Well, I’ve gotta hand it to Jake Knotts — he stood up as what he is and spared no words about it: He is a redneck. And he was right to be proud of the supposed ephithet. A farmer suntan is a mark of hard work, something of which a simple kind of man should be quietly proud. Or blusteringly proud, depending on his inclinations.
In saying that, he touched on something — a minor, side issue, really — I tried to explain in my column about why we VERY RELUCTANTLY endorsed him against Mark Sanford’s candidate in 2008. The decision nearly killed Cindi Scoppe from sheer mortification, but there was one silver lining in it for me: I had always felt a tiny bit of middle-class guilt over always being against the rednecks (on video poker, on the lottery, on the Flag, and so on), and sometimes doing it in a way that betrayed class snobbery on my part. I figured, endorse this rough, brutish son of the soil against the Club for Growth snobs just once, and for the next 20 years I wouldn’t have to feel that guilt again. Yes, I’m being a little facetious, but also a little bit serious.
Anyway, you can’t deny (unless you are a Republican Party functionary, in which case you will deny it most vehemently) the truth of what Jake said about the hypocrites of his party, who defend Nikki from his brutishness because she’s their gal, and their likely standard-bearer in the fall. Unlike Henry McMaster, Jake will not humbly join that train; he remains what he is, with all the good and bad that entails.
What is Jake right about?
He’s right when he says that if he’d only called Barack Obama a “raghead,” the Lexington County Republican Party would not have indignantly censured him and sought his resignation. Calling the president a “raghead” would be merely a comical slip, compared to the deliberate demonization of the president through such devices as Henry’s “Vultures” ad. If Jake had only been talking about Obama, it would merely have put him on the ragged edge of what is increasingly his party’s mainstream (as the mainstream is more and more infiltrated by Tea Party extremism). Oh, Carol Fowler would have fired off an indignant statement. The Black Caucus may have drafted a fiery resolution that would have died a lonely death on the House floor. But within the Republican Party, only a deafening silence. The righteous fury we’re hearing is coming from advocates for Katrina Shealy and Nikki Haley. It’s coming from the Sanford wing of the party, which is seeing the chance to achieve what it could not in eight years of holding the governor’s office — seize control of the party.
He’s ABSOLUTELY right when he alludes to the uncomfortable truth about the newly politically correct GOP. It deserves to be carved into granite somewhere over at the State House:
“If all of us rednecks leave the Republican Party, the party is going to have one hell of a void.”
Indeed. Where would the S.C. GOP be without rednecks? In the minority, that’s where. That’s assuming they went back to the Democratic Party where they came from.
I was just over at the State House myself, and fell into conversation with Dwight Drake, and I happened to ask him — now that he’s out of it — how he thinks Vincent-vs.-Nikki contest will shake out.
He said that of course one must start with the obvious — that this is a majority Republican state (actually, a plurality-Republican state, but why quibble?) … which caused me to interrupt him to say, “Which it wouldn’t be if all the rednecks left, as Jake said.” And he readily agreed.
Of course, he would agree, being a Democrat. But if Republicans were totally honest, they would agree, too. There is no question that the balance of power in the South shifted from the Democrats to the Republicans as Strom Thurmond and George Wallace led legions of rednecks to abandon the Democratic Party. No, not everyone who switched parties was a redneck; some were mere pragmatists who saw there was a heap of white people in their districts and if they wanted to be elected, they needed to go with the GOP. But that would not be the case if not for the rednecks. However much of the GOP vote may be thus described — 15 percent, 30 percent, whatever — it’s enough to mean there are more Republicans than Democrats.
And while your more high-minded sort of Republican — the kind who like to imagine themselves as the sort who 50 years ago would have been Republican, when in the South it was not much more than a debating society making up a demographic roughly the same size as the Unitarians (the kind who are feeling SO broad-minded because they may have a nonEuro, something that would excite relatively little comment among Dems) — may protest loudly at the notion, on some operational level, consciously or unconsciously, every Republican with the pragmatic sense to win a primary knows this. Occasionally we see overt manifestations of it, such as in 1994 when the GOP unashamedly boosted their primary turnout by including a mock “referendum” question on the Confederate flag. Or when, having taken over the House as a result of that election, the new majority made it one of its first orders of business to put the flying of the flag a matter of state law, so that no mere governor could take it down.
Lord knows that other pathetic gang the Democrats has enough to be embarrassed over, but this is the big dirty secret of the Republican Party. Huh. Some secret. Everybody knows it.
The Republican Party can talk all it wants to about conservatism and “small government,” yadda-yadda, but we all know that it has political control in these parts because of the rednecks in its ranks. That’s just the way it is.