Another Media Double Standard: Only Republicans can Nominate Candidates From Their Home Region

OK so the doctrine of preemption didn’t work in Iraq, but I bet it’ll work here. Whether the nominee is Kerry or anybody from the Northeast, I guarantee you’ll hear media pundits (and not just the Rush Limbaughs of the world) say the following: A northeastern Democrat can’t win. Should Republicans nominate a southerner or another Goldwater (i.e. a westerner with strong southern sympathies) the reaction of most media folks will be… silence.

Why can’t Dems nominate somebody from their base region? Republicans have only been doing it since the Civil War for chrissake. Don’t believe me, well consider this.

From 1860 to 1960 the Republican base was loosely outside the South (Confederacy plus Kentucky and Oklahoma) and was especially strong in the Midwest. Beginning with Lincoln’s nomination in 1860, the GOP’s modus operandi was to nominate a Midwesterner (even though the Northeast was considered the swing region of the country). Except for James Blaine of Maine in 1884 every single nominee of the Republican party for president from 1860 to 1904 was a Midwesterner. Of course Chester Arthur and Teddy Roosevelt hailed from New York, but they only became president as a result of assassinations of Midwestern presidents(Garfield and McKinley).

After TR was re-nominated in 1904, the Republicans resumed their Midwest nominees. From 1908-1956, all GOP nominees for president were Midwesterners save for Charles Evan Hughes in 1916 and Thomas Dewey in 1944 and 1948 (all three candidacies lost).

From 1960-1992 Republicans nominated Westerners with strong southern sympathies. This is not surprising, as the base of the GOP was shifting (or shifted) to the West and especially the South. Even in 1960, let alone 1968 and 1972, Nixon was a westerner with southern sympathies (witness his refusal to get involved in bailing Martin Luther King Jr. out from jail, or even criticize King begin sentenced to four months hard labor in Ga. for a traffic violation). Barry Goldwater strategically voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964-and barely won his homestate of Arizona but did win 6 Deep South states. And that was all he won period.

Ronald Reagan was a Californian who opposed all the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s, began his fall campaign in 1980 in the same Mississippi county of Neshoba where Goodman, Cheney, and Shwerner had been butchered by the Klan, and campaigned heavily in the South throughout 1980. In his failed attempt to win the GOP nomination in 1976 Reagan won more primaries in the South than any other region of the country. (Note: the Congressmen who invited Reagan to Neshoba might be familiar. Does the name Trent Lott ring a bell?)

Consider also the two exceptions to the trend: George Bush Sr. was a Northeasterner with deep southern sympathies (and only got the nomination because he was the vice-president of a westerner with deep southern sympathies). Gerald Ford only got the nomination in1976 because of Watergate, was a Midwesterner without discernible sympathies for the South-and became the only post-1964 Republican to lose the southern popular vote (though he did win the southern white vote despite running against white southerner Jimmy Carter).

After a failed attempt to turn back the clock to “the Midwest is the GOP base” days (by nominating Bob Dole) the GOP realized it’s roots were not only not in the Midwest, not even in the West but in the South-and acted accordingly in 2000 by nominating a southerner.

With the disaster of 2006, Republicans (at least for now) seem to want to try the “Westerner with Deep Southern Sympathies” act again. There is a western candidate who incidentally supports privatization of Social Security, hates unions and trial lawyers, supports building the “Star Wars” missile defense (which didn’t help us at all on 9/11) , wants to increase the number of troops in Iraq, voted to make Bush’s tax cuts permanent, calls himself a conservative Republican, wants Roe v. Wade overturned, has voted against raising the minimum wage, and also (like Jesse Helms) voted against making Dr. King’s birthday a national holiday. His name? John McCain.

So if the GOP can nominate folks who are from the GOP base region (wherever that is) or nominate someone with strong ideological and personal sympathies from that region, why can’t Democrats do the same?

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About Nick

Teacher of Social Studies. Born in the 1970s. History major, music minor. Big Baseball fan. Economic progressive.
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