At Takimag, Jack Hunter and Dylan Hales are arguing that the Ron Paul model (anti-state rhetoric), as opposed to the Buchanan model (fighting the culture war), has the potential to “build the broadest coalitions” and “bear the most fruit in advancing Alt Right policies.” Apparently, this was a topic of considerable debate at the H.L. Mencken Club conference over the Halloween weekend.
Put me firmly in the Buchanan camp. This one is a no brainer. I voted for Ron Paul in the 2008 Republican primaries, but his campaign was an electoral fiasco. Although he raised millions of dollars over the internet, Paul didn’t win a single state. In contrast, Mike Huckabee won Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Iowa, West Virginia, and Kansas. If Fred Thompson wasn’t in the race, Huckabee would have won South Carolina. He got 41% of the vote in Virginia, 38% in Texas, 12.5% in Mississippi, 12.1% in North Carolina, 8.25% in Kentucky.
Huckabee’s paltry showing in the last five Southern states wasn’t representative of his actual support. McCain had already been crowned by the media as the inevitable nominee after his wins in South Carolina and Florida and his Super Tuesday victories in the North. If Huckabee had won in South Carolina, which he lost only because of Thompson, he would have had the momentum to rout McCain in the other Southern states where he was the favorite.
Huckster presented himself as the “values candidate.” He was the “cultural conservative” in the race. McCain was the hawkish, “tough on defense,” 9/11 conservative. Romney was the fiscal conservative businessman. Guiliani was the social liberal. Fred Thompson aspired to be the Southern candidate. Tancredo and Hunter divided the “seal the borders” constituency. Ron Paul was the anti-state, bring home the troops, “End the Fed” libertarian ideologue.
The only reason Ron Paul succeeded to the extent that he did is because he was the candidate of a broader populist coalition that swelled his support beyond his traditional libertarian base. Paleocons and White Nationalists (myself included) overwhelmingly supported his candidacy. Unfortunately, Paul was never able to gain traction on the issues that would have propelled his candidacy to victory. He spent far more time talking about monetary policy than immigration, identity, or abortion.
I still vividly remember the Huckabee campaign in Alabama. Huckster’s message was simple: “I am one of you. These other guys are not.” It was pure identity politics. It was over-the-top “implicit whiteness.” He played Sweet Home Alabama on his guitar and spoke with a Southern accent. He had BBQ and sweet tea at his events (almost exclusively crowds of White people). He exuded a friendly, small town, down home, soft spoken aura. Huckster vowed to fight the culture war on abortion and other issues. He even signed the Jeff Sessions/NumbersUSA immigration pledge before campaigning in the South. I was highly tempted to vote for him after that.
Ron Paul raised $34.5 million dollars. Huckabee only raised $16.1 million. Yet Mike Huckabee handily stomped Ron Paul in every Southern state. What’s even more telling is that Huckster, not McCain, was the Southern favorite. If White Southerners are all “Red State Fascists,” as Lew Rockwell claims, why were they so reticent about backing the McCain campaign? Even after Super Tuesday, Huck made a respectable showing in Virginia and Texas.
Huckabee was tarred and feathered as the “big government” candidate on FreeRepublic.com and other conservative websites for his deviations on trade policy. The pro-business GOP establishment relentlessly mocked him. They wanted a Romney vs. McCain primary. Huckster’s supporters were irate at the time and vowed not to support McCain in the general election. I suspect this played no small role in McCain going down in flames in Ohio, Iowa, Virginia, Florida, Indiana, and North Carolina where White evangelicals are a significant portion of voters.
The 2008 Republican primaries clearly show that White Southerners care more about fighting the culture war at home than foreign policy or the relative size of government. Ron Paul’s anti-state rhetoric has far more appeal in the small Mountain West states like Montana and Wyoming than it does here. The majority of Whites dislike affirmative action. It is a winning issue in Blue States like California, Michigan, and Washington. Enforcing immigration laws is highly popular nationally. Most Alabamians prefer to deport all illegal aliens.
Where is the constituency for abolishing the Federal Reserve? Americans haven’t been highly motivated about monetary policy since the “Cross of Gold” days when the Populists fought against the gold standard. Cultural issues are passé for the GOP establishment, but not for the typical Republican voter, especially White Southerners. It is only media mavens who claim the culture wars are over. Gay marriage was defeated in Maine – that’s right, Maine – just the other day.
The Alternative Right would be foolish to swallow Ron Paul’s libertarian kool aid. It was a disaster in 2008. Paul significantly underperformed winning issues – bringing the troops home, ending abortion, enforcing immigration laws, abolishing affirmative action. He talked endlessly about libertarian abstractions – and lost. In contrast, winners like Huckabee and Obama appealed to the identities of their voters.
Obama was the black candidate to blacks, the non-White candidate to Hispanics and Asians, the post-Christian, interfaith candidate to Jews, and the postracial SWPL candidate to White liberals. He built a winning coalition out of cult-like following and identity politics. A successful Alternative Right candidate will have to mobilize the “implicit whiteness” of MARs voters. Ron Paul wasn’t able to do this. Mike Huckabee had a lot more success.
There is nothing wrong with the Pat Buchanan approach. He just had the misfortune of running twenty years too early when the damage done to America by free trade, imperialism, and third world immigration was still theoretical.