Sunday, March 06, 2016

Paleo-Democrats and Republicans

I like Jim Webb and understand he'd vote for Trump, not Hillary Clinton. Why on earth is he a Democrat?
Webb was a Republican who switched sides in protest of the Iraq War.
In his good book Born Fighting which is about the folkways and political history of the American Scots-Irish, he talks about the tectonic shift in voting habits from Democrat to Republican between 1964 and 1980.

It's clear he is a natural Blue Dog who can't figure out which party to be in since the Yankees took over the Democrats. I.e., a Paleo-Democrat, part of the same (sometimes uneasy) Democrat coalition my northern, ghetto-dwelling Irish Catholic grandparents were part of.
Right; most Americans don't remember that the Democrats and Republicans weren't always America's liberal and conservative parties, our Labour and Tories, respectively. Some remember that Southern Democrats like Webb were socially conservative before the Sixties. And a '50s liberal isn't the same as a Sixties and post-Sixties one. Blue Dogs, Reagan Democrats, and Philly Rizzocrats (when the great man died I went to the viewing and shook hands with his brother and son) were SOCIAL conservatives, such as religious Catholics before Vatican II, and ECONOMICALLY slightly left-wing (the story of immigrants and unions, built on Catholic communitarianism), patriotic, grateful that this country was a great new home, and very anti-Communist. The kind of person the Sixties turned on with a vengeance, creating the Archie Bunker character to make fun of him. (Actually Archie sounds like a worldly-wise folk hero; the show's hippiefied young people sound naive and dated.) Think of a civic-minded guy like Jack Webb (a Catholic) and his cop character. Also, Vietnam was actually an anti-Communist cause for establishment liberals.
Fulton Sheen never voted Republican.

A lot of Catholics today would have a hard time letting that thought sink in.
A lot of religious Catholics; sure. Since the Sixties the GOP's been the default of religious Americans.
Also, the Jews who invented Archie Bunker got him all wrong.

"Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again..."

What bullshit. An Al Smith Democrat never voted for Hoover.
Joke from America's golden era last century:
"I heard that Joe's become a Republican!"
"Impossible! I saw him at Mass last Sunday."
There were always exceptions. In Hollywood, Pat O'Brien, for example. Because of Irish hegemony of the Northern Democrats, there were Italian GOP enclaves, and my Pennsylvania county, Delaware, has an Irish GOP tradition.

You're dead right about Norman Lear and Archie Bunker. He is amusingly tone-deaf about his gentile targets. For example, making the blue-collar, Queens-accented Bunkers Episcopalians.

Before the Sixties, the Republicans were a weird mix mostly of the social opposite of the paleo-Democrats: admirably pro-market (laissez-faire) and pro-liberty (strictly constructionist about the Constitution) but socially and religiously LIBERAL rich WASPs (the Bushes, the Romneys), the bosses who provoked the Catholic workers to unionize and go on strike and generally looked down on the ethnics, maybe being nice enough to be patronizing.
Being a Republican was not unusual among German Catholics, who resented Irish Catholic mores and folkways, and who got on better with their fellow German Lutherans who they sang and drank beers with at the Maennerchor.

The Rodhams were Republicans.

What Republicans today call RINOs... those are the traditional Republicans.
Right; don't forget the Germans, a livelier strain of American Catholicism than the Irish, and the Lutherans are our close cousins.

Yeah but I understand that the elder Rodhams weren't phonies; real conservatives. They weren't rich. The Sixties flipped Hillary. That this cultural movement won her fervent conversion is enough reason for me not to want her to run the country.
I'm afraid I don't even know what the word "conservative" means.
Given the fluidity of politics I guess we do need a definition. Conserving as much of the past as possible, because it's that way for a good reason and only preserving the best, as Edmund Burke believed?
Everyone who cares about his family and his local community does his best to conserve their folkways, and balance what he was taught against the problems of his time.

I come from Taft Republicans (my dad) and Irish Democrats (my mom).

So I conserve both.
Robert Taft and Barry Goldwater should have been president. My Catholic-turned-Episcopal dad (he married a WASP but came back to the church two years before he passed away) was a civilian Cold Warrior in aerospace and a Goldwater man. The GOP stole the nomination from Taft, plain and simple, drafting Ike (a shadowy New World Order pick?), and Goldwater of course was the victim of the Kennedy publicity machine supercharged by President Kennedy's "martyrdom," JFK being good-looking after his cortisone treatment and thus a media darling. Most American Catholics (but not Cardinal Spellman) had the mistaken notion that Jack and his family were "one of them," which the Kennedys exploited well, also being careful to distance themselves from the church enough to get Protestant votes.


  1. Many Republican voters were also tribal in nature. Many of my family came from small town central Pennsylvania and Kansas. The Democrats were the party of rebellion. There was no way they were going to vote Democrat since their grandfathers had served in Union blue.

  2. I think perhaps why they made the very working class Bunkers Episcopalian, although they would most likely have been Irish, working class Catholics in reality was because the original inspiration was the English working-class comedy, "Till Death Do Us Part," who were Church of England. The comedy made quite a few stabs, at the time, of conservatism in Anglicanism.

  3. "Before the Sixties, the Republicans were a weird mix mostly of the social opposite of the paleo-Democrats: admirably pro-market (laissez-faire) and pro-liberty (strictly constructionist about the Constitution)..."

    The GOP got to be ideologically laissez-faire partly in reaction against the New Deal; as the allies of Northern industrial interests, they were laissez-faire in domestic affairs, but strongly protectionist, favoring high tariffs against foreign manufactured goods. That's one reason there have always been Irish-Catholic GOP enclaves in upstate New York as well- as a 19th-century hub of manufacturing, factory workers there strongly supported protectionism. (Burchard's "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion" line cost Blaine the Presidency in part because it turned off the upstate-dwelling Irish Catholic Republicans Blaine would have needed to win NY). The '60s exile of conservative Democrats to the GOP was strongly prefigured by the internal fights of the Democratic party under FDR, when old-school Dems like John Nance Garner and Al Smith tried in vain to push back against the New Deal.

  4. I was raised as a Democrat and in those days it was pretty much considered a religion.


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