Think of this as Volume 11, Number 15 of A-Clue.com, the online newsletter I’ve written since 1997. Enjoy.
White, black, brown, male, female, young, old — each tribe had its own look and its own outlook.
It’s tougher now. About the only black Republicans are on TV. Republicans are generally Euro-Americans, aged 30 and higher. They blend in. It’s only when they start talking that you detect the tribal differences.
Anthropologists had two ways to discern the tribal identity of Nixon-era Republicans, by where they sat and by what they obsessed over.
Where they were definitions include:
- Wall Street Republicans — Urban only if they had an apartment in New York itself (maybe Philly), otherwise strictly suburban or exurban. Their first concern is money, getting it, keeping it, getting more of it, keeping other people from getting any.
- Church Street Republicans — Usually found in megachurches or in front of their TV sets. Densest populations in the South and Southwest, but found in every state. Their first concern is morality, usually others, and using the power of the state to force that morality into a mold their preacher approves of.
- Easy Street Republicans — Mostly found in Florida, Arizona, and California, these are Wall Street Republicans who made their pile. Often found in motor homes, on golf courses, or on condo balconies.
- Talk Show Republicans — Often found in pick-up trucks on on job sites. They like them some Rush Limbaugh. Used to call themselves Reagan Democrats. Archie Bunker’s real kids. The kind of people other Republicans like to rob.
- Professional Republicans — Mostly found in Washington and its suburbs, or on TV. Professional greasemen (and women), sucking either at the government teat or those of other Republicans, mainly the Wall Street variety. Rush Limbaugh himself.
What they obsess over definitions include:
- Social issue Republicans — If you’ve got an anti-choice
bumper sticker on your car, or worry about gay people getting married,
you’re probably one of these.
- Neoconservative Republicans — If your top issue is Iraq, and you like what’s going on there now, you’re probably one of these.
- Financial issue Republicans — If you want to drown government in a bathtub, you may be one of these.
- Ideological Republicans — Once called Goldwater Republicans, or Buckley Republicans. True believers in principle. If you’ve got a Ron Paul bumper sticker, you’re one of these.
Of course there are many Republicans who don’t fit neatly into these
categories. Gun nuts, for whom Charlton Heston was a God. Libertarians,
who plaster the streets with Ron Paul stickers. Closeted Republicans,
not just gay ones but black ones, brown ones, racist ones and young
Anthropologists are aware that, due to intermarriage and talk radio,
many Republicans don’t fit neatly among these categories. (I’d call
these Tiger Woods Republicans but Republicans wouldn’t get the joke.)
Many gun nuts like Ron Paul. There are Church Street Republicans
worried about global warming or the plight of the poor. There are Wall
Street Republicans who are also pro-Israel Milleniallists. And so on.
But what distinguishes Republicans as a group, what has
distinguished them for the 150 years of the party’s life now, has been
their ultimate unity. When push comes to shove Republicans stay with
the team. They went down with Herbert Hoover’s ship together in 1932,
and with Barry Goldwater’s ship in 1964. This distinguishes them, in
mind and soul, from Democrats, who have always been ready to bolt,
whose identification with their tribe is more important than their
That’s why polls now show McCain doing well. Republicans know that,
whatever their tribal loyalty, they will in the end stay on side.
Democrats like to pretend they might not.
But don’t let this fool you. The real story of this decade lies in
how there are now so many more Democrats than there are Republicans.
This is true almost everywhere, except in the Deep South, where race is
such a dominant theme. Even in states like Georgia, however, the party
split is about 50-50.
Put it this way. You might be a redneck, but if you are one you might not be a Republican anymore.
When you push independents to choose sides, which is what election
campaigns are all about, Democrats win 3-2. This is a new phenomenon.
This hasn’t been the case since the High Roosevelt Thesis Era of the
early 1960s. For the first time in 40 years, Republicans are distinctly
the minority party.
But the media doesn’t know that. They see the party identification
numbers. They see the surveys showing that independents are even more
ardent supporters of Democratic causes than Democrats themselves are.
They choose to ignore it, because Republican campaigns for a generation
have gotten the knees to jerk at just the right time, and have fooled a
little more than half the people every four years.
Not this time.
Which means that after this election — and only after the election
because that’s how Republicans roll — you will see a tribal break-up.
Each group within the party will blame the others for their failures,
just as we saw last year in the Presidential primary, with Wall
Streeters for Giuliani, Church Streeters for Huckabee, and Easy
Streeters for Romney.
When they don’t have power to hold them together, the Republican
Party could atomize into its various tribes, practically disappearing
from the face of the Earth. The party which emerges will be quite
different from the party you see now, and will be built in reaction to
what Democrats do or don’t do once in power.
Eventually, years from now, anthropologists will identify all these
trends. Historians will claim to have seen the various Republican
tribes splitting up in 2007, and sociologists will study the way
various tribes either withdrew from politics altogether or adapted
themselves to a new reality in opposition.
But you know now.