GOP Might Just Stick with This "Party of White People" Thing

Since the 2012 election, most (not all, but most) Republicans have agreed that if they're going to remain viable in presidential elections in coming years, the party will have to broaden its appeal, particularly to Latino voters. There has been plenty of disagreement about how to go about this task. Especially over comprehensive immigration reform, which many Republicans see as too high a policy price to pay to achieve some uncertain measure of good will from those voters. But outside of conservative talk radio, there weren't many voices saying that they should junk the whole project. Every once in a while some voice from the past like Phyllis Schlafly would come out and bleat that the party should focus on the white folk who make up the party's beating heart, but to many it seemed like the political equivalent of your racist great aunt saying at Thanksgiving that she doesn't feel comfortable around those people.

But as immigration reform wends its tortured path through Congress, more mainstream Republicans are having second thoughts. In fact, significant backlash is brewing, not just to this bill but to the whole idea of Republicans working to appeal to minorities. Benjy Sarlin at MSNBC has an excellent article explaining how this backlash is spreading, noting that even some people who six months ago were blaming Mitt Romney's position on immigration reform for his loss are now saying that the only viable path to victory is getting turnout up among white voters.

I'll get to why this is a very bad idea in a moment, but the logic at work isn't completely crazy. After all, by now the Republican party going after minority votes is like the fast-food joint that puts a salad on its menu amid all the bacon cheeseburgers and chili fries. It's there so they can say they're offering something for people with different tastes, but they don't expect anyone to order it. And when Rush Limbaugh warns that a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants will create millions of new Democratic voters, he's probably right to a degree. Under the bill the Senate passed it would be 13 years before any undocumented immigrant could earn citizenship and vote, but as Sarlin discusses, the argument some Republicans make that Latinos are "natural conservatives" has always been weak.

After every election, a significant number of people within the losing party argue that the problem wasn't one of persuasion but one of turnout. They just didn't get enough of their voters to the polls, so they don't have to change what they're arguing. There's often some truth to it; when only 50 to 60 percent of eligible voters are coming to the polls, turnout on your side could always be higher. But the problem the GOP now faces is that the way you relate to one group of voters affects how other voters perceive you.

This was something George W. Bush and Karl Rove understood well when they built his 2000 campaign. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" consisted mostly of things like pulling African-Americans on stage with him and putting lots of pictures of Latinos on his web sites. It got him a few extra votes among minorities, but that was always just a bonus. The real target was moderate white voters, who saw it and learned, in the phrase reporters repeated over and over, that Bush was "a different kind of Republican." He wasn't like those mean-spirited old white guys who seemed to dominate the GOP, and they'd be comfortable voting for him.

By the same token, if you decide that you're going to focus your efforts on turning out the white vote, you won't only be sending a message to Latinos (and African Americans, and the fast-growing Asian American population) that you're not interested in them, you'll also be sending a message to moderate whites that your party might not be the kind of place they'd feel comfortable. This goes double for young white voters, who have grown up in a much more diverse culture than their parents and grandparents, and aren't going to be so hot on joining the Party of White People.

This is a dilemma for Republicans. Both paths are strewn with obstacles and dangers. Whichever one they choose, there's likely to be trouble.

Comments

This has been the consensus opinion of many conservative political analysts lately:
Namely, that the GOP should be more concerned about their own political election strategies -- focusing on the wants and needs of middle-aged white guys -- and be less concerned with showing compassion for the socio-economically downtrodden, the health and privacy rights of women, the woes of financially-struggling college students, or the concerns of the Hispanic community with respect to antiquated immigration policies.

It would seem that Mr. Reinhold Reince Priebus is still experiencing a bit of a messaging problem.

The problem for the Republicans is that if they don't abolish the Electoral College -- or get lots of Latinos to vote for them -- then they can kiss Texas and Florida goodbye in about twenty years. And without Texas and Florida, they are done as a political party.

Terry, I would say without Texas they are done as a National Party. I believe Texas (and I think within 8 years, not 20) will vote for the Democratic candidate for President.

The GOP will still keep hold of state and local Legislatures, Governorships, and Judiciary for a very long time, but without Texas they have no path to the White House.

Also, you are mistaken about the Electoral College. Winner-take-all EV's give outsize influence to smaller states, and create the situation we have now, where 12 "swing states" decide Presidents.

Sorry, you are absolutely correct and I should have clarified my Electoral College comment. What they actually want is to go to the Maine system. Since they have already gerrymandered their way into having a lock on the House that will last a lot longer than any simple majority in a Presidential election, the Maine system may give them the only real shot at taking and holding the White House.

And of course they keep their outsized goodie-basket of small states. Yay!

What choice do they have? The coalition they worked for 30 years to unite, the Evangelicals, the NeoCons, the billionaire families, the Angry Old White Guys, the Corporations, and the Right-to-Lifers is falling apart. Bush and Rove as you rightly note, struggled and more or less succeeded in convincing each faction they just needed to be patient, and W would deliver, and most got a little something.

But they ran out of patience. The Evangelicals want more, the Right To Life never got the repeal of RoevWade, the billionaires did not get all the tax or entitlement cuts they felt they deserved, the Corporations got a lot, but never enough, and now the Angry Old White Guys are even more angry, and they are dying off daily while minorities surge.

They relied on a world-class ideas and message machine to build that coalition in the 70's 80's and 90's, but in today's 24-hr news cycle internet savvy world, every idea gets tested, every message gets examined for facts, and especially among the young, it's what have you done for me lately.

Rinse is trying hard to help them understand what Obama's people have known for years, but it's not working, Thank God.

Hillary Clinton: Hellooo, Madame President.

All the anxiety over "white voters" losing their majority is ridiculous.
The country remains pretty much steady at 75-80% "white".
Heck....the President himself is 50% "white"!
Journalists/Propagandists are full of themselves as they try to manipulate the minds of the citizenry.
Sadly, this goofy bunch has managed to influence the RNC,Inc's leadership.
they seem convinced that they have to target "hispanics" in order to win a national election.
....
And thats the reality.....the DNC,Inc. has recognized that by using a coalition of Urban and Suburban voters....it can control the electoral college in all the large states.....the North East, Illinois, and the West Coast. The "rural" states of the South and Midwest cease to have any importance.....
The winning strategy for the RNC,Inc......has got to be to regain California! 52 electoral votes....its game, set, match. White. black. fake hispanic. It dont matter. The RNC,Inc has to win California.

The point of this article is to have equality among countrymen and avoid racism. White people are not the only voters, so politicians must also learn to divide their attention to all Americans especially the Africans and Latinos. Great artcile anyway, thanks for posting!

lifedance philippines

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