The words “unlike some people” aren’t uttered but they’re clearly implied, just as they were implied when Huckabee pulled this same nasty trick on another conservative whose Christianity is suspect in the eyes of some. The irony of Barrett’s oblique smear is that it’s actually a reminder of how ineffective this line of attack is even in the supposedly xenophobic south. Remember how Jindal’s enemies would sometimes refer to him by his given name, Piyush, in order to foreign-ize him? Didn’t work then and, as Tunku Varadarajan writes, it ain’t working now:
Another explanation for Jindal/Haley could be that it’s a myth, or an outdated perception, that the South is inimical to racial minorities. Conventional wisdom has it that Southern whites vote Republican because the Democrats are the party of civil rights. That may have been true in 1964, but has been much less so since. (James Taranto wrote a terrific op-ed on this subject in The Wall Street Journal in 2004, and his points all hold true today.) It is more accurate to say that blacks vote Democratic (both in the South and elsewhere) because they perceive the Republican Party to be racist, and that today’s white Southerners vote for the GOP because they are conservative on other matters such as religion, abortion, guns, the size of government, and national defense. This does, however, give rise to an appearance of a racially polarized electorate, which, in turn, keeps alive the stereotype of Southern intolerance…
I will close with another question: Why has no Indian-American liberal risen as high in the Democratic ranks as Jindal and Haley have done in the GOP? Could it be that because Democrats put more of an emphasis on identity politics, an Indian-American Democrat would have to contend with other ethnic constituencies that might think that it’s “their turn” first? And once you go down the “identity” route, your success as a politician tends to rest more on the weight of numbers—the size of your ethnic constituency, or your racial voting bloc—than on the weight of your ideas. The most striking thing about Jindal and Haley’s success is not that they are Indian-American politicians who have triumphed in conservative Southern states, but that they are conservative Southern politicians who just happen to be Indian American.
As I write this, news is breaking that Jake “Raghead” Knotts may be asked to resign over his own smear. The latest numbers according to an internal poll from Haley’s campaign: She leads Barrett, 62/28, and her favorable rating stands at … 74/7. That last number strikes me as unlikely, but even if you flip 15 points on each side of it, she’s still almost net +40. Congrats to Will Folks, Larry Marchant, Knotts, and the rest of the gang: In three weeks, you’ve made her one of the most popular Republicans in America.
Exit question for South Carolinians: If, as expected, she beats Barrett in the runoff, what are the odds that Bauer, Barrett, et al. will start working with Democratic nominee Vincent Sheheen behind the scenes to take her down in the general? Over/under is 80 percent.
Update: A South Carolina reader e-mails to say that this ad has been running for weeks in the state and that the “Christian family man” bit is aimed at Mark Sanford, not Haley. I’m not sure that’s true, though: Barrett was running another ad featuring a drill sergeant, but this one was posted to his YouTube account only yesterday. As far as I know, it’s brand new. And given what’s been going on with Haley, it’s safe to say that the “Christian” part carries some extra meaning.
Update: As I suspected, yep, it’s a new ad.