Republican nomination campaigns used to be so fun and predictable.
The nominees would trot out and share some plans (Flax Tax, Enterprise Zones, etc.). Democrats would sneer and the whole campaign would be a fairly humdrum affair.
Until the South Carolina primary.
South Carolina has, until this year always been the third rail of Republican politics during an election season. The blood red conservative state is home to some of the most conservative evangelical Christians and Republicans in the country and candidates who thought they had a good chance in the general election always knew that the kind of reactionary right wing rhetoric that they’d have to spout in South Carolina would come back to haunt them in a general election. Nowhere was this phenomenon more on display than how Republicans would deal with Bob Jones University – that is until the election of 2012.
Bob Jones is a conservative Christian University in South Carolina known for its incredibly doctrinaire interpretations of the Bible. For much of its history the school taught that Catholicism and Mormonism were cults, in addition to its very explicit ban on interracial dating. Despite these increasingly anachronistic policies, Republicans would climb all over each other to speak at the college and beef up their conservative credentials in the most important constituent state in the Republican nomination process. Ronald Reagan spoke there in 1980 (despite the school endorsing one of his South Carolina primary opponents) Alan Keyes spoke there (which is ironic given that he is in an interracial marriage) and as recently as the 2000 presidential election then Texas governor George W. Bush spoke there. John McCain (who wasn’t invited) criticized Bush for speaking at a school with a written policy of anti-integration but failing to mention it during his speech. By the time the 2008 presidential election came along Bob Jones University had more or less gotten out of its 40-plus years of political king making on the Republican side, so much so that this year Mitt Romney, the GOP frontrunner who still has some weaknesses with the conservative base, didn’t even bother to stop by.
This speaks volumes about where the Republican Party is today as well as what we might expect to unfold at the South Carolina primary. The conservative base of the Republican Party has always had serious problems with Democratic presidents and especially the Black one serving in the White House today. At the same time however, the kinds of openly symbolic attacks on race and diversity in America are less necessary today when that hostility can be expressed by an unmitigated drive to remove Obama from the White House along with any and everything he’s ever done since getting there.
Speeches at Bob Jones University have been replaced by calls for the eradication of anything that has been passed under this administration, cries of “You Lie” during a State of the Union address and a host of other thinly veiled slights that are more about the color of the man than the content of his policies. One can only wonder if the fading of Bob Jones University into the political background is a sign of progressive change in the GOP or just the subsuming of racial animus directly at the president instead.
This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.