REPUBLICANISM GOES BACK TO THE COUNTRY CLUB BY ABANDONING THE FLAG | 2000-05-13
Back in 1962, I was the first chairman of the Richland County Young Republicans. Lake High and I were Goldwater Republicans. The Republican Party had elected its first two Republican state legislators since Reconstruction in off elections that year.
The Kennedy Administration had sent federal troops into Mississippi to integrate the University of Mississippi. The 101st Airborne Division was in occupation of the town of Oxford. But the Republican Party of South Carolina didn't want to talk about that. It might sound unrespectable.
They could have won if they had done what Barry Goldwater did, and screamed the outrage of a people invaded by a Democratic Administration. Goldwater pointed out something Boston would find out some years later. He said the North should not cheer too loudly, because if Federal force could be used to push Social Progress in the South, it could be used everywhere else in the United States.
His prediction has come true again, and again and again, in every area of American life.
So while our region was actually being invaded, what did the Republican Party talk about in its campaigns for a United States Senate seat and a seat in the US House from our state? They talked about "fiscal responsibility."
Lake and I kept trying to persuade these dolts that, if all they talked about was "fiscal responsibility," they would lose all the working class white vote we could have gotten. Just as we predicted, South Carolina Republicans lost everything in 1962. Not only did they lose the House and Senate seats, they even lost the two state house seats they had won before.
But they were respectable. As good Republicans, they had put the conservative cause back by years, but that was of no importance to them at all. They had kept the South Carolina Republican Party respectable for the country club set. The Chamber of Commerce was very happy with them.
It would be many years before the Republican Party would address the traditionalist vote and get the white working class vote, the votes we now call Reagan Democrats. From 1962 to 1980, when they finally really went after those issues, we may have lost America irretrievably. I spent all those years fighting to make this transition.
And what was our reward for losing America? Republican respectability.
Now it's back.
David Beasley has stated nationally that he lost his governorship by switching sides on the Confederate flag in South Carolina. Here was a losing strategy, and there is nothing that respectable conservatives go for more hungrily than something that is bound to lose. So they smacked their traditionalist constituency in the teeth in 2000 on the flag, exactly as they did in 1962 on Mississippi.
Only the Chamber of Commerce and liberal opinion matters. To hell with the base vote of working whites and people who see themselves as Southerners, not as mere economic conservatives.
Respectable conservatives have no memory. They think they are doing something new. But for someone who has a political memory, they are doing the same old disastrous thing one more time.