Over at The Daily Caller, Time for a secular right. But what does this mean??? Last I checked the majority of Republican voters are not evangelical Protestants. But, evangelical Protestantism, and to a great extent Southern white sectionalism, are associated with the Republican and conservative brand in the United States. Obviously one has to be careful about overplaying this aspect; not too many people at National Review (or The Daily Caller!) are culturally Southern white evangelicals. But that’s not really the point.
The Democratic party is a coalition of highly religious blacks and highly secular Jews, to point to the two cultural antipodes. Despite the fact that one of the most avowedly religious segments of American society, blacks, are a substantial proportion of the Democratic coalition, the reality is that the Democrats are culturally dominated by elite secular liberals. Yet they tend to put up professing Christians, albeit liberal ones, such as Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, as national candidates. But one needs to be careful about one plays this gimmick. To a great extent in 2008 many of John Edwards’ supported him because they felt his synergy of his white Southern male identity could balance out his hard Left politics (in 2008 he was to the Left of the other two major candidates). He didn’t fool anyone, and he failed the authenticity test (later other aspects of his character confirmed this general tendency in his personality).
Given the right conditions a conservative Southern evangelical Potestant Republican national candidate can win. But I believe it would be harder than if the standard bearer exhibited this cultural profile. The issue here is that to a great extent they’d be an inverse Michael Dukakis, combing a particular brand of politics with all the associated identity markers. Granted, George W. Bush won with a Southern evangelical Protestant identity, but the reality is that as a Texan he was not quite the prototype, and, his own background is that of a New England WASP (though George H. W. Bush has spent most of his life now as a Texan, I think it is fair to contend that culturally he remains un-Texan in affect). Therefore the strategy for the Republicans is not to become secular. The reality is that the Republican party is the white Christian party. Rather, it would be to pull a ” reverse Clinton.” On paper Mitt Romney fit that bill, but the reality is that unlike Clinton Romney seems to be a relatively pedestrian politician. A white ethnic governor from the Midwest or Northeast, or a “cowboy” from the West, would perhaps at least neutralize some of the cultural concerns that a explicitly sectional Republican party would elicit.