents' sensibilities, all the while mouthing whatever it took to secure their votes.

I feel like I have a read on the bedrock values of Huckabee, Obama and McCain. I appreciate their authenticity even when I diverge from their policy positions.

I decided long ago that I'd see pigs fly before I'd be able to vote for a candidate who enunciates my consistent ethic of life sensibilities. I also decided I'm still going to play; the consequences of 'a pox on all their houses' approach are too grave. For me, for a million reasons spoken and felt, I'm with Obama all the way.

Jeff said...

Hi Mike,

Great to see you. Great post. I agree wholeheartedly. You know, I think blogging has given me the means to look at the whole prospect of voting differently in terms of how I exercise my conscience.

I don't feel trapped by the machinery of either party quite as much as I used to. If I don't like something, I don't have to merely accept it, I can sound off on it. If I want to see change, I can attempt to be the change I want to see. I may not change anyone's way of thinking over to mine, but at least I have the opportunity to try, and to try to break out of this old trap of a paradigm.

cowboyangel said...


Thanks for letting me know the 2nd video wasn't working. I've replaced it with the official Comedy Central video, which wasn't available yet when I initially posted.

No comment on New Jersey. I've only been there a handful of times. My favorite band's from Jersey (Yo La Tengo), my football team plays in Jersey, Bruce Stringbean's from Jersey - I'm not ripping on Jersey.

If I want to see change, I can attempt to be the change I want to see.

Hmm, that sounds familiar . . . Where have I heard that recently?

Not one pundit commenting on Barack's quote has mentioned its roots in Ghandi: "You must be the change you want to see in the world."

Your last paragraph that I took that line from is excellent, btw.

Jeff said...


I was sampling from Gandhi there. has Obama been saying it too?

Colbert... Air hockey with Texas... Wow. How do you feel, Tex?

cowboyangel said...

I thought you were riffing on Obama's latest: "We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." Instead, you went to the source. Good for you.

On Huckabee-Colbert: A conservative candidate for President of the United States appearing on the show of a comedian playing a conservative in order to skewer conservatives, in which they play air hockey, with the Lone Star State as the puck, in order to demonstrate how the candidate will win the nomination. If that's not the most apt symbol of how absurd politics has become in this country, I don't know what is.

Which is to say, I enjoyed it very much.

Colbert: Why do you think the people of Texas will go for your message?
Huckabee: Because I understand barbecue.

More honest, perhaps, than spitting out stupid platitudes and empty promises.

We have Bill Clinton to thank/blame for all of this. The Absurd as politics begins, in the modern era at least, with him playing saxophone on Arsenio Hall.

This was also when I began to wonder if Huckabee wasn't bucking for a TV gig. He really seems to enjoy this kind of stuff. Last night on MSNBC, various pundits were either chastising Huckabee for staying in the race, or expressing wonder at why he would stay in. Finally, one of them said: Hey, what else would he be doing with his time? He gets all this news coverage, gets to be on Leno and Letterman, gets to play bass on national TV. He's probably having the time of his life. That seemed a pretty accurate explanation for Huckabee.

Jeff said...

On Huckabee-Colbert: A conservative candidate for President of the United States appearing on the show of a comedian playing a conservative in order to skewer conservatives, in which they play air hockey, with the Lone Star State as the puck, in order to demonstrate how the candidate will win the nomination. If that's not the most apt symbol of how absurd politics has become in this country, I don't know what is.

I'm trying to imagine Bobby Kennedy doing something like that. Can't come up with it.

Well, at least it's not quite as far as Stewart asking Musharraf who would win a run-off election in Pakistan between Osama Bin Laden and George Bush. "They would both fail miserably..." Doh. You'll have a tougher time finding that video these days. I know, because I've tried.

Of course, if we don't care for for such highbrow entertainment, we can always switch over to Jimmy Kimmel and hear Sarah Silverman singing "I'm (bleeping) Matt Damon", or something like that.

We're doomed.

Yeah, Huckabee is pretty good at that television stuff, as far as it goes. A whole sight better than Ted Haggard would have been. Wow. Saw Jesus Camp last night. Have you seen it yet?