The Southernization of the Republican Party

Two really good posts lately on the increasing (crazy) conservatism of the Republican Party.  They both start out broad, but to a signficant degree end up in the same place.  First, Norm Ornstein has a nice take in the Atlantic on the “5 Republican Parties”:

Across the nation, not just in Washington, there are ever more signs of a Republican Party veering to the right edge of the right wing of the political spectrum. With prospects for a comprehensive immigration bill fading, what will it take to bring the GOP back at least to the right edge of the center of the spectrum, to compete to win national elections on its own merits and not just when the Democrats fail or the economy falters? …

I see at least five Republican parties out there, with a lot of overlap, but with enough distinct differences that the task is harder than usual. There is a House party, a Senate party, and a presidential party, of course. But there is also a Southern party and a non-Southern one. The two driving forces dominating today’s GOP are the House party and the Southern one — and they will not be moved or shaped by another presidential loss. If anything, they might double down on their worldviews and strategies.

Now come the other two parties. The House votes on the fiscal cliff, aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy, and the Violence Against Women Act showed a fascinating regional pattern. Of the 151 GOP nay votes on the fiscal cliff, 82 came from Deep South Republicans — 87 percent of all the Southerners, compared with 47 percent of the non-Southerners. (Border South Republicans are a lot like the deep Southerners.) Of the 67 nay votes on Sandy, 31 came from Southerners. And of the 138 Republican nay votes on VAWA, 79 came from Southerners. Southern Republicans as a whole, not just those in the House, reflect a distinctly different political framework, culture, and attitude than others. If one looks at the loony statements made by political figures over the past couple of years, some may come from the likes of Michele Bachmann and Steve King, but more come from Southern GOPers like Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and assorted state legislators and party chairs.

And his depressing conclusion:

So here’s the Republican dilemma: The House and Southern Republican parties are more concerned with ideological purity and tribal politics than they are with building a durable, competitive national party base to win presidential and Senate majorities. In most cases, they are in no danger of losing their House seats or their hegemony in their states. They will be resistant to changes in social policy that reflect broad national opinion; resistant to any policies or rhetoric, including but not limited to immigration, that would appeal to Hispanics, African-Americans, or Asian-Americans; and resistant to policies like Medicaid expansion or Head Start that would ameliorate the plight of the poor. They also will be more inclined to use voter-suppression methods to reduce the share of votes cast by those population groups than to find ways to appeal to them. I see little or nothing, including a potential loss in 2016, that will change this set of dynamics anytime soon.

Somewhat similarly, Tom Edsall asks “has the Republican Party gone off the deep end?”

Doherty, no liberal, is representative of the growing strength on the right of the view that the Republican Party has gone off the deep end.

“Their rigidity is killing them. It’s either holy purity, or you are anathema,” Tom Korologos, a premier Republican lobbyist and the ambassador to Belgium under George W. Bush, said in a phone interview. “Too many ideologues have come in. You don’t win by what they are doing.”

A number of prominent figures in the Republican Party share this harsh view. Jeb Bush warned last year that both Ronald Reagan and his own father would have a “hard time” fitting into the contemporary Republican Party, which he described as dominated by “an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement.” …

A part of the Republican problem lies in the party’s disproportionate dependence on white Southern voters. These voters are well to the right of the rest of the nation, and they elect the dominant block of hard-right conservatives in the House. Of the 234 Republican members of the House, 97 — two-fifths — come from the 11 Confederate states, and these 97 are almost uniformly opposed to negotiation of any kind with Democrats.

It is the Southern conservatives who, along with their Northern Tea Party colleagues, seek to kill immigration reform and who insisted on removingthe food stamp program from the recently passed Farm Bill.

These members of the House are what Feehery describes as “nostalgia” Republicans who define conservatism as “the ability to fight progress.” They produce a flood of statements and declarations that Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, calls “offensive and bizarre” and that he claims are turning his party into “the stupid party.”

The South– ruining American politics since 1860.  As both authors highlight, a huge part of the problem is the take-no-prisoners/compromise is always bad ideology that has consumed the Republican (largely Southern) hard right.  Compromise is not always fun or easy to swallow, but it is an essential virtue in pluralistic democracy.  Unfortunately, far too many Republicans seem to have lost sight of this essential truth.  Democrats are not “the enemy,” but rather people Republicans disagree with about the course of American policy.  And with whom they need to work and compromise if we are ever going to have any policy that meets this country’s needs.  Alas, trying telling that to the Southern House Republicans.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

2 Responses to The Southernization of the Republican Party

  1. Pingback: A Summary of How the Major Parties Switched - Fact / Myth

  2. Pingback: The Jackson Press – A Summary of How the Major Parties Switched

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