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What’s the Matter with Southern Whites?

Paul Krugman’s column today [1], once again, reveals much about how we elect politicians.  Today he focuses on the G.O.P.’s ultimately flawed strategy.  In short, he notes that the people who run the Republican party are concerned, above all, with making America safe for the rich.  The ability to maximize one’s personal wealth is of primary importance, everything else is secondary.  But the party leaders realized that this strategy alone would not win elections.

“Right-wing economic ideology has never been a vote-winner.  Instead, the party’s electoral strategy has depended largely on exploiting racial fear and animosity.”   ~Paul Krugman

These are the so-called wedge issues that republicans have required in order to win elections.  Welfare, immigration, guns, abortion, the “gay agenda,” etc.  Notice how each of these issues is especially targeted to southern whites.  Or as Krugman notes:

“And if you look at the political successes of the G.O.P. since it was taken over by movement conservatives, they had very little to do with public opposition to taxes, moral values, perceived strength on national security, or any of the other explanations offered.  To an almost embarrassing extent, they all come down to just five words: southern whites started voting Republican.

This explains why the modern Republican party is becoming a regional (southern) party.  The “haves” and the “have-mores” of the Republican party would like you to believe that they stand for smaller government, fiscal responsibility, and strong national defense.  It is factually obvious that modern-Republican rule leads to none of these things.  I wonder, then, how it must feel to be part of a “movement” that tempts our worst qualities and fears in order to get elected.  Looking at the current electoral map, it is easy to see that the stakes in our region are especially high.  Southern progressives have a special obligation to ensure that our message is heard.