Democrats “Gingrich-Bush” Shield No Longer A Factor In Northeast

Ross Douthat comments on Steve Kornacki’s contention that:

… the rise of southern/religious-based conservatism in 1994 — when Newt Gingrich and the GOP won control of Congress — triggered an immediate and enduring cultural backlash among swing voters in places like Massachusetts. Before ‘94, they still saw the GOP (generally) as a big tent party with room for moderate/social libertarian-types. But ‘94 disabused them of that notion and they stopped even listening to Republican candidates.

As Douthat explains, Kornacki dubs this the Gingrich-Bush shield, which, contra what you may initially think, protected Democrats in the northeast. Douthat observes:

Now, of course, both Bush and Gingrich are gone, taking the shield with them, and suddenly northeastern swing voters are willing to consider “voting for a Republican candidate as a way of expressing frustration with the ruling Democrats.” Thus Chris Christie in New Jersey; thus Scott Brown in Massachusetts; thus Pat Toomey’s small lead in the Pennsylvania polls.
Whether this Northeastern G.O.P. surge can be sustained will depend on a host of factors — but Kornacki’s right, I think, to imply that it will depend on whether the Republican Party can find leaders, for 2012 and beyond, who don’t make the party seem too Southern. On this front, though, I think that style and symbolism probably matter more than substance….What turns off Northeasterners, as Caldwell suggested a decade ago, is less a specific issue like abortion than “the broader cultural claims of those who put it forward” — the sense, that is, that a vote for the G.O.P. is a vote for the habits and mores of Alabama or Mississippi (or a caricature thereof), complete with guns in the cupboard and creationism in the schools….
But if you’re trying to be a national political party, you want your leadership to fall relatively close to the American mean culturally, even (or especially) if you’re going to govern from the right or left politically. That means that…if I were a Republican politician from New England, New Jersey or New York, I’d be hoping that the G.O.P. nominates a Mitch Daniels or a Tim Pawlenty in 2012 — so that Yankee voters can pull the “Republican” lever without worrying that they’re casting a vote for the Old Confederacy along the way.

Based on conversations I’ve had over the last decade with conservative-leaning independents who used to be Republicans, it always seems to boil down to this. It seems silly, but there it is. And, for most of ’em, the same attitude extends to Sarah Palin.

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Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
12 years ago

I drove past a polling place in Attleboro today and noted that there were numerous Brown people holding signs. There were no obvious Coakly supporters.
Perhaps the bloom is opff the rose.

12 years ago

Gingrich pioneered a denial of adultery that some observers would later christen “the Newt Defense”: Oral sex doesn’t count. In a revealing psychological portrait of the “inner” Gingrich that appeared in Vanity Fair (September 1995), Gail Sheehy uncovered a woman, Anne Manning, who had an affair in Washington in 1977 with a MARRIED Gingrich. “We had oral sex,” Manning revealed. “He prefers that modus operandi because then he can say, ‘I NEVER slept with her.'” She added that Gingrich threatened her: “If you ever tell anybody about this, I’ll say you’re lying.” Manning was then married to a professor at West Georgia, the backwater college where Gingrich taught. “I don’t claim to be an angel,” she told Sheehy, but “he’s morally dishonest.” Gingrich refused to comment on Manning’s charges, though he has admitted sexual indiscretions during his first marriage — hey, it was the ’70s, man! But Newt’s oral sex denial proved embarrassing at a time when he was the secular leader of the “family values” crowd, appearing frequently at Christian Coalition gatherings. During Gingrich’s 1995 summer book tour, when he was testing the waters for a presidential bid, demonstrators hounded him about his oral sex hypocrisy. when the speaker appeared at a book signing in Los Angeles and was confronted by a man waving a Bible and shouting, “I want to know here where it says that oral sex doesn’t count as adultery.” The gentleman was hustled out of the bookstore by the Secret Service before Gingrich could answer his theological question. I was shocked to read that Clinton was supposedly considering the Newt Defense in the Lewinsky affair and relieved when he came clean, more or less. Anyone who considers oral sex not to be “sexual relations” is either doing it wrong or is a politician. So don’t… Read more »

12 years ago

It’s good to see the nation GOP recognize the Northeast for the first time since the wide-eyed Southern boys bumrushed John Chafee out of the leadership 15 years ago.

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