“I’ve been hearing talk like that on the news,” he said as we chatted across a glass countertop, firearms for sale underneath. “They’re saying the GOP needs to change, become more diverse in order to win. Change, meaning pander for the vote, is that it? I just don’t see us pandering.”
Clark was born in Warrenton in 1956, the same year his father, Jim, and uncle, John, started Clark Brothers, which he took over when they died. He is staunchly conservative, representing the unvarnished, straight-shooting grass roots of the Republican Party. And he wasn’t about to change.
“The way I see it, the country does not have enough money to take care of everybody’s every need,” he said. “So let me do as much as I can for myself, work for myself and don’t tell me what to do for other people. If the jobs are there — and we do need more jobs — and people are working hard and still coming up short, I will help. If they aren’t trying, I won’t. That’s the deal.”
The gist of Clark’s philosophy — that entitlements should not be allowed to erode personal responsibility, sap initiative or bankrupt the country — is a view shared by more than a few African Americans and Hispanics.
What repels many of those potential recruits, however, is the perception, if not the reality, that the party roils with racial resentment. Why else would the GOP be so overwhelmingly white?
It didn’t help matters, either, when Republican strategists unleashed ads aimed at whipping the party’s core constituency — aging, right-wing, non-college-educated white men — into a racial frenzy with “dog whistle” warnings that a black “food stamp president” was out to get them.
The “Bubba strategy,” as President Obama supporters called it.
On Election Day, Bubba went whole hog for Republican contender Mitt Romney, only to be vanquished by a multiracial, mixed-gendered groundswell of voters. In the aftermath, the conservative white male was placed on the politically endangered species list — the crosshairs on him now.
“Election certifies that times are a changing,” read the Hartford Courant, heralding Obama’s reelection. “The supremacy of white male voters has fallen.”
A headline on the Politic365 Web site said: “Why Romney Lost: The Angry White Male Vote Wasn’t Enough.”
In a perceptive commentary for the Nation, William Greider wrote: “The real loser was the bitter legacy of ‘white supremacy.’ That poisonous prejudice has endured in political reality and the national culture for two centuries. It still does, though it is now cultivated most zealously only by white Southerners who took over the party of Abraham Lincoln (who surely weeps for his Grand Old Party).”
I asked Clark how race relations were coming along in his neck of the woods.