Tax fighter and former libertarian Richard Rider took the virtual podium at conserve blog SDRostra this weekend to ruminate about and refute the notion that the Republican Party is headed for extinction.
He starts out by comparing the GOP’s defeat with Barry Goldwater with its most recent losses, noting that, despite predictions of doom and gloom, the party did rise again. In the 1964 election LBJ received 61.1% of the national popular vote
And I agree with Rider that one electoral loss, no matter how lopsided, does not equate with the death of a political party.
The Democrats had their own debacle with George McGovern. In the 1972 election, by contrast, Nixon won every state in the Union except Massachusetts and 61% of the national vote.
But let’s take a look at the path the GOP took to get back into the running, politically speaking, and what that bodes for the party’s future.
The Southern Strategy
The Nixon campaigns and subsequent GOP efforts have all relied upon the premise that a polarized electorate would produce high turnouts among voting blocs that favored the Republican brand. In its most obvious form this was deemed by the press to be the so-called Southern Strategy, popularized by strategist Kevin Phillips. From Wikipedia:
In an interview included in a 1970 New York Times article, he touched on its essence:
From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that…but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.
George Bush’s 2004 campaign strategy successfully exploited voter polarization over the issues surrounding gay marriage, taking advantage of voter uneasiness with 13 ballot measures at the state level and campaigning in favor of the Federal Marriage Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage for all the states as strictly heterosexual.
The GOP can talk about taxes and balanced budgets all they want. When it comes to driving voters to the polling place, the politics of division have been a major priority in driving their strategy and image.
However, in 2012 the politics of division have run into the reality of multiplication. The fastest growing population group in the country is demonstrating a deep and wide dislike for the Grand Old Party and its principles.
The Reality of Multiplication Meets the Politics of Division
Just looking at the numbers should be enough to scare the crap out of any Republican strategist. Or at least those who might have recently rediscovered math. From Daily Kos:
Republicans have reason to be freaked out. They continue to lose ground with Latinos, getting blown out 71-27 with one of the few groups to increase their raw vote and their share of the electorate this year. And there is little respite on the horizon—the median age of native-born Latinos is 18. Eighteen! Among all Latinos, including immigrants, it’s just 27. That compares with 42 years old among non-Hispanic whites. In fact, Pew estimates that Latinos will double their share of the electorate by 2030, based strictly on birth and death rates.
Or put another way, nearly 67,000 Latinos turn 18 every month according to Pew, with 93 percent of them U.S. citizens and eligible to vote. Couple that with the over 100,000 elderly (and predominantly conservative) whites who die each month, and you’re looking at over 3 million new potential Latino voters, and nearly 5 million fewer white voters. In just four years.
There are, of course, some on the right side of the aisle that acknowledge the challenge to the Republican Party posed by this ‘new math’ of the 21st century.
I’ve heard plenty of brave talk about how “[Hispanics] should be a natural Republican constituency: striving immigrant community” (Krauthammer) and the how ‘natural’ family centric orientation of Hispanic culture will ultimately move them away from the Democratic party.
I’ve also seen what this reaching out to Hispanics on behalf of the GOP means in practice. Supporters of Carl DeMaio (not blessed by the candidate, of course) passed out fliers in predominately Latino neighborhoods in San Diego claiming that Democratic candidate Bob Filner was a racist. State and Nation Republican organizations have pitched a few pennies to buy Spanish language advertising. And there’s plenty of talk about putting more non-white faces up as candidates.
It’s More Than Simple Population Increase
A Pew Research Center study on voter attitudes toward our economic system (2011) shows that Hispanics have a more negative view (55% against – 32% favoring) towards capitalism than even supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement (47% against – 46% favoring).
Again, I quote Kos:
Is it any wonder, when capitalism pays them so little picking crops in the fields, or working as day laborers, or cleaning hotel rooms or public bathrooms, or doing the myriad shit jobs they get stuck doing at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder?
GOP strategists, pouring over recent exit polling data, are working hard to convince the party’s standard bearers that shifting their stances towards immigration will make a difference in future elections.
Carlos Gutierrez, the head of Mitt Romney’s campaign to attract Latino voters during the presidential election, has called on the Republican Party to drop its perceived hostility towards the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US or risk alienating the increasingly powerful Latino vote. He has set up a Super Pac called Republicans for Immigration Reform to ‘instill new thinking within the conservative movement.’
Other polling data shows that, while Latino voters are concerned about immigration policy, there is little to no evidence to suggest that particular concern is driving their partisan leanings.
Latino voters favor marriage equality by a higher percentage (59%) than the general voting population (48%). They also support Obamacare (66% vs. 49%) and abortion (66% vs. 59%) in higher numbers. And they are not particularly impressed by the idea that putting a brown face on the ticket will sway their vote. (67% say it would have no effect or make them less likely to vote Republican)
In other words:
Latinos are more socially liberal than the public, they champion social services that help them take care of their families, they are more hostile to a capitalistic system that systematically screws them over, and they aren’t idiots—they hear the hateful shit conservatives say about them. And yes, they are so “family-oriented” that they don’t want their family carted off in handcuffs by immigration officials.
Fact is, Latinos don’t believe government should enter their homes and bedrooms, but they do believe it can help create jobs and level an unfair economic playing field. In other words, Latinos believe in exactly the opposite of what Republicans believe.
What I’m saying here is that playing the “we’re nice now” race card isn’t going to work, no matter how the GOP wants to dress it up.
Stop Gloating Liberals, The Battle Isn’t Over
That being said, let me caution against the ‘liberal gloat’ and the ‘progressive let down’ that I see going on around the country. The Republican Party exists historically for a reason: to defend the interests of those who’ve already made it. Their drawing power has been built upon the (largely false) premise that they’re holding the door open for others who want to join this club. Everything else —the evangelism, the social conservatism, the concern about the national debt— is merely a smoke screen.
The purveyors of Big Money via the Super Pacs went down to defeat in 2012 because they thought that crude application of their newfound financial leverage (via Citizen’s United) would influence the electorate to endorse the “opportunities” provided by tax breaks for the wealthy and de-regulation.
The underlying conditions that compel reactionary behavior in the electoral process have not gone away. And the “new” Republican Party, even if it calls itself something else, has a role to play as the guardians of plutocracy.
So, one election doesn’t change much. After all, as Emma Goldman once said, “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”
After all, casting a ballot is about one simple (yes, it’s important) act. Creating progressive social change is about building community and actively participating in influence/governance/policy making on multiple levels.
The Republicans have the cash and the snake oil (follow us and you’ll be successful!). The antidote to that is people power.
And While I’m Pontificating Today…
Here’s an excerpt of an article titled ‘Revenge of the Reality-Based Community’ from The American Conservative. Author Bruce Bartlett is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative with impressive credentials, starting with his masters’ thesis on how FDR covered up his responsibility for the attack on Pearl Harbor all the way through his briefing on the economy for Dick Cheney. He was a rising star on the right, quoted in the Wall Street Journal and sought after by Fox News as a commenter.
His ‘mistake’, as part of the conservative cause, was to point out that, as a ‘conservative’, President George Bush was following in the steps of the emperor who wore no clothes. Publication of his book, entitled, Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy caused him to be shunned by the right.
I thought that this piece, in light of the recent reticence by Republicans to acknowledge actual facts (like the pre-election polling), gives a good perspective on what it’s like to exist in a world where reality is in the eye of the beholder. The lessons here, I think, can also be applicable to the left:
At least a few conservatives now recognize that Republicans suffer for epistemic closure. They were genuinely shocked at Romney’s loss because they ignored every poll not produced by a right-wing pollster such as Rasmussen or approved by right-wing pundits such as the perpetually wrong Dick Morris. Living in the Fox News cocoon, most Republicans had no clue that they were losing or that their ideas were both stupid and politically unpopular.
I am disinclined to think that Republicans are yet ready for a serious questioning of their philosophy or strategy. They comfort themselves with the fact that they held the House (due to gerrymandering) and think that just improving their get-out-the-vote system and throwing a few bones to the Latino community will fix their problem. There appears to be no recognition that their defects are far, far deeper and will require serious introspection and rethinking of how Republicans can win going forward. The alternative is permanent loss of the White House and probably the Senate as well, which means they can only temporarily block Democratic initiatives and never advance their own.
I’ve paid a heavy price, both personal and financial, for my evolution from comfortably within the Republican Party and conservative movement to a less than comfortable position somewhere on the center-left. Honest to God, I am not a liberal or a Democrat. But these days, they are the only people who will listen to me. When Republicans and conservatives once again start asking my opinion, I will know they are on the road to recovery.
On This Day: In 1779 the College of Pennsylvania became the University of Pennsylvania. It was the first legally recognized university in America. In 1967 Capitol Records released the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” album in the U.S. In 1978 San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk, a gay-rights activist, were shot to death inside City Hall by Dan White, a former supervisor.
Eat Fresh! Today’s Farmers’ Markets: Coronado (1st St. & B Ave., Ferry Landing) 2:30 – 6 pm, Escondido (Grand Ave. btw Juniper & Kalmia St.) 2:30 – 6:00 pm , Mira Mesa (Mira Mesa High School 10510 Reagan Rd.) 3–7 pm, Morena District (1240 West Morena Blvd.) 3 – 7 pm, Otay Ranch – Chula Vista (2015 Birch Rd. and Eastlake Blvd.) 4 –8 pm, Pacific Beach (Bayard & Garnet) 2 – 6:30pm, UCSD/La Jolla (UCSD Campus, Town Square at Gilman/Meyers) 10 am – 2 pm (Sept. 25 through mid-June; closed for winter, spring and summer breaks)
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