Things I Learned From South Carolina

The primary there is now over, except for the counting, and it’s been an … educational … past week or so.   After watching the back and forth with the polls, as well as the reports from the campaign stops and debates, I’ve come away with some impressions about the Republican Party as it stands today.

First, playing the racism card is a vote-getter.  Newt, Santorum, and Ron Paul were dog-whistling like it was a contest, although Newt mainly just decided to stop whistling and go for the sirens.  When they weren’t doing that, they were pounding on about “states rights” and basically trying to justify the Civil War all over again.  But hey, it worked.

Second, any claim the Republicans had to being the “family values” party was shown to be a lie.  That rather thin covering was wadded up and thrown out the window.  Let’s get real here:  If any Democrat was on their third marriage, was known to have been having affairs during previous marriages, was censured for ethics violations while in Congress, and had a story come out about asking his second wife for an “open marriage,” their career would be dead.   Heck, we forced people to resign for sending dirty pictures over the Internet.  Republicans?  Well, that’s the guy who just won the South Carolina primary!  In fact, after the story from his second wife came out, his popularity increased.  So any claim to stand for “traditional American family values” is pretty much toast.

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30 responses to “Things I Learned From South Carolina

  1. If any Democrat was on their third marriage, was known to have been having affairs during previous marriages, was censured for ethics violations while in Congress, and had a story come out about asking his second wife for an “open marriage,” their career would be dead.

    While I agree with you that the Republicans stance on being the family values party is clearly a lie (and has been for years IMHO), I do think your overstating things a bit. While much useless noise was made over Clinton/Lewinski issue (in which I took the same attitude then as I do with Gingrich – it’s nothing to do with their competence and ability to hold office) he was not forced by Democrats to resign (and shouldn’t have been). Though the House Repubs impeached him, the Senate was intelligent enough not to convict.

    The Republican Party belief that they are/were the family values party has been nothing but a shame for years…….

    • I’ll point out that the guy leading the charge over impeachment back then was a certain Newt Gingrich. 🙄 What I found amazing in this is that if you were to look at the professed “ideals” of the electorate, and particularly the religious right base, you’d think that any shift would have been towards Santorum instead of Gingrich. That they stampeded over to Gingrich says that their values are more … vague ideas … than actually something they care about.

      • I agree that you would have thought people would have fallen in behind Santorum. The problem is that Santorum doesn’t have Gingrich’s ability to manipulate his public image like Gingrich does (he honed that skill when he was Speaker).

        Romney will be the Republican candidate regardless. Gingrich can’t hold on to get enough of the old line established Republicans behind him (he’s appealing more to the Tea Partish segments). Paul doesn’t stand a chance for the same reasons – he may be a member of the Republican Party, but he’s not considered a “good” conservative Republican by those who really control the Party (those old white dinosaurs that Aquagranny refers to. 🙂 )

        Ultimately I do think Obama will get another term, yet it will be as contentious as this term because I don’t believe the Dems will gain back full control of Congress.

        As it stands right now it is going to be a tough decision for who gets my vote for the Presidency.

        • I think that Romney will eventually be the nominee, but what the Party is looking at with him is a lower turn out in their base, or at the very least a much-reduced enthusiasm. Gingrich brings a different set of problems with him. He may be able to get the base enthused, but he’s toxic to the establishment Republicans who are major funding sources and to many – if not most – swing voters. He’s also likely to really bring out the Democratic base.

          With Romney, I think they’re looking at losing the White House while retaining control of the House as a possibility. With Gingrich, they’re likely to lose both.

    • G’rich’s marriages also suggest something about his ability to make commitments. One certainly wonders if that’s the way he treats marital commitment, how would he treat commitment to our country.

  2. Even Bill Clinton, with his very public affair, is still married to his first wife.

  3. Vic78

    The President must’ve rocked in his past life. To have all of the problems he’s had to face to see Newt as his opposition is awesome. I figured the Republicans mailed this election in. I didn’t think they’d make it this obvious.

  4. It does not surprise me that the Newt won in SC. He slobbered all over the confederate flag and practically put on a white sheet to win votes there. It seems so sorry and sad that racism will drive this election with the GOP. I believe this will divide and bury them for years.

    I do think the GOP got really blind sided in 2008 when “that one” a relatively unknown skinny “kid” from Chicago with a “funny” name caught hold of a nation and won the White House. IMO, they are still trying to figure out just how that happened to them.

    These old white GOP guys are dinosaurs plodding along and crying out to the worst extremists in their party to save them from the tar pits.
    They will not be saved and history will not be kind to them. The world is changing rapidly and they will be “left behind!”

    • To be fair, the “Democratic Establishment” as they refer to themselves, and the “Professional Left” also got blindsided by him. He was considered a major “up and comer” who was considered to be a hot prospect for the 2012 or 2016 race.

      The difference is that the real base, and even the Establishment, knows how to get into line and behind the candidate when they have to. The “Professional Left” doesn’t grasp that idea, they’re still nursing their wounded egos.

      • trs

        President Obama could do everything the “Professional Left” wants him to do, and it still wouldn’t be enough. They have to complain to be noticed and feel “important.” The fact that they truly are insignificant is something they will never recognize. The reality – and one of the things I like about pragmatic progressives – is that we’re able to think for ourselves, and don’t need the “Professional Left” telling us what to do.

  5. mdblanche

    I’m in my late 20’s and based on what I’ve seen watching politics in my lifetime, I don’t see “family values” as anything besides code for homophobia and misogyny. I think there are a lot of other people my age who feel the same way too.

    • trs

      Nailed it in on, mdblanche! I’m almost 50, and it’s been the same throughout my lifetime. The only thing I’ll add is it has been code for anything that’s not white, male, and straight. Much of the country has gone past that age. Unfortunately, there is a vocal minority that hasn’t, and never will. The rest of us must continuously speak up, educate, and vote!

  6. gc

    We were in a restaurant last night, rechecking SC on our cells. At one minute after poll closings, the headline read:” Gingrich wins.” We raised our glasses and toasted; FOUR MORE YEARS 🙂

  7. nabsentia23

    I have a slightly different perspective on what happened in SC. Racism was definitely a factor. However, I think Romney’s activity at Bain was the an even bigger factor. Romney didn’t get many votes from the working class. Also, if you go to Dixie Dove’s site, she said that she’s seen the campaign ads that were being played in SC and they were full of populism. Dixie Dove is in the same TV viewing area as some parts of South Carolina. She’s in Georgia, but this state shares a border with South Carolina.

    Right now, the GOP elite is fighting with the working class/social conservative block. Romney’s past business dealings are the main cause of this.

    If this is a bit hard to understand, I strongly suggest you read, “What’s the Matter with Kansas,” by Thomas Frank. In Kansas, on the state-level, this riff is more visible due to the state’s stong 150-years affinity for the GOP. Now, this same riff has gone national!

    As for racism, of course Newt played that angle because unfortunately many in the working class in the South are racist. Both Santorum and Paul also played up the same angle (or at least in Paul’s case – trying to deny it) and this alone was not enough for them.

    With the Bain documentary, Newt Gingrich has blown the cover off a 30-year con game known as “conservative populism.” This (with help from the ’90s Democratic Party under the Clintons) got many working class folks to vote GOP. Conservative populism focuses on “family values” because working class folks do tend to be social conservative. Meanwhile, as “family values” are being pushed, the GOP implements economic policy that harms this demographic. With the Bain documentary and the ads that were been played in SC, the con game has been exposed.

    Who knows what going to happen next? But, all I know is that populism is playing just as powerful of role as racism.

    • I have read Frank’s book. 😉 But, I’d also point out that Newt’s playing the populist card, particularly with the social/working class conservative types rather blew off the cover of “social conservatives,” given that Newt’s personal life is anything but a model. What I have seen in this populist appeal is that it strongly plays off of the entitlement and privilege mentality. In other words, they’re upset about someone else (usually black) getting government aid or support, while blithely ignoring their own. They don’t seem to accept that what they’re griping about is … themselves.

      I’ve said in the past, the worst thing that we could do to them is to give them exactly what they say they want, then sit back and tell them to shut up and take it. 😈

      • nabsentia23

        Well, after reading Frank’s book, I immediately knew that the “family values” angle was phoney. However, the part of the equation Frank missed almost completely was the issue of race. This is mainly because Kansas is overwhelmingly white. But, the coded racism the GOP has used for decades definitely comes from an place of entitlement and privilege. It was another tool used by the GOP to convince white working and poor class people to vote against their best economic interests.

        However, I don’t know how long Newt can keep this up. Not only is his own personal life an issue, but he advocated and pushed for the same policies that has caused damage to this demographic. It’s just like what Jon Stewart said when the other GOP candidates (including Gingrich) were complaining about Romney, “What did you guys think was going to happen when you unleashed the ‘Kraken’? Did you think that you were only going to get little “krakettes” instead?”

        • I think he missed on it because of that, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist there as well. Remember, Reagan had great success with the “welfare queen” lines, which mainly painted various social programs as principally benefiting urban African-Americans, not “hard working small town/rural white people.”

          Now, the reality is that there are more whites on these programs, and that many of them are rural or small town. I’ve had some success pointing that out in my area (which falls into that category). Everyone here knows someone who is getting government aid of some form, and, while there are a few exceptions, most of them realize its necessary. The hard part is getting past the “we deserve it, they don’t” mental block.

          • “We deserve it, they don’t” mental block….Nailed it! I run into that too and it really pisses me off so much. Sometimes I just want to run screaming in the streets!

          • nabsentia23

            Your last point of “We deserve it, they don’t” is probably the biggest reason why the US is behind other industrialized countries when it comes to providing a safety net! In America, you can not deal with the economic situation without dealing with racism. The two are so closely linked in our society. You just can’t escape that.

            Oh, by the way, yes, the “welfare queen” myth does exist in Kansas (especially in areas like Kansas City where there is a higher concentration of nonwhites). However, as somebody who spent a good deal of her childhood in the state, I can still see why Frank missed this point. But, he still missed it. He made the same mistake that so many white liberals make in believing that only economics is the main problem here.

            Also, considering that Kansas does have a history of strong opposition to slavery (remember “Bleeding Kansas”) and that in the state capitol building, there is a mural of Jim Brown, Frank probably thought this would ease the racism factor in his state. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. He should remember that at the same time Kansas proclaimed itself a “free state,” it barred blacks from settling there. So, I cut Thomas Frank some slack on this issue, but not much.

            Finally, another point Frank made was Kansas’ uncanny ability to foretell national political trends (at least within the Republican party). Well, I think he’s right when talking about the “mods” and “cons” fighting over control of the Kansas state capital. This fight has definitely gone national, but why did it take so long? It should have happened under Clinton, but it never did. And it certainly didn’t happen under Bush. It took the election of an African-American president to take this fight national (or at least in a place where so many people can see it). I hope Frank can see the irony in this.

          • When the calendar flipped from 2011 to 2012 in my mind I turned from “it’s about building relationships” to “it’s about votes!” If winning the 2012 election is important, we have 9 months to do whatever needs to be done.

            Do you have a sense of howyou wanjt to engagein the process or a general sense about what might make sense to do? 🙂

          • nabsentia23

            The main point is reaching out to others not like yourself. This is something I must work on too. This is the essense of organizing. I think the left has spent too much time over the last 30 years “preaching to the choir.” Obama’s doing the very outreach that past Democratic politicians have failed to do. Obama is also getting away from this ridiculous “blue/red state” dichtomy that was actually created by the Republicans to mischaracterize the Democrats, liberals, and progressives.

            In other words, we need to find a way to get back the type of voters who became conservative Republicans or “cons”. Many were former Democrats angry at their party’s support for NAFTA. Thanks to this move, the once Democratic stronghold of Wichita, Kansas became Republican almost overnight. That’s right, a so-called “red state” use to have one of its major metropolitian areas dominated by Democrats. This is why this “red/blue” nonsense needs to stop.

            And look at what happened in South Carolina. Thanks to Newt taking the “populist” route with his PAC releasing that Bain documentary, these same voters are angry at Romney. Unfortunately, the issue of racism is complicating things. Which is why Newt used that angle as well.

            Obama has my vote come November and I’ve been making donations to the campaign. But, as for me getting more involved, I’m still contemplating how to do so.

          • I think many are still working out how they want to engage in the election buildup. I’m hosting a watch party tomorrow night and hope to hear more than the message of hope and change. In paticular I’m looking for specific suggestions about what POTUS and OFA have planned so I can better gauge how my neighborhood can be of help (I think I know, but I need more specifics.) Are you gonna watch too? 🙂

    • I read Dixie Dove’s diary this morning and she does provide a unique perspective, being in the line of the GOP fire, as it were. The Newt’s relentless blasts at ‘Robme’ over Bain certainly did a great job getting the unemployed and struggling to take a good harsh look at that.

      However, don’t ever minimize the effects of racism and fundamental Christianity that pervades the South like a nasty odor that you can’t seem to get out of the carpet after the puppy peed there. (I lived in the South for a number of years so don’t think I have no appreciation for the really good people who live there. I’m just saying….some are not so good)

      Romney’s privileged Eastern roots and Mormon religion (cult) make him “other” to a lot of Southerners while Newt can play the ‘good old boy’ from Georgia. Newton knows how to talk to those ‘peeps’ in the words they understand.

      The SC win for the Newt is not surprising to me at all but I think it involves more than one factor and that race, religion and regionalism played an important role.

      • nabsentia23

        Oh, I’m not minimizing the effects of racism or fundamentalist Christianity. Considering that I’m African-American and my family roots go back to Alabama, I’m very much aware of the racial element in everything Gingrich has done up to this point. However Santorum and most of the other GOP candidates were using the same racial and religious angles as Gingrich. The GOP has been using these angles for decades. As for regionalism..yes, Romney is a Yankee. So were Reagan and Bush 41. Most of the people on Fox News are also Yankees (Especially Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity). So, there are Northerners who have successfully reached the GOP base in the South. However, I really do feel that Bain was the deciding factor here. Dixie Dove’s account from the battleground is very telling.

        Once again, I want to reinterate that racism and religion did play a role. Especially considering that the white working class voters most affected by the Bain documentary are also known to hold bigoted attitudes. As Norbrook pointed out, white entitlement and privilege were very present. Yet, the GOP has being going down this road for 40 years and in the last 3-4 years (due to Obama being President), they’ve stopped talking in code when it comes to racism. So, I really think Bain was the deciding factor. It’s what put Newt’s racist rhetoric over the top. But, Newt is playing a dangerous game here. He’s taking the GOP into unchartered territory. He’s going into territory that has been claimed by Obama and the Democratic Party.

        Newt Gingrich is no intellectual, but he’s very clever. So, when you only see his right-hand – you better find out what his left-hand is doing. He’s working more than one angle here. You have to be aware of all of them.

        • I don’t disagree with you at all and I consider the fig Newton way more dangerous than Romney because under a thin veneer, the Newt is vicious as a starved junk yard dog. I’m sure half the GOP big shots needed Depends last night. Romney is their anointed one and it is his “turn” to be the heir to their crown.

          IMO, they know they are going to lose this one but they hope to go down with at least a few shreds of dignity and to hold onto House and Senate seats. If the Newtster gets the bit between his teeth, the GOP could end up as grease spots on the pavement when Newt gallops over all of them, loses big time and sends the party scrambling for a comeback they won’t get in 2016.

          It will be real interesting to see what happens in Florida which is a very different kettle of fish than South Carolina. I am most interested in the Cubano Repub vote and the extent of their turn out for the primary.

          • nabsentia23

            Either way, what happened in South Carolina is not good for the GOP.

            It demonstrates that the party lacks unity. It has exposed the phoniness of “family values” and farce of their economic policies. And once again, we see the GOP walloping in racist sentiment.

            We also see a GOP not thinking clearly when it comes to political strategy. Newt Gingrich is toxic! He will severely harm the GOP in the general election, but the base is letting their intense anger at Obama cloud their judgment here.

            So, well…who am I to complain about any of this? Ha!

  8. Alan Scott

    Norbrook ,

    ” I’ll point out that the guy leading the charge over impeachment back then was a certain Newt Gingrich. ”

    Impeachment had nothing to do with adultery .