BY HOWARD BARBANEL
Most every Super Tuesday poll shows Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton marauding through the Old South like Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Sheridan in their scorched earth march to the sea.
To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, “the South is different from you and me.” It may be 151 years since Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox but the South still remains a vastly different place than most of the nation.
There is a bifurcated, bi-polar, segregated world down there notwithstanding the integration of African-Americans into the police forces and into governmental office. This segregation manifests itself not just culturally but especially politically. Blacks are nearly universally Democrats and a plurality if not a majority of whites in some states are heavily Republican.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton will do well in the South on Super Tuesday because a huge proportion of the Democratic electorate is African-American and Bernie Sanders just has no ground game with that group. Breakfast with Al Sharpton isn’t enough. The Clintons have been working the black vote for decades and Sanders, who is the darling of the Northeastern white intelligentsia is too much of an unknown to many of these voters. Black voters in the South are very clannish. Many black Southerners are more conservative than their northern counterparts and Sanders’ socialism is not necessarily an attraction there. Sanders’ Jewishness is also not an asset.
Albert Einstein famously said that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and African-Americans vote as a bloc in the South in reaction to many whites’ self-segregation into the GOP. To advance their interests in the region blacks vote en masse so they have political clout. Only a fellow black like Obama has been able to fracture that monolithic voting bloc.
It’s really only in the last 30 or so years that the Republican Party has been viable or visible in the states of the old Confederacy. Because it was Lincoln, Grant and the Republicans who brutally defeated their secessionist rebellion, white Southerners were religiously Democrats. Because of the subjugation of blacks for more than 100 years whites were able to concurrently be Democrats and conservatives and/or reactionary racists. They were called Dixiecrats and they wielded enormous influence in national politics until the 80s.
Because of voting rights for blacks, integration, desegregation and a general easing of conditions for African-Americans, the liberalism of the national Democratic Party was able to permeate the Democratic Party in Dixie which drove most conservative whites into the arms of the GOP who welcomed the opportunity to finally attain political power in the South and thereby expand their control nationally in the House and Senate.
It should be said that not all Southern Republicans are white and not all white Southern Republicans are racist bigots either overtly or subliminally but there is a large population of registered Republicans in the South who cling to the Confederate battle flag metaphorically if not physically. There is a sizable population there who are heavily xenophobic and who respond enthusiastically to notions of banning Hispanic and Moslem immigration entirely, who also don’t like liberals, who don’t like Catholics, Jews, Hispanics and who are so riled up about the mere existence of Barack Obama that they’ve channeled their rage into support of Donald Trump. Many of these folks are so angry that they’d like to smack someone upside the head. Trump, through his vulgar bellicosity allows them the vicarious ability to do just that. Trump’s evasion of unambiguously condemning and repudiating David Duke and the KKK is a subtle signal to these voters that The Donald shares your anger.
This is why despite all logic which clearly proves that Trump is not really a conservative and despite his flip-flopping on the issues, despite his not releasing his income taxes, his support of liberal positions that Trump is handily leading all the GOP polls in the South. Marco Rubio in the minds of many of these voters might just as well be Barack Obama – a guy with a funny ethnic name who’s Catholic to boot. It doesn’t matter what Rubio actually says or stands for. Ted Cruz, with the exception of Texas (his home state) is not viewed far behind Rubio in the mindset of these types of people. This group comprises probably 35 to 45 percent of the Southern GOP electorate, but with a fractured field comprised of Rubio, Cruz, and the continued windmill-tilting campaigns of Dr. Ben Carson and Governor John Kasich it’s enough to hand big victories to Trump. At the very least, Carson and Kasich should have dropped out prior to Super Tuesday to enable either Cruz or Rubio to emerge as a counter-weight to Trump, but the incredible hubris of all these candidates is still preventing the coalescence of the Republican majority to credibly oppose and stop Trump.
The last stand for both mainstream and conservative Republicans after many Trump victories in the South on Super Tuesday will be the various primaries and caucuses between March 5th and March 15th where 356 delegates are up for grabs and in the second Super Tuesday primaries on March 15th in six big states like Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio. Beyond March 15th are huge states like New York on April 19th and Pennsylvania on April 26th
The only way to stop Trump from attaining the nomination after March 1st will be for three of the remaining non-Trump candidates to drop out and throw their support behind one guy who can marshal the anti-Trump vote and galvanize rational GOP voters. This can be done but it will require a lot of candidate ego sublimation to salvage the Republican Party and their chances in November. As in some of the Star Trek movies, Mr. Spock says “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or of the one,” the needs of the many are to stop Trump and the Republican Party needs some self-sacrifice on the part of Carson, Kasich and either Cruz or Rubio. And they need it now.