This column is my attempt explain how our emotions, versus voting for our economic benefit, influences our vote. Some emotional voting happens in both political parties, but the Republican Party’s Southern Strategy is built totally around it. The core Republicans, before Nixon, were, for the most part, the well-off business interests. Their platform pushed subsidies for corporations, reduced regulations, and they supported the removal of business restrictions which hindered them from making money.
But today millions more are voting Republican, and they aren’t voting their pocketbook. So why are they voting Republican? Actually, it’s fairly simple. These voters consider the emotional issues to be more important than the economic issues. A big percentage of these voters are evangelicals and southern, and to understand these voters, we need to look back at the generation who grew up in the 50s and 60s.
It was a time in the South where courthouse “colored only” water fountains were still in use. In schools, when students studied the Civil War and the teacher talked about how the Southern Troops routed the Yankees at Bull Run, the class clapped, and later, at the U of A, when the band played Dixie, we stood and yelled, but we weren’t yelling for the Hogs, we were yelling and standing because we were Southerners. Almost from birth white Southerners, from the time of the Civil War to the 1970s, were immersed in prejudice against Blacks, and a romanticized version of the Civil War. If you grew up in the South during the 50 years before 1975, you received a dose of prejudice and southernized Civil War constantly, and if you are alive today, some of that southern core emotion is still in the recesses of your mind. That’s a bitter pill to swallow, but all white Southerners from that era have been subject to so much prejudice and a false view of Civil War history during their early life that it remains embedded in our emotions. We can’t completely get rid of it, and that’s because of the deep love Southerners have for the South.
The core Republican Party operatives understand the basic premises I have just outlined, and that is, we white Southerners not only love the South, but we still have strong emotional ties to the past, and those ties override pocketbook voting. Our emotions are powerful enough to convince millions of us Southerners to ignore the loss of entitlements and to push aside the thoughts that the President’s tax cuts heavily favored big business, and vote Republican. We aren’t racist, and we would be incensed if you accused us of voting out of deep seated racism, because we aren’t racist by any stretch of the imagination. It’s our emotions that directs our vote.
The President is a native New Yorker, and he was a businessman before he became president. On the abortion issue, he is on record as being pro-choice. Today, he is anti-abortion, and this native New Yorker is against removing Confederate Monuments, against renaming military bases named for Confederate Generals, and he’s for flying the Confederate Battle Flag. That’s strange coming from a native New Yorker, but it fits right into emotional voting. Surely you don’t think this native New Yorker believes any of that stuff.
The President says he is anti-abortion, but according to the President’s latest appointments to the Supreme Court, in congressional hearings, these men and possibly even the woman under consideration strongly indicate abortion law is “Settled Law” and most scholars are predicting abortion won’t even be considered by the court. The Court has had a majority of Republican appointees for years, and Roe vs Wade is still unchanged. The primary reason Roe vs Wade won’t be struck down is totally political. A wave of anti-Republican, pro-choice women would make that vote political suicide. If we use an anti-abortion emotion to justify our vote, when in reality we know abortion is never going to be forbidden, our southern emotions are directing our vote.
Yes, we’re being taken advantage of by the established core of the Republican Party, and this is why: The present Republican Administration has awarded their wealthy core supporters and big business with an unbelievable fortune. Here are just a few items: a whopping tax cut; the administration dropped out of the Paris Global Warming agreement; environmental regulations have been stripped out; the Clean Water Act has been cut back; drilling will soon take place in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge; the Endangered Species Act has been gutted; controlling emissions from coal burning plants has been reversed; land in National Forest and National Monuments’ acreage has been reduced; and bills are advancing to allow most clear cutting in National Forests without public hearing. Every one of those items has been done with one thing in mind, and that is to allow the wealthy and big business to make billions upon billions of dollars.
Okay, how did we Southerners come out? Well, with $4.25, it will get us a cup of coffee. Are they calling us dumb because our emotions are overriding our best economic interest? Yes, the core elite of the Republican Party are laughing at white evangelicals and white Southerners, just as the president said, when he fired his head of the Justice Department, who was from Georgia: “Just another dumb Southerner.” Do you like being laughed at?
Is the President pandering to evangelicals part of the Southern Strategy? Recently, he had a photo op standing in front of a church holding up a Bible. A reporter asked, “Mr. President, is that your Bible?” The President answered, “It’s a Bible.” Does the President not even own a Bible? You might ask, “Do you think the President, who may not even own a Bible and just plays golf on Sunday, is pandering to evangelicals?” My answer is, I think he is just as sincere as he is about protecting Confederate monuments.
I guess what it boils down to is: yes, most of us know we’re being lied to, but at least we’re not being ignored, and even with all the dark Southern history, anything that reflects our Southern ties and recalls our love for the South is better than nothing. That is sad… but true.
Now, let me give you some background on some of my past voting. My first vote was for Richard Nixon, and in recent primary elections in the city and state, I have regularly voted for some Republicans, and as I review the candidates in the forthcoming election, I note several Republicans that I am going to vote for. However, in this coming election for President, I am going to vote for the Democrat nominee because the Republican Southern Strategy is trying to take advantage of our past emotions. That’s right, and if you think the Civil War monuments, military bases, the Confederate Battle Flag, religion, and abortion aren’t being used to pander to the South, you need a reality check. We’re being thrown a bone, and it’s a dirty, worthless bone.
We’re being had! When it comes right down to why I’m not voting to re-elect the president, it boils down to this: I don’t like to be called dumb, and I don’t like being lied to.
Richard Mason is a registered professional geologist, downtown developer, former chairman of the Department of Environmental Quality Board of Commissioners, past president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, and syndicated columnist. Email [email protected]