Hillary Rodham Clinton must be reveling in the latest round of Republican fratricide. First there’s the Chris Christie–Rand Paul blow-up over national security, surveillance, and pork. Then there’s John McCain’s musing over possibly supporting Hillary—his fellow Iraq War–backer of a decade ago. And, finally, there’s L.I. GOP Rep. Pete King’s comparison of Rand Paul to a Nazi-appeaser!
At this rate, Clinton is on her way to a 40-state victory and a third consecutive Democratic win, while leaving the Republicans with the distinction of being the Party of Dixie, Idaho, and little else. Yes, Paul is correct when he tells Christie that Northeast Republicans are “on life support.” But for the GOP, that’s a bad thing, not a good one. To win the White House, you have to get to 270, and the states of the “NRA Belt” don’t get you there.
The reality is that the Party of the Old South—which is the GOP today and what the Democrats were into the 1950s, is dependent upon a successful alliance with Northern and Midwest ethnics. That is, white Southern Baptists and Northern Catholics have to work with each other—even if they don’t always like each other. Under the Democrats, from the 1930s to the 1950s, and then under the Republicans, from the 1960s to the 1980s, white Southerners and Northerners voted the same way, and thus elected presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 to George H.W. Bush in 1988.
But during Bush 41’s presidency, that North-South alliance started to come unglued. Ross Perot peeled off much of the non-Southern working class, while Dixie stayed loyal to Bush. And so, Bill Clinton won an electoral-college landslide, with just 43 percent of the popular vote. Since 1992, that alliance has grown ever-more frayed, with Catholic voters having gone Republican only once in six elections, and the Republicans having won the popular vote only once, too.
Under these circumstances, if Paul and the GOP are unable to reach an entente with Christie and King and their base, the 2016 Republican presidential nomination will be little more than a soap box to channel the ghosts of 1964 Republican nominee Sen. Barry Goldwater and the Confederacy’s long dead president, Jefferson Davis. To be clear, it was under Davis’s leadership that the South discovered what happens when Dixie goes at it alone: it doesn’t end well.
After the Civil War, from 1868 to 1928—in total of 16 elections, Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson were the only Democrats to win a ticket to the White House. Now, the same persistent electoral rejection awaits the Republican Party if it blindly opposes the sorts of programs that Northerners like, including post–Hurricane Sandy disaster relief, Social Security, and veterans’ benefits.
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