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The GOP Base and the Ugly Truth

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I was on Bonnie Erbe’s To the Contrary yesterday and we were discussing Mike Huckabee’s contention that we’d have plenty of people willing to do menial jobs in the US if only there weren’t so damn many abortions. I made the comment that Huckabee was obviously killing two birds with one stone — appealing to the anti-woman and racist elements of the Republican base at the same time, to which the two conservative women on the panel gave a giant “harumph.”

From Rick Perlstein’s article entitled “The Unspoken Truth about the GOP. Southern Discomfort” in The New Republic:

The very heart of his argument is a taboo notion: that the South votes Republican because the Republicans have perfected their appeal to Southern racism, and that Democrats simply can’t (and shouldn’t) compete.

But, among scholars, this is hardly news. Schaller builds this conclusion on one of the most impressive papers in recent political science, “Old Times There Are Not Forgotten: Race and Partisan Realignment in the Contemporary South,” by Nicholas Valentino and David Sears. Running regressions on a massive data set of ideological opinions, Sears and Valentino demonstrate with precision that, for example, a white Southern man who calls himself a “conservative,” controlling for racial attitudes, is no less likely to chance a vote for a Democratic presidential candidate than a Northerner who calls himself a conservative. Likewise, a pro-life or hawkish Southern white man is no less likely–again controlling for racial attitudes–than a pro-life or hawkish Northerner to vote for the Democrat. But, on the other hand, when the relevant identifier is anti-black answers to survey questions (such as whether one agrees “If blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites,” or choosing whether blacks are “lazy” or “hardworking”), an untoward result jumps out: white Southerners are twice as likely than white Northerners to refuse to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate. Schaller’s writes: “Despite the best efforts of Republican spinmeisters … the partisan impact of racial attitudes in the South is stronger today than in the past.”

I often wonder how many people in the Republican party have simply blocked out all memory of Southern Strategy, and how they manage to discount its lingering effects. Do they think it’s just a coincidence that GOP presidential candidates won’t go near the African American debates? That Rudy Giuliani and his history with Abner Louima (and others) is doing just dandy in the south purely for being an authoritarian asshole, despite his so-called “social liberal” positions? That John McCain didn’t show up for the vote on the DREAM Act, which he co-sponsored, because he was having a bad hair day?

I know that people who identify as “fiscal conservatives” don’t like to face this stuff, but honestly, let’s get real here. The wingnut nation does not begin and end with a bunch of diaper-wearing closet cases or the specter of Jonah Goldberg’s hairy, lint-ridden navel.

(Tom Schaller will be here at 5pm ET/2pm PT with Mark Penn to discuss Penn’s book Microtrends on the Saturday edition of the book salon. Since Schaller and Penn represent two quite different opinion poles within the Democratic party, it should be an extremely interesting discussion. Please join us — jh)

graphic from FARK via DWT

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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