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October 27, 2006

The Senate Race in Tennessee: "How would Jesus vote?"

Before getting knee-deep into private practice, WAC? worked twice--on both Senate and House sides for, respectively, a 'D' and then an 'R'--at the U.S. Congress, and this consumed 3.5 years. Despite this, I still like national politics, and have been in and out of it on some level, usually fundraising, usually for 'D's, ever since. (Wes Clark was my last gig). Like other baby boomers, I came of age as Republicans learned how to run and win elections, which really just happened a little more than 25 years ago. I even sat in, as a young associate lawyer on the clock for a firm client, on a string of "strategy" meetings conducted by the late Lee Atwater, the infamous GOP consultant, after I had left Capitol Hill. I remember feeling like a spy.

Today, I am still amazed that over the past 25 years Karl Rove and other real, hard-core infrastructure Republicans out of the Reagan era before Rove, a talented but flat-out mean and extremely exclusive lot who most Americans never meet, could dupe millions of the now "new" rank-and-file middle-class Republicans in the South, West, Midwest, and even working-class parts of the Northeast--voters they don't personally like, care about or would ever have coffee with--into voting Republican in the first place. Yes, it amazes me.

I don't hate Republicans. I grew up in serious 'R' country, and I vote 'R' a lot. And I am a lawyer, one who writes about meeting higher standards; competence, even when evil, thrills us all. The Lee Atwaters and Karl Roves have been very effective--and Democrats have spent years wondering what hit them in a mix of alarm and envy. 'R's learned how to recruit big-time business and legal talent. 'D's, with their "big tent", have seemed repeatedly like world-class screw-ups, even during the Clinton years. The last time "competence" was closely associated with a Democratic presidential campaign was in Teddy White's book The Making of a President, on the 1960 Kennedy victory.

But I am even more amazed that many middle-class Southerners who are "religious" (of any race) ever vote Republican, or that they even exist in great numbers. Reagan Republicanism is at heart a Yankee-Northeast/Orange County, California invention for (1) the wealthy (let's not define that--but I am thinking $2 million minimum net worth) who vote their pocket books (that's perfectly rational) or for (2) the limited number of true believers who really do believe in non-activist government (that constituency makes sense, too). There are people of true faith in any religion, and other spiritual beings; they quietly inspire, and we seem intuitively to know them when they're around us a while. But you don't meet that many. I know and like lots of genuine Republicans in several states, Southerners included, and hardly any of them, except for a zealot or morally pretentious jackass here and there, claim to be particularly devout, observant or religious. Some of my best friends, and nearly all of our firm's clients (i.e., the client GCs and reps), are sane 'R's.

You can't tell anyone how to vote. But naturally-occurring religious Republican Southerners? Who are these guys? I travel, and I'm not running into them. But maybe I am dead wrong about their very existence. See Salon's article "How Would Jesus Vote?", focusing on the "church-vote" component of the campaign of Democrat Harold Ford Jr., who is black, in the Tennessee Senate race, and how Ford may pick up a few of those coveted 'R' church votes. This grabbed me. Maybe white 'R's are in those pews--and Democrat Ford, with a Bush-Republican Congress backlash going for him, has a shot at those voters.

Posted by JD Hull at October 27, 2006 11:56 PM

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