Despite the local victories, Republicans in the South are aware that many of the post-election analyses have found the party’s image problems to be in the approach and the appeals that have led to its near total victory here. Southern Republican politicians continue to cruise smoothly to victory on the votes of white, socially conservative evangelicals. While some leaders have succeeded with a more centrist platform, like Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee, a large part of the Southern electorate still rewards politicians who promise to crack down hard on criminals and illegal immigrants, assume a defiant tone when speaking about the federal government and dismiss the idea of gay rights out of hand.
The outlook for Southern Republicans isn't all rosy, though. MTSU pollster Ken Blake points out the national GOP might go squishy and leave Southerners without a party to call their own. Then what? And here's some really weird news: Tired of losing national elections, Southern evangelicals are talking about retreating from politics altogether and leaving the rest of us alone.
The Rev. Brady Cooper, the pastor of New Vision Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn., said he had heard acquaintances in the days since the election speculating that social issues cost the Republicans the White House. To a degree, they were probably right, Mr. Cooper said. But he said that he could not abandon his values to win elections, and was increasingly moving away from politics.
“I’m kind of disillusioned more and more with the political process,” Mr. Cooper said. “One of their top priorities is being re-elected, and that kind of drives a lot of decisions that they make. And it means obviously going with the trends of the culture as opposed to the truth.”