Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Dec/12

5

Secularism in substance and style

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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.

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7 comments

  • Jeff Rogers · December 5, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Your writing is usually pretty insightful but you could sometimes benefit from having someone edit your piece for readability. Today is one of those days, I believe.

    That said, I think the thrust of this piece (if I am reading it correctly) is right on the money.

  • cynthia curran · December 6, 2012 at 2:28 am

    Actually, Bush thinks Texas that why he supports legalization for hispanics since Texas has many legal and illegal Mexicans. He usually thinks higher of Mexicans than most whites do in other regions since some of the TExas Mexicans that married whites moved up. Reagan was also influnece by California on this issue as well since there are more Mexicans in California than other places, so he thought his legalization would wokr.

  • cynthia curran · December 6, 2012 at 2:34 am

    Most souterrn and midwest people have developed a lower view of hispanics since many came during the Bush era to their states and had limited english skills and education like Bush or Rubio-Florida is more similar to a border state may turn whties off who are not gun-ho on Republicans. May view a non-evangelical like George H Bush that does state rights for social issues and not rise the taxes, maybe from the midwest.

  • cynthia curran · December 6, 2012 at 2:55 am

    Also, swing states like Nevada, Colorado and Florida hit hard by the housing bubble. Bush played a role by encouraging hispanic owenership that got out of hand. Granted, there were Democratics involved but Bush was blame so its another factor in Republicans who mainly run on low taxes but not a plan to deal with the housing bubble lost.

  • j mct · December 6, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    I think one factor that a GOP guy needs especially but donks need too is what’s called the common touch. Romney wasn’t a bad guy, but he did not have the common touch at all. If one goes back, Reagan, Clinton and Bush II, all had the common touch in abundance. Bush I didn’t have it, but when he won his opponent had even less of it. Obama doesn’t have the common touch at all, when he ran against other blacks for blacks he got wiped out, in that context he was Thurston Howell III, but at the potus level that doesn’t matter. JFK got all the Irish Catholic vote though as Irish Catholic politicians go, he was about as ‘authentic’ as Obama is authentically black, and if one thinks who JFK’s fans were, the parallels between him and Obama as to what was appealing about him, who he appealed to, and why, are pretty striking. JFK did not have the common touch either. Done rambling.

  • Author comment by Steve Cardon · December 7, 2012 at 5:49 am

    There are obviously myriad factors that play into why one side or the other manages to get elected by what is usually within two or three percentage points in the popular vote (for what that’s worth). I would say that in the past what was most important was to avoid alienating groups under each party’s large umbrella, or to allow ones opponent to divide and conquer.

    One must also add in the “backlash” factor. Whether it is “Watergate”, Vietnam, the “Iranian hostage crisis”, “Monica Lewinski”, there is a whole laundry list where George W Bush is concerned. The backlash energizes the opposing base while demoralizing the opposing base and fatiguing the middle.

    Obama cashed in on the “Dubya” backlash in not one but both of his election victories… but then Obama cashed in on every thing. The “Post Partisan” president successfully played nearly every card in the deck. The exception perhaps being religion, but he rightfully calculated that Republicans could take care of that by themselves

    The problem, in my opinion is not so much from what combination of religions, demographics, or part of the country you draw the candidates from so much as comparative charisma and how well one uses it to seize the narrative spotlight. With a sufficiently ruthless and charismatic candidate, one can unite ones own party while cleverly dividing the other party.

    Romney was reasonably charismatic, increasingly so as he learned to loosen up a bit, but he came nowhere close to Obama in terms of ruthlessness. He did not have it in him to go for the red meat with the utter abandon and joyful disregard for truth which the Democrats achieved. He was not willing to play identity politics to the shameless degree that the Democrats did… and that, at least as much as the various demographic calculations suggested in previous comments, is why he lost.

    Religious differences within a party can be overcome by seizing the narrative and refocusing it with a vengeance on why the opposing party (not candidate) must lose. The Republican candidate was doomed to be the reincarnation of George W Bush regardless of who the final nominee was. Obama brilliantly proved once again (and in defiance of Romney’s assertion to the contrary), that if you tell an untruth often enough, you can make it the truth for a critical mass of people.

    The Republican party is cursed with the three legged stool. The Democratic party, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to require a leg to stand on at all.

  • cynthia curran · December 11, 2012 at 12:50 am

    Well, I another like George W Bush since he held a higher view of hispanics than me and wanted to legalized them. Hispanics have some successful ones but have problems like Afro-Ameicans. Two, Bush caused the housing bubble by pushing ownership for minorites and this document. To me Romeny was a more down to Earth guy because of his mormon religon while both George H and George W didn’t have common touch but were apart of the Bush elite.

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