I’m proud for Valerie whenever she gets a front-page byline at the WSJ, and I’m almost as proud for Thomas for being honored with one of those patented line drawings of his very own mug. Here’s hoping you can actually link to it. (Unless you’re a subscriber, you probably can’t, but don’t whine to me; I don’t run the WSJ.)
Anyway, as a recounting of the Ravenel saga to folks elsewhere who don’t know about it, the story’s fine. Trouble is, the WSJ is big-time, and editors there don’t put you on the front page if all you’ve got is an interesting story about what’s going on back in South Carolina. No, you’ve got to stick in some stuff about Vitter, and Gov. Perdue, make it look like a regional story, which makes it almost as important as something going on in New York. And then it has to have a nut graf. All God’s stories got to have a nut graf, or else they’re never, ever going onto the front page of a self-respecting newspaper like the WSJ.
And that’s where I have to quibble. Trouble is, the Ravenel tale doesn’t have a nut graf, in WSJ terms. So when you force one onto it, it sounds kind of funky. Here’s the one on Valerie’s story:
The indictment is just one of the political headaches across the South that are making Republicans look more vulnerable than they have in years to losing ground in the region’s legislatures and statehouses. Though there isn’t any sign of them losing their dominance in the region, the once-formidable "Solid South" coalitions they forged in the 1980s and 1990s to end a century of Democratic dominion have given way to messy schisms and infighting. Today, they look a lot like the bitterly divided Democrats of three decades ago.
Well, OK, yeah — in the sense that it’s pretty much the same people, or their kids, or the people they would have been today (however you want to look at it). In the South, the GOP is the White Man’s Party. Everybody knows that. And white guys used to run the Democratic Party, because it was the only party around, and white guys ran everything there was.
Add to that the fact that historically, there hasn’t been much of a gender gap in the South Carolina electorate (compared to nationally), and you get a situation in which most voters (since more than two-thirds of the voters are white) identify themselves as Republican — that is, among voters who identify themselves with a party.
Majority parties (and by the way, Republicans are not an actual majority of the electorate, but just a plurality, but that tends to work much the same) tend not to be monolithic. The Democratic Party wasn’t, and isn’t. Nor is the GOP, now that’s it’s no longer a bunch of ideologues satisfied to be in the minority, so long as they’re "right" as they define "right." (You know, like the Libertarian Party today.) So you get "messy schisms and infighting," but that’s not newsworthy. That’s life. Actually, it’s probably more likely to be par for the course in a party that party as white as the GOP.
After 53 years of life, I’ve learned that white guys tend to have one thing in common: They don’t see themselves as having anything in common. They don’t see being white guys as a cause per se. They certainly don’t feel any particular loyalty to other white guys because they are white guys; nor do they feel any particular reason to agree with other white guys because they are white guys. In fact, one reason they probably aren’t Democrats is because they’re put off by Identity Politics; it’s not their thing. They don’t get it. This is one of the things that makes some Republicans sound so racist or sexist. (You know how they’re always griping about black people talking about race, or women talking about gender. Feminists say they "just don’t get it," and that’s true, because women know from white guys. Of course, some of them ARE racist and sexist, but a lot of it is just being cursed with a White Guy cognitive style.)
So basically, if you’re a white guy in the White Man’s Party and your name is, say Thomas Ravenel (or Mark Sanford or Lindsey Graham or any other name you care to pick out of the air), you’re kidding yourself if you think the other white guys in the party are going to agree with you or stick up for you just because you’re one of them. Once enough of these chaps get together to form a majority, look for lots of messy schisms. And infighting.
So it’s not news. And it certainly doesn’t mean the GOP in S.C. is going the way of the Democratic Party of 30 years ago — that is to say, out of power. No party is going the way of the Democratic Party of 30 (or perhaps we should say 40, or 50, years ago, to take us to the days when a South Carolinian was about as likely to be a Republican as he was a Buddhist) years ago, because that only happens if there is only one party.
Of course, come to think of it, the White Guys in the Republican Party mostly think that theirs IS the only party, in that they’d rather open a main vein than be a Democrat, but we’re quibbling here with our own quibbling…
Anyway, Valerie knows what she’s about, so she sets things right by the end of the story. Mind you, the nut graf didn’t say the GOP was actually in trouble in the South (as much as I may wish it, and all other parties, were about to be Gone With The Wind). But if not to suggest that, why have a nut graf? Cause all God’s stories got to have a nut graf, fool, which takes us back to where we were, which was where?
Oh, yeah. Valerie makes it all right in the end, correcting any misconceptions you may have inadvertently formed as a result of reading the nut graf. And for those of you who think party means anything, she introduced a delicious irony by having Don Fowler debunk your worries about the GOP:
The Republican turmoil has raised some Democratic
hopes that parts of the South may no longer be as lockstep in support
of the Republican Party. But Donald L. Fowler, a former chairman of the
Democratic National Committee and the husband of Carol Khare Fowler,
South Carolina’s Democratic Party chairwoman, cautions that Republican
fatigue doesn’t yet necessarily portend broad Democratic comebacks,
particularly in South Carolina.
He says it would require a major demographic shift,
such as an influx of people from other parts of the country, and a
major economic change, such as a depression, to change the landscape.
"At least where we are now, Democrats don’t have the
wherewithal to take advantage of the split in the Republican Party,"
Mr. Fowler said.
I like the standard Mr. Fowler set, because it was hyperbolic while being no exaggeration — saying that it would take a change such as, say "a depression" for Dems to be able to take decisive advantage of this "schism." That’s cool because that sums up Southern politics so beautifully: hyperbolic, without being an exaggeration.