In a detailed profile of Florida governor Ron DeSantis who is clearly running for the Republican party’s presidential nomination in 2024, Dexter Filkins writes that he is following the path that Trump opened up, that seeks to motivate base voters by being fiercely combative. The difference is that DeSantis is more articulate, determined, and focused.
For decades, the Democratic Party had commanded a majority of Florida’s registered voters. But the state was changing, as Trump’s election helped energize a shift in political affinities. The Republican Party’s rank and file became increasingly radical, and G.O.P. leaders appeared only too happy to follow them. “There was always an element of the Republican Party that was batshit crazy,” Mac Stipanovich, the chief of staff to Governor Bob Martinez, a moderate Republican, told me. “They had lots of different names—they were John Birchers, they were ‘movement conservatives,’ they were the religious right. And we did what every other Republican candidate did: we exploited them. We got them to the polls. We talked about abortion. We promised—and we did nothing. They could grumble, but their choices were limited.
“So what happened?” Stipanovich continued. “Trump opened Pandora’s box and let them out. And all the nasty stuff that was in the underbelly of American politics got a voice. What was thirty-five per cent of the Republican Party is now eighty-five per cent. And it’s too late to turn back.”
Stuart Stevens, an adviser to Mitt Romney’s Presidential campaign in 2012, told me that Republican leaders have made a calculated choice in recent decades. As their reliable cadre of white voters shrank, they realized that they could either try to attract more minorities or try to motivate white citizens who rarely voted by tapping their racial insecurities. When Romney ran, he rejected the latter strategy, Stevens told me. Then came Trump, who embraced it and won. “The G.O.P. has become a white-grievance party,” Stevens said.
DeSantis, he believes, is following the Trump playbook. “To me, Ron DeSantis is a fairly run-of-the-mill politician who will do anything to get elected,” he said. “The problem is what the Party has become. It’s a race to the bottom.”
I would argue that the rot started even before Trump. The seeds were planted by Richard Nixon’s so-called ‘southern strategy’ that sought to use the civil rights legislation of the Johnson administration in the 1960s to foment white grievance. Way back in 2008, I wrote that it was Sarah Palin, who John McCain selected as him running mate in 2008, who compounded this by opening the Pandora’s box and moving the Republican party away from the reality-based world by promoting and propagating any lie that would support their extremist agenda. Trump picked up the baton and carried it over the finish line.
“I would argue that the rot started even before Trump. The seeds were planted by Richard Nixon’s so-called ‘southern strategy’ …”
Don’t forget about Ronnie Raygun’s “Young buck buying t-bone steaks with food stamps” and the Cadillac-driving Welfare Queen.
I’m sure someone (probably txpiper) will jump in to tell us that the Welfare Queen was an actual person, and so she was. But she also was a professional grifter. To use her to represent all welfare recipients (most of whom are White, BTW) would be like using Whitey Bulger to represent all White people.
consciousness razor says
Well, you quoted Stevens saying that too. In any case, it’s good to remember that a guy from the Romney 2012 campaign is probably not especially interested in telling the full story, if he were even capable of doing so.
Over the same period of time, the Democratic party has been abandoning the already tenuous connection it once had with the left and labor, and along with that, the poorest members of the working class. It has shifted attention toward creating a base (most concentrated in larger cities) made up of richer and more right-wing professionals, academics, middle managers, etc., all falling behind the “leadership” of some of our extremely rich oligarchs who control finance, tech, pharma, and so forth.
A large chunk of the population is white and working class, so of course it’s easy to get these things confused or to treat one as a proxy for the other when trying to understand what’s been happening. The point is that both parties have adjusted their strategies to try to divide all of us on various issues and carve up a bigger piece for themselves. And you’re not going to see half of this picture if you’re only looking at what Republicans have been up to this whole time.
If you’re really interested in trying to explain this stuff, you may also ask what exactly the relationship is supposed to be between the South and the overturning of Roe v. Wade (or any of the court’s recent decisions related to guns, religion, climate change, etc.). Take a look at the justices. Four got their law degrees from Harvard, four from Yale, one from Notre Dame. Three were born in New York, and one from each of New Jersey, DC, California, Colorado, Georgia and Louisiana.
That’s all south of Canada, but that’s it. And if you don’t want to talk about the court, and you’re thinking of elections, then take a look at North Dakota or Maine’s second district (for the 2020 EC) or eleven congressional seats in California, mayors in NYC, or countless other cases…. None of it fits with this story about the South either. We’re really not in the middle of a very elaborate Civil War reenactment here, no matter how much some may like to pretend that (presumably so they won’t be implicated), because the North vs. South geographical division just doesn’t have anything to do with it anymore.
I think you are reading things into Mano’s post that he didn’t write. He calls it the Southern Strategy because that’s what Nixon’s people called it. There is plenty of bigotry and White resentment all over the country for the GOP to tap into. Some of the biggest battleground states lately have been Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
“Over the same period of time, the Democratic party has been abandoning the already tenuous connection it once had with the left and labor, and along with that, the poorest members of the working class.”
True, but the unions let themselves shrink so small that they made themselves pretty much politically irrelevant. When they came under sustained attack by the right wing, they mostly hunkered down and only worked to protect the bennies of their existing, increasingly older, members. I started working in Silicon Valley in 1979 and at that time, every chip maker had huge factories on site employing thousands of mostly LatinX and Vietnamese people doing the actual work of making the chips. AFAIK, no union made any attempt to organize these people (probably because they weren’t White people), and today all those jobs have been shipped off to Asia.
consciousness razor says
Okay, but it’s still not obvious why we should care about what anything was called by Nixon’s people or by Romney’s people for that matter. Are these stories told by Republicans supposed to be regarded as especially insightful or something? They don’t seem to be saying very much, if you ask me. In any case, shouldn’t we at least think about questioning this stuff a little bit, if we’re not already inclined to gobble up whatever type of slop they might feed us?
Anyway, I think Mano’s alright, and none of it’s meant as an attack or whatever. I just think it’s worth it to be serious about this stuff and not just reach for the easiest or most comforting answers that are available.
But who do you think you’re talking about, when you refer to “unions”? Do you think union bosses fit better in the newer version of the Democratic party or the older one?
Pierce R. Butler says
The “Southern Strategy” explicitly aimed at splitting the Democratic Party’s long-standing hold on southern states by inflaming racism, and it worked.
But the Repubs already carried the seed of their current madness within their ranks, as seen by Sen. Joe McCarthy and the John Birchers (based in Wisconsin and Massachusetts respectively). The synergistic combination of that conspiracist paranoia with the cultivation of explicit southern bigotry overwhelmed the GOP’s establishmentarianism and produced our present fascist insurgency.
“Anyway, I think Mano’s alright, and none of it’s meant as an attack or whatever.”
I certainly never meant to imply that anything you said was unfriendly.
“But who do you think you’re talking about, when you refer to “unions”? Do you think union bosses fit better in the newer version of the Democratic party or the older one?”
This truly confuses me. First, while I have never been in a union, my understanding is that all important decisions must be decided by a vote of the union members, and I think the days when members simply voted the way the union “bosses” told them to vote are pretty much in the past. Today’s union leadership can try to influence their members to vote a certain way, but they cannot demand it. As to whether union leaders “fit in” the current Democratic Party, what the heck does that even mean? All politicians want to stay in office. For that they need lots of votes. Also, money can often (but not always) get you more votes, if you can spend it well. So politicians want money too. If you are a leader of a union of 500,000 members, you can probably deliver many votes and many dollars to the candidates you support. I guess that means you can easily “fit in” with the party you choose to support. If you have let your membership decline to 50,000 members, your effectiveness is reduced by 90% and you may not be as warmly welcomed by politicians as you once were.
Oh, please. the playbook for the current GQP was written in 1950 when Koch SR funded the creation of the John Birch Society and paid for the translation of Mein Kampf into English. (the Red and the Blue Book, specifically.)
Ronnie Raygun pretended to have a showdown with the Birchers, but it was all performance art, the modern GQP is all about implementing the John Birch Society’s agenda with a heaping helping of Robert Borchs jurisprudence as justification.
I agree with you about Reagan and his BS. If he had shut up more and spent more time talking to his astrologer the world would be a better place.
I’ve known poor people for almost my entire adult life. There was a decade or two in there where I hardly associated with anyone who wasn’t poor. I’ve met exactly one person who could in any way be described as a welfare queen. And they had mental problems coupled with a very disturbed upbringing (by someone who also had mental problems from what I could tell). To be clear, they never managed to accomplish being a welfare queen. They just really believed it was a legitimate life strategy that could work for them. It never did.