I just returned from spending several days around New Year’s at the Renaissance Weekend in Hilton Head, SC, the first time I had done so. I have a few important impressions which I would like share.
The event is generally perceived as heavily liberal/Democratic tilted, and that perception seems correct. Although the Clintons were not present (the first one they had missed in 17 years), and there were a few Republicans and conservatives, I would guess that about 80-90% of the attendees (say) voted for Clinton in 1996.
The overall quality of the attendees seemed substantially higher than the couple of conservative “Dark Ages” events which I have attended in the past, and the degree of partisanship was substantially lower. Partisan politics rarely came up in the discussions; it was just that the bulk of the attendees were vaguely liberal on most issues. There also seemed very little of the self-conscious “affirmative actioneering” in which so many Republican gatherings distastefully indulge. About 98% of the participants were white, but no one much commented on that fact, and there were a negligible number of “minority-targetted” panels and caucuses.
I had been asked to make several presentations, one of them being a 10 minute lunch-time speech before 300-400 of the participants, which I devoted to a fairly standard presentation on my successful effort to dismantle bilingual education in California through Prop. 227. In the day or two following my speech, dozens of participants whom I had never met came up to me, told me how much they admired my campaign against bilingual programs, and that they had always felt exactly the same way, and hoped that the issue would be nationalized. Not a single person during the entire time expressed any opposition to ending bilingual programs (the closest to this was a black attendee from San Jose, who told me that he’d opposed Prop. 227 at the time, but since decided he’d been wrong). This anecdotally confirms my national polling data showing landslide opposition to bilingual programs among liberals and very liberals.
There was one group meeting on “diversity” issues, which was not especially well-attended (perhaps 20-25 people) but attracted whatever “minorities” and hard-core multiculturalist types as were there. At that meeting I expressed my absolute opposition to ethnic affirmative action programs, saying those programs were unfair to whites, ridiculous, and should be immediately abolished, to be replaced by socio-economic-type programs. Although most of the other attendees disagreed with me, their disagreements ranged from the polite to the half-hearted, e.g. saying that of course it would be better to use “class” (socio-economic) rather than “race,” but that wouldn’t be practical in our current society. I simply can’t imagine any of these individuals daring to stand up to me in a public debate on the subject of affirmative action, and these were the core “diversityniks” of Clinton’s extended social circle.
My overall impression is that if framed in a half reasonable way, measures banning bilingual education and ethnic affirmative action would have received 80+% of the vote at Renaissance Weekend. I would suspect that such measures would do far worse at many, many of the Republican and conservative gatherings which I have attended, and would have generated far more terrified silence or even vocal and sustained opposition.
The main reason I originally became a Republican was because of issues such as affirmative action, bilingual education, multiculturalism, and all those other dreadfully harmful ethnic policies. The national Republican leadership, including the leading presidential candidates, seem to have
completely abandoned these issues, even rhetorically. This greatly diminishes my enthusiasm for bothering to support Republicans, and I believe that I am very far from being alone in this. If the Renaissance Weekend-type Democrats are actually better on these issues, and are also more pleasant, less paranoid, smarter, more successful, and more influential than Republican conservatives, their attraction grows considerably.
Putting it in useful though very implausible terms, if an anti-bilingual ed measure gets on the New York ballot, and Giuliani’s brilliant advisors persuade him to oppose it, while Hillary’s Renaissance friends convince her to support it, I think she’d crush him at the polls by about 40 points. Ditto for Gore and Bush.
If Republicans keep acting like this, one day many ordinary voters will finally say “Farewell to the Party of Reagan.”