How the GOP Keeps Shooting Itself in the Foot
Another CPAC came to an end this weekend. The hungover millennials are back to campus by now, with their backpacks full of Rand Paul buttons, and the oldsters are counting their profits. The consensus in the press is that this year’s extravaganza was a more sedate affair than usual, with the “Happiness is Hillary Clinton’s face on a milk carton” T-shirts relegated to the dustiest corners of the hall. Sure there was “Duck Dynasty’s” Phil Robertson declaring that STDs are the “revenge of the hippies,” which is kind of funny coming from a whole family that looks like it could easily have been rolling around in the mud on Yazgur’s Farm. And Brent Bozell issued a predictably turgid assessment of the threat America faces from terrorists the left:
“Tyranny is knocking at our door,” he warned, before declaring that the left “will do anything, using any means at their disposal, legal or otherwise” to strip conservatives of their freedom of speech and saying that the government isn’t “all that different from the East German Stasi.”
“Cultural fascism has arrived in America,” Bozell said. “Let us understand this soberly and unequivocally”
Very sober of him, indeed. But in a sharp break from the past, Ann Coulter was not a featured speaker this year, so the public was deprived of a peek into the darkest recesses of the conservative id. (In fact, there is no record of even one attendee using the term “raghead” this year.)
But despite the fact that the new CPAC organizers encouraged a slightly less fringy tone, they were unable to do anything about the fringy policies. Even the Great Whitebread Hope, Scott Walker (who, predictably, committed yet another embarrassing gaffe), reversed his position on immigration reform. He was for it before he was against it. And needless to say, the legislative game of chicken the House of Representatives was playing in the background over the funding of the Department of Homeland Security proved that the Tea Party wing of the GOP isn’t dead yet. Until the establishment is able to put a stake through its zombie heart, they have a big problem on their hands.
One little discussed CPAC panel on demographics discussed a new bipartisan report that reveals a daunting statistic that will make it very, very difficult for Scott Walker or any other anti-immigration Republican to win the White House in 2016. Ariel Edwards-Levy at Huffington Post reported:
“The fundamental challenge for my side is the seemingly inexorable change in the composition of presidential electorates,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres, whose clients include Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), said during a panel discussing the report. “And there’s no reason to believe that that’s going to stop magically.”
The demographic change poses little problem for the GOP in midterm elections, when young and minority voters are far more likely than older, white voters to stay home. But in the run-up to 2016, the demographic trend has some Republicans citing a need for change.
In 2004, Republicans’ most recent presidential victory, George W. Bush won 58 percent of the white vote, and 26 percent of the non-white vote — numbers that would lose him the White House today, Ayres said.
‘”That’s the stunning part for me in running these numbers — to realize that the last Republican to win a presidential election, who reached out very aggressively to minorities, and did better than any Republican nominee before or since among minorities, still didn’t achieve enough of both of those groups in order to put together a winning percentage” for 2016, Ayres said.
George W. Bush did better than any Republican has ever done with racial minorities. He reached out, he spoke Spanish, he had a long-term reputation for being moderate on these issues. He came from a border state and had a cultural affinity with Latinos. When he ran in 2000 the U.S. was in the midst of an unprecedented economic boom and conservatives had temporarily put the xenophobic genie back in the bottle. He just was not widely seen as a bigot of the old style. In any case, the GOP had made great efforts to try to get at least some minorities on board and Bush was successful in attracting about 25 percent of them. That would not be enough for any GOP candidate to win the presidency in 2016.
And that would seem to spell almost certain doom. Today the Republican Party is so aggressively hostile to minorities that many of them are willing to defund the federal police agencies entirely rather than allow the president to soften our policies toward undocumented workers. They are likewise unable to contain their most vicious bigots — an open David Duke ally is a current member of the House leadership. And neither can they keep their primitive patriarchs from promoting barbaric practices like forcing girls to give birth to their own siblings. They have, in short, taken several giant step backward from the time when George W. Bush eked out a win by getting a quarter of minority voters to cast their ballots for his ticket. The chances of them being able to even get half of that today are getting fewer by the minute. And according to their pollsters, they need to exceed his numbers to win.
As Poppy Bush (never actually) said, “Nah guh happen.”
Over the weekend you started to hear some rumblings from a few Republicans on TV who categorized the right-wing fringe in the House as “delusional.” But keep in mind that they don’t think they’re delusional because they are insulting massive numbers of voters without whom they cannot win the presidency. They say they are delusional because they aren’t taking the threat of ISIS pouring over the border during a shutdown and killing us all in our beds seriously. Here’s Lindsey Graham with his usual thoughtful analysis:
“I’ve never seen more terrorist organizations … that want to strike the homeland than I do today, and that’s a direct result of a failed foreign policy by President Obama. And the worst thing to do is having the Republican Party add gasoline to the fire by defunding the Department of Homeland Security.”
He also pointed out that it looks bad for Republicans to be furloughing cops and agents. And he’s right. If they lose the law ‘n’ order crowd, it’s hard to see who’s left to vote for them.
But nobody should be fooled into thinking that the various calls from Republicans in recent days to end this game of chicken has very much to do with a sober realization that they cannot afford to keep alienating minority voters if they ever expect to win the presidency. That may be the reality but it’s a reality they simply cannot face. Their base simply won’t let them.
Despite their best efforts to suppress the vote, gerrymander districts in their favor and otherwise try to rig the system, they simply cannot win a national election unless they change their approach toward racial minorities. At the moment the white tail is wagging the multicolor dog and there’s little evidence that’s going to change any time soon.