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After NY-23: Goldwater, Reagan, And The Mirage Of "Moderation"
Patriotic immigration reformers didn't have a dog in the NY-23 Congressional special election fight — Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman toed the Club For Growth line, so the issue didn't surface — but you have to be amazed at the gloating over-interpretation of his very narrow loss (46%-49%).
Particularly when you know from bitter experience that a Hoffman win would immediately have been spun down the memory hole, like the great patriotic immigration reform victories of California's Proposition 187 and Arizona's Proposition 200.
The numbers make it perfectly obvious that Hoffman or any other conservative candidate would have won this race if GOP insiders hadn't tried to impose a liberal, who rewarded them by endorsing the Democrat after her expensive campaign collapsed. The real loser: the GOP Establishment and Michael Steele's RNC.
It's also amazing how little consciousness there is anywhere that this GOP civil war is simply a replay of the earlier Goldwater-Reagan insurgency. Maybe it's a generational thing. Many Gen X commentators apparently imprinted at an impressionable age on Reagan as the avuncular President, but in fact he won power as a fierce and divisive partisan. During that insurgency, too, the liberal Republicans (I don't see what's "moderate" about them) were more than willing to ruin when they could not rule—to sabotage conservative candidates with the help of the elite media. The conservatives simply had to develop equivalent ruthlessness. Which, in NY-23, they have just shown.
And this historical amnesia is particularly amazing to me, as a Baby Boomer. I thought the Goldwater-Reagan experience had finally resolved the long intra-GOP debate about whether the way to win elections was by moving left ("me-tooism") or moving right (actually, giving voters something distinctive to vote for). I definitely remember that Reagan won, twice—didn't he?—and paved the way for the worthless, undeserving Bushes.
But still the conventional wisdom, internalized by many Republicans, particularly inside the Beltway, is that the GOP mustn't go too far "right".
At this point, it is clear that no amount of evidence or argument can refute this conviction — as I wrote when reflecting on the distressing results at this year's CPAC convention, it's obviously a psychological quirk, a political version of Tourette's Syndrome.)
As it happens, the Democratic pollster has just provided additional evidence of the irrationality of the "moderation" mirage. Stanley Greenberg does interesting work—for example, he identified Affirmative Action as a key issue in the 1980s, something that both Democratic and Republican Establishments absolutely did not wish to hear. A recent Greenberg report, The Very Separate World of Conservative Republicans, got some publicity because he found that "the self-identifying conservative Republicans who make up the base of the Republican Party" and who drive current unrest are not "racist". (He also found that immigration, that's I-M-M-I-G-R-T-I-O-N, was one of the top issues for these conservatives, although rarely explicitly mentioned even at Tea Parties).
Greenberg's polling shows that the ideological structure of the two major parties is quite different:
"The conservative Republican base represents almost one-in-five voters in the electorate, and nearly two out of every three self-identified Republicans…But liberal Democrats are outnumbered by moderate Democrats (36 to 61 percent of all Democrats)."
What this means is that Democratic primary candidates do indeed have to worry about securing "moderates" as well as liberals. This is no doubt one reason the average MSM journalist is so fixated on the maneuver. But Republican primary candidates do not. They have to worry about conservatives.
To put this in perspective, look at the Gallup Poll released October 26. It found:
39%-41% of Americans identify as "conservative" or "very conservative".
35%-37% of Americans identify as "moderate".
20%-21% of Americans identify as "very liberal" or "liberal"—in Gallup's words, "making liberals the smallest of the groups".
(But the noisiest!)
Gallup adds that 35% of independents now identify as "conservative".
What this means is really astonishing: you could virtually win the U.S. Presidency with conservative support alone.
It doesn't take that much to win the White House. Barack Obama, for example, was elected in 2008 with just 52.9% of the vote. George W. Bush won with 50.7% in 2004 and actually lost the popular vote (with 47.9%) in 2000. And Ronald Reagan won with just 50.7% in 1980.
At VDARE.COM, we've been saying this in a somewhat different way: What we call the "Sailer Strategy"—that the GOP should concentrate, not on outreach to unappeasable minorities, but on inreach to its own base, which it has simply failed to mobilize. That base is white. Greenberg and Gallup's "conservatives" are certainly white too.
(The inability of the Beltway Right to discuss race frankly is becoming comic. For example, David Frum's newly eponymous FrumForum, an avid booster of the "moderation" mirage, has an item attributing Republican successes in New York's Westchester Country to the Democratic incumbents' high-tax policies blah blah. But City Journal's Walter Olson, an unimpeachably libertarian non-member of the Religious Right, explains that it's because of the backlash against a federally-imposed low-income housing a.k.a. forced integration scheme, which the Democrats defended by accusing opponents of, guess what, "racism". This coyly sanitized sentence is FrumForum's only reference to the issue: "When [County Executive Andy] Spano rammed a $50 million settlement of a federal lawsuit against his administration through the County legislature without debate, [challenger Rob] Astorino pounced extra hard on his disregard for the taxpayer.")
There are issues to hand that would mobilize that "conservative"/ white base and reach beyond it as well. Immigration, of course—Gallup reports that 50% of Americans say immigration should be decreased, up from 39% a year ago; only 14% want an increase (which, needless to say, is what George W. Bush tried to force through). Language—Rasmussen reported this spring that an incredible 84% of Americans want English to be the official language of the U.S. And Affirmative Action.
For that matter, gay marriage is now 0-31, having lost in every single state where it has been put to a popular vote, most recently in Maine, despite the GOP's almost total elimination from New England. VDARE.COM does not take a position on gay marriage, but there's no doubt that opposing it could be a devastating tactic for a party brave enough to speak up. (Needless to say, Dede Scozzafava, the GOP Establishment choice in NY-23, supported gay marriage).
There is, however, one big difference between the Goldwater-Reagan insurgency and the situation today: the institutionalized Beltway Right, solidly entrenched after some thirty years with their snouts in the Washington D.C. trough.
One measure of this: TheStupidParty.Com, a recent hilarious article in Takimag by Ellison Lodge, analyzing the Republican National Committee's new website GOP.com. Lodge found a ridiculous Potemkin Village of diversity:
"The 'O' in GOP
page logo] gives
way to a picture of a smiling Republican face that
changes every time you refresh the site. Sometimes the
surfacing visages are 'heroes' [eighteen are
featured elsewhere on the site, only five white males]
and other times they are just random under-35
Republicans who are the New Face of the GOP. Get it?
There is even a GOP "faces" application on the site in
addition to a RNC Facebook page.
"In an unofficial study, I refreshed the site over and over to see what the hue of the face of GOP might be. There were not a large variety of faces, as many showed up four or even five times before I made it to 15 (excluding heroes.) According to my count, there were three black males, three black females, one Hispanic female, one Hispanic male, five white females (who, to their credit, were generally attractive), and a grand total of two white males.
"In contrast, when I went to the "GOP faces" section of the website, there were only four blacks, two people who may have been Hispanic, and 54 whites in the one page I looked at. But these faces were handpicked, of course. Continuing my next unscientific test, I went to the official RNC Facebook page and looked at the first sixty people who signed up as "fans" of the Republican National Committee: 58 were white, one was Hispanic, and one was Asian. None were black!
"That's the young Republican Party base of 2009."
Now doubt these Beltway Rightists are responding to some sort of perceived imperative. But who do they think they're fooling?
Not the GOP's conservative base. As Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg wrote of them in the study cited above, with obvious amazement:
"Conservative Republicans in our groups could not have been more negative in discussing their own party. They see the Republican Party as ineffective and rudderless, controlled by a class of political professionals who have lost touch with not only the people but the conservative values that should guide them."
This collision between the GOP's "class of political professionals" and its base has a seismic inevitability. But until and unless these "professionals" are overthrown, patriotic immigration reform—and much else besides—will continue to be suppressed.
Sounds like a recipe for a new party to me.
Peter Brimelow (email him) is editor of VDARE.COM and author of the much-denounced Alien Nation: Common Sense About America's Immigration Disaster, (Random House - 1995) and The Worm in the Apple (HarperCollins - 2003)