Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Chris Christie’s Tea-Party Problem. By Richard Cohen.

Chris Christie’s Tea-Party Problem. By Richard Cohen. Real Clear Politics, November 12, 2013. Also at the Washington Post.

Conservative Republicans Recoil at the Notion That Christie Is the Party’s Savior. By Jonathan Martin. New York Times, November 10, 2013.

Who’s Still Afraid of Interracial Marriage. By Jelani Cobb. The New Yorker, November 13, 2013.

More Dumb Stuff Richard Cohen Says. By Elon James White. The Root, November 12, 2013.

Merle Haggard: Are the Good Times Really Over? Video. ALLEN0955, August 26, 2008. YouTube. Song is from 1983.


Iowa not only is a serious obstacle for Christie and other Republican moderates, it also suggests something more ominous: the Dixiecrats of old. Officially the States’ Rights Democratic Party, they were breakaway Democrats whose primary issue was racial segregation. In its cause, they ran their own presidential candidate, Strom Thurmond, and almost cost Harry Truman the 1948 election. They didn’t care. Their objective was not to win — although that would have been nice — but to retain institutional, legal racism. They saw a way of life under attack and they feared its loss.
Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.
As with the Dixiecrats, the fight is not over a particular program — although Obamacare comes close — but about a tectonic shift of attitudes. I thank Dennis J. Goldford, professor of politics and international relations at Drake University in Des Moines, for leading me to a live performance on YouTube of Merle Haggard singing “Are the Good Times Really Over.” This chestnut, a lament for a lost America, has been viewed well more than 2million times. It could be the tea partys anthem.
For all his positions and religious beliefs, Christie is too Joisey for the tea party — too brash, as well. He would be wise to steer clear of Iowa lest he lose or, worse, follow Romney and take on the deeply conservative coloration of the state’s GOP. That might make him (barely) acceptable to Republican Iowans but anathema to the rest of us.