Since Baker’s forced retirement in 1993 at the hands of Bill Clinton, both America and the GOP have changed. The Republican Party has increasingly become an assembly of White America at Worship, an America that vividly and painfully remembers 9/11, and for whom Islam and ISIS spell a real and personalized threat and challenge. In 2012, Evangelicals comprised just over half of all Republican primary voters in contested states, and their views predominate.
In other words, the Republican Party is no longer the party of a WASP Establishment, just as Mainline Protestantism no longer defines the American religious mainstream. And Baker’s view on the two-state solution is a casualty.
Still, it’s not just about demographics. The fact that Baker’s take on the Middle East lacks a natural home within the GOP is not mere happenstance, and Baker himself had had a hand in that, however unintentionally.
In case anybody forgot, it was Baker who reportedly mouthed off “Screw the Jews. They don’t vote for us anyway,” and on a certain level Baker got it right. Taking Baker’s words to heart, Jewish voters stuck it to Bush and Baker. In 1992, Bush won just 11 percent of the Jewish vote, down from 35 percent just four years earlier.
Enter the neoconservatives, who were alarmed by Baker, but who were also disturbed by the Democrats social liberalism, and disgusted by the Ghost of George McGovern.
According to TheWeekly Standard’s William Kristol, “the big story in the Republican Party over the last 30 years… is first the eclipsing of I’d say the [George H.W.] Bush [Brent] Scowcroft [James] Baker traditional—it’s unfair to say— hostility to Israel— but lack of closeness and warmth for Israel.” Feeling Israel in one’s kishkes is now another requirement for seeking the Republican presidential nod, at least according to Kristol.