The great and the good are mourning the primary-elections defeat of Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, lamenting the loss of one of the last “reasonable,” “sensible,” and of course, “serious” Republicans in the eyes of the national media. Why did the media love him? While Sen. Lugar was specifically targeted by conservative groups, his voting record was not especially Left-leaning. He was said to have a good relationship with Barack Obama but this was exaggerated; he usually cast a reliable vote against the President’s agenda.
Instead, the media’s love and his constituents’ scorn were driven by his “internationalist” foreign policy and his support for illegal immigrant amnesty. In both cases, Sen. Lugar did his best to follow the approved liberal guidelines, support establishment consensus, and dampen populist impulses by whites. His entire career was a tight-rope act: seek the love of the Washington establishment while doing just enough to win reelection in a generally conservative state. In the end, the increasing radicalization of conservatives made it impossible for him to maintain that balance.
Sen. Lugar sought to forge a reputation as a promoter of American post-war internationalist ambitions that have been a disaster for whites. The collapse of the European empires and the competition with Communism for the loyalty of the Third World forced Americans to abandon traditional racial policies in favor of living up to egalitarian rhetoric. Successive administrations sacrificed the real interests of the country to the public-relations goals of winning the favor of the Third World and liberal-minded global elites. The interests of the European-Americans who built and sustained the country were pushed aside. Even after the end of the Cold War, winning goodwill was seen as more important than serving (white) American interests.
Likewise, as glowing tributes published after his defeat make clear, Senator Lugar was one of the most important figures in the fight to destroy white South Africa. The Reagan Administration valued South Africa as an anti-communist ally but opposed apartheid, and wanted to pursue a strategy of “constructive engagement” that avoided sanctions. After President Reagan’s massive re-election victory in November 1984, the defeated Democrats saw increasing media attention on apartheid as an opportunity to attack “constructive engagement.”
The main ethnic interest group that opposed apartheid was Randall Robinson’s TransAfrica. Capitalizing on increasing unrest in South Africa, the group began a campaign of civil disobedience. This was the start of a “Free South Africa” movement that gained strength as celebrities and politicians joined the protests, asking to be arrested. The media responded with adoring coverage.
It was because of this public attention that the first Republicans began to abandon Ronald Reagan. Senator Lugar, already chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote a letter on November 30, 1984, to the President arguing for a comprehensive review of policy towards South Africa. A few days later, a group of 35 Republican congressmen in a group called the Conservative Opportunity Society wrote to the South African ambassador threatening sanctions unless civil rights legislation were passed immediately. The stated purpose of the group’s action was to prove that conservatism wasn’t racist.
While some conservatives such as Howard Phillips and Pat Buchanan held firm, Senator Lugar and other Republicans saw an opportunity to get the Republican Party “in front” of an issue. Sen. Lugar, especially, thought he saw an opportunity to blunt anti-apartheid sentiment and prevent it from being used against the Republicans, while buttressing his own credentials as a statesman.
After a long pressure campaign, the Reagan Administration imposed limited sanctions by executive order in September 1985, and hoped the issue would go away. The results were predictable. Democrats in the House introduced a much stricter sanctions bill than Mr. Lugar and other Republicans even wanted. Having conceded to all the premises of the opposition, the senator and other anti-apartheid Republicans had no grounds on which to oppose it.
Meanwhile, the media campaign continued as unrest in South Africa increased. In 1986, there were 1,100 articles about South Africa in the New York Times, or an average of 2.3 a day. House Republicans also made a critical error in June 1986 by allowing an extreme sanctions bill proposed by black Democratic Congressman William Gray to pass, under the theory that Reagan would veto it and it would not be overridden. Even Senator Lugar did not want to go as far.
Mr. Lugar and other Republicans didn’t want to punish companies that did business with South Africa, but they were trapped by their own rhetoric and didn’t want to be called racist. Senate Republicans eyeing re-election were also worried about the black vote, thinking that “a few percentage points vote by blacks could make the difference.” [Edward Walsh, “Shultz Tries to Head Off Sanctions; Reagan Likely to Speak on South African Issue Next Week,” Washington Post. July 17, 1986, p. A32.] In the face of increasing pressure, the GOP crumbled. On July 3, Vice President George H.W. Bush declared that “apartheid must end.”
Now committed to ending apartheid, Senator Lugar and other worried Republicans decided that everything depended on whether President Reagan’s actions were seen as sufficiently anti-apartheid. Meanwhile the Administration was still trying to pursue trade agreements with the very regime it was condemning publicly. Sen. Lugar, having built himself up as a dedicated anti-racist, had to confront his own President and push for sanctions that he, himself, thought were too severe.
Senator Lugar introduced his own sanctions bill in the Senate in summer 1986 and it passed the Senate by 84 to 14 votes. The senator then heavily lobbied the President to sign it. On August 24, he wrote an editorial in the New York Times, directly challenging President to sign the bill. Reagan called Mr. Lugar’s bluff and vetoed the bill. Incredibly, the Republican-controlled Senate overrode the veto and passed Mr. Lugar’s bill, imposing strict sanctions on South Africa.
Of course, the sanctions did nothing to win blacks to the Republican Party, though they did help establish Mr. Lugar as a foreign policy leader even willing to take on the President. However, Mr. Lugar was not so much led, but propelled by events. Having conceded the South African argument to the Left, he was forced to hurt his own party and President in order to avoid media criticism. Once the premise that apartheid was irredeemably evil was granted, Senator Lugar had to move further than he wanted in order to maintain his respectable reputation. He won establishment praise, but got few black voters.
Senator Lugar’s “internationalism” led him to indifference towards once-treasured concepts of sovereignty. He championed the Law of the Sea Treaty, which would create an international taxing authority, remove American control over certain resources, and give an authority composed of over 150 other nations veto power over American naval actions. However, Mr. Lugar justified this on the grounds that since many countries saw the United States as an arrogant bully, it was important to “demonstrate that we believe in international cooperation.”
Immigration is a key area in which Mr. Lugar worked hard against white interests. He co-sponsored the so-called DREAM Act and voted for the 2007 McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill—winning media praise as a “reasonable” Republican. He also has received the support of Hispanic organizations for standing up for “our people” rather than his own people. Unfortunately for the senator, conservatives were willing to mobilize on immigration to defeat him. Immigration control groups such as ALIPAC (Americans for Legal Immigration) endorsed his opponent and he faced attack ads on the issue.
White advocates should have no illusions—we had nothing to do with Richard Lugar’s defeat. The money and grassroots organization was driven by multimillion dollar conservative foundations that were looking for a more explicitly partisan senator from Indiana who would challenge the President aggressively. Nor did immigration drive the opposition to Mr. Lugar; many of the conservative organizations that started the campaign would be thrilled with open borders and cheap labor. Senator Lugar lost because of a widely perceived belief that he was “out of touch” with the people of his state.
What this suggests is that the conservative base is looking for more openly confrontational candidates. While the conservative establishment has mixed feelings about illegal immigration, a stance against it promotes the anti-Washington image that insurgent candidates on the Right need. Senator Lugar’s 35-year reputation as a foreign policy expert did him no good at all in this election.
Indiana is 90 percent white, and the Republican base is even whiter. These voters are no longer interested in establishment credentials. They think a good relationship with President Obama is an outright liability and are suspicious of any candidate the media love. At its base, the Republican Party is becoming more implicitly white, more uncompromising, and more focused on immigration.
The lesson of Mr. Lugar is that passing sanctions on South Africa and promoting foreign treaties established him as a beloved and respected figure by the anti-white media, but this didn’t necessarily translate into support at home. Immigration, on the other hand, was something that mattered directly to Indiana primary voters. The conservative base is also looking for more openly partisan and confrontational candidates. Violating the media’s narrative may not win a politician the reputation as a “serious” person, but it is rewarded with victory. Championing issues like immigration also builds the outsider image needed to win in the contemporary GOP.
White advocates should not have any false hopes about the Republican Party. It is dominated by corporate interests that are utterly indifferent to the dispossession of whites. Nonetheless, the party is “hardening” around a white base increasingly dissatisfied with the direction of the country. This presents opportunities for white advocates willing to be part of the political process, if only to remove politicians like Richard Lugar, who lost precisely because he was respectable. This suggests that conservatives might be looking for new alternatives. They are not ready for white advocacy, but they are ready to move beyond what they’ve had for the last 35 years, and that is a start.