The “Conservative Base” isn’t what you think it is. I keep hearing this phrase tossed about in the articles you’ve written, the radio reports you’ve aired, and the panels you’ve run on the morning shows. But you’ve seldom taken the time to define what the term means. I’ve had to work it out by inference and context.
Recently, MSNBC referred to the conservative base as “a shrinking group of mostly white, Christian voters.” The New York Times was plenty blunt about it as well: “it is no exaggeration to suggest that in these [southern] states the Democrats have become the party of African-Americans and that the Republicans are the party of whites.” And CNN has echoed the description of the conservative base as being “white evangelical and born again Christian voters.”
Less accountable “observers” of the Republican base have been more blunt. UCLA law professor Jonathan Zasloff recently referred to the Republican base as “old, angry, white Southern men with reactionary views on race.” And in the height of extremely bad taste, West View News went so far as to title an article with a racial epithet. In it they declare that the Conservative base has “for some six years been quietly angry that they must have in the White House a member of an inferior class of people.”
The only conclusion that can be drawn is that liberals are utterly convinced that the conservative base is a collection of bigots from the Midwest and South.
Unfortunately, this runs into a little problem. That problem is a man who goes by the name name “Dixon White.”
Dixon is about as stereotypical a white Southerner as you can get. He gleefully owns the appellate of “redneck,” loves his trucks, hunts, fishes, speaks in a drawl, and loves his southern cooking to excess. He also has racism in his gun sights, and probably has a far better understanding of it than most liberals I’ve talked to on the issue. Sitting in the cab of his F150 pickup, using the colorful language of the stereotypical redneck, he has straight up called out the systemic racism America is built upon.
(Warning: video contains some extreme language.)
“We live in a white supremacist culture that caters to white people. Everything from the media to education to art to culture to politics is whitewashed,” he points out, drawling the whole time. “We get certain privileges. We don’t get harassed by the police, okay? We’re not denied a house loan or denied to live in a neighborhood. We’re not uncomfortable living in rural America. I’m not uncomfortable living in rural America but I tell you what. A lot of black people are uncomfortable driving through where I live.”
But Dixon’s not just calling out systemic racism. He’s owning it. “Let’s knock this [expletive] supremacy out of our [expletive] country. So I’m just saying white America, wake up. Look in the [expletive] racial mirror, and look at what we have done, look at how we benefit, and let’s do something about it. Let’s speak up. Let’s vote. Let’s create some legislation and policies to fight against this [expletive]. Let’s make things fair and equal. Let’s take some responsibility.”
The candidates who are “pandering to the base” certainly seem to be thinking about this issue more than many are giving them credit for.
Senator Marco Rubio put together a bipartisan coalition to address immigration issues, a racially charged topic. Even as it slammed the door shut to illegal immigration, it also provided a greatly increased number of opportunities for legal entry and removed some of the stumbling blocks. His legislation passed with a bipartisan vote, revealing a broadly supported approach to immigration that took a “close the window and open the door” philosophy.
Former Governor Jeb Bush has directly connected poverty and racial disparities. He has also recognized that inequalities in educational opportunity link with both as well. Unlike many other politicians, on both sides of the aisle, he has even gone so far as to take real action on it even at the risk of facing criticism and controversy. Recognizing that racial quotas increased, rather than decreased, racial tensions without providing real, measurable benefit, he ended affirmative action in Florida’s universities. Since then, minority enrollments have risen, not dropped as liberals angrily predicted.
Then there is Dr. Ben Carson. It is possible that you can manage to sweep the fact that Rubio and Bush both have managed to straddle your targeted division of conservatism along racial lines. I also suppose you could kind of fake people out into forgetting the Hispanic heritages of candidates like Rubio and Ted Cruz. But good luck doing that with this highly educated and well-respected conservative with ancestry from Africa.
So, dear liberals, as we go into this next election cycle, please be very careful about how you are talking about the conservative base. By choosing to divide conservatives up along racial lines, and then accusing one of those subsets of being 1) racist and 2) THE base while simultaneously ignoring the conservatives that don’t fit in, you actually make it appear that it is, in fact, the liberals that have a (Dixon) White politics problem.