Lindsey Graham does the math, and doesn’t like what he sees:
“The demographics race we’re losing badly. We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”
You see an admission like that, and the Romney welfare ad springs immediately to mind. You know, the one that goes like this?
“Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check and “welfare to work” goes back to being plain old welfare.”
The ad is blatantly false, but it is nonetheless effective at “generating angry white guys,” to borrow Graham’s phrase. But as Graham also notes, the strategy behind it is not going to work much longer. Sheer math will not allow it. And every vote that such a strategy purchases in this election cycle will cost the Republicans dearly in every election for the next generation. With such ads, they are in effect eating their seed corn.
You can already see the consequences. As the AJC reported Tuesday, just 2 percent of delegates to the GOP convention in Tampa — 46 in all — are African-American. As recently as 2004, that number was quite a bit larger, at 167 African-American delegates. That’s a dramatic decline.
And while nobody has a count on the number of Hispanic-American delegates, the fact that the Romney/Ryan ticket trails by roughly 40 points among Hispanic voters doesn’t bode well. Once voting patterns are set, they are much more difficult to change.
The question that you have to ask yourself is why. Why, for example, is President Obama expected to draw some 80 percent of the minority vote this fall? Republicans may try to comfort themselves by attributing it in part to Obama’s own race, but the fact of the matter is that white Democratic candidates have been drawing similar numbers for decades.
The initial instinct of many in the Republican Party is to put the blame entirely on minority voters for not recognizing just how open and tolerant the GOP truly is. That explanation may make Republicans feel better — it may excuse them from actually taking ownership of the challenge — but as a marketing strategy it leaves a lot to be desired.
Blaming potential customers for not liking your product gets you nowhere. In fact, if the customer picks up on that attitude, as they inevitably do, it guarantees that they’re going to like you even less.
Ron Brownstein, in a piece in National Journal, puts it this way:
“Republican strategists clearly feel the weight of trying to assemble a national majority with so little support among minorities that they must win three in five whites. “This is the last time anyone will try to do this,” one said. A GOP coalition that relies almost entirely on whites could squeeze out one more narrow victory in November. But if Republicans can’t find more effective ways to bridge the priorities of their conservative core and the diversifying Next America, that weight will grow more daunting every year.”
For the Democrats, this is all good news. They are trying to hold onto minority voters just as avidly as the Republicans are trying to hold onto white voters. The difference is, they are secure in the knowledge that there will be more and more minority voters with each passing year. And yes, they too are not above inserting race into the equation to keep their voters loyal.
But it is not good news for the country as a whole. It is not healthy to see political affiliations divide so starkly along racial and ethnic lines. It is not healthy to see important policy questions reduced to battlegrounds in which tribal loyalties dominate over facts and logic.
Again, you can argue with cause that both sides play that game. But politics is a bottom-line business. Because the inexorable math is on the side of the Democrats, they have no incentive to change. It is up to the Republicans to somehow break out of the largely white ghetto in which they’ve confined themselves, and in which the Democrats are quite glad to keep them.
If they don’t find a way out, if they can’t build a bridge to the other side, they consign themselves to minority party status for a generation, and all of the other policy goals that they hope to achieve will fall by the wayside.
– Jay Bookman