The GOP has run out of white voters
December 13, 2012By Dick Polman
Every once in awhile, someone will admonish me for occasionally referring to the GOP as the white people's party. I concede that the label is harsh. But I also contend that the label is accurate, given the fact that 90 percent of Mitt Romney's voters were of the Caucasian persuasion, that only 27 percent of Hispanics voted for Romney, that Hispanics doomed his candidacy in at least four swing states, and that, more broadly, the party is increasingly out of sync with 21st century racial reality.
And now we have a post-election report, conducted by a Republican pollster in cahoots with a Republican-affiliated outfit, that essentially cops to the same label - and contends that unless the party can figure out how to speedily dilute its whiteness, it is toast.
The money quote, courtesy of southern-based GOP pollster Whit Ayres and the center-right Hispanic Leadership Network:
"Mitt Romney won a landslide among white voters, defeating Barack Obama by 59 to 39 percent. In the process he won every large segment of white voters, often by double-digit margins: white men, white women, white Catholics, white Protestants, white old people, white young people. Yet that was not enough to craft a national majority. Republicans have run out of persuadable white voters. For the fifth time in the past six presidential elections, Republicans lost the popular vote. Trying to win a national election by gaining a larger and larger share of a smaller and smaller portion of the electorate is a losing political proposition." (The italics are mine.)
Well, there it is. A dose of reality from the GOP's sane wing. The report warns that the party's virtually all-white composition is "the route to political irrelevance....Settling for a quarter or less of the Hispanic vote nationally will relegate Republicans to a regional party with few national prospects."
Back when the GOP was winning national elections, four states in particular - Florida, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico - were considered reliably red. But no longer. Romney lost all four in part because of Hispanic defections, as did John McCain four years ago. Ayres and the Hispanic Leadership Network decided to find out why. They polled anew in those states, and discovered (in a PDF):
"The Democratic Party has a decisive advantage over the Republican Party on a variety of phrases related to policy and governing philosophy. Hispanics in each of these states prefer Democrats to Republicans on the issues, usually by wide margins. Democrats lead not only in traditionally Democratic areas like education, women’s rights, and social issues, but also on traditionally Republican issues like deficit reduction, the economy, and helping small businesses. Democrats also hold wide advantages on supporting legal immigration, and caring about the middle class, while Republicans have a wide lead on caring primarily about helping the rich....Disturbingly, majorities of voters in each state say that 'anti-immigrant' better describes the Republican Party, while the Democratic Party has big leads on 'Understands the needs and concerns of Hispanic voters,' and 'Makes an effort to win Hispanic voters.'"
These findings are obvious to those of us who dwell in the reality-based world, but we're not the prime audience for this report. Ayres is trying to penetrate the minds of the GOP reality-deniers who spent most of the autumn campaign inside the Fox News-Rasmussen-talk show bubble, in anticipation of a Romney victory made possible by an overwhelmingly white electorate a la the 2010 midterms. His message is that the party needs to wake up before it's too late - and that the party can start by showing Hispanics some respect:
"Years of harsh rhetoric and punitive policies will not be undone overnight....But resolving those problems is imperative if Republicans hope to remain a competitive force in national politics. Numbers do not lie, and growing Hispanic influence in American life will only continue to grow....New candidates, new policies, and a new tone are all imperative."
It should be noted that the Hispanic Leadership Network is co-helmed by Jeb Bush, a potential '16 candidate who has been vocal about the lack of party inclusiveness. That fact alone prompts me to wonder whether this report can penetrate the GOP bubble; if Romney or any of his Republican rivals had talked so inclusively about Hispanics during the recent party debates, they would have been booed. I wonder whether Jeb could do any better next time.
The new report, which suggests how Republicans can win 40 percent of Hispanic voters with an inclusive conservative message, is too commonsensical to ignore. But let us not underestimate the party's white conservative insularity. Forgive me for paraphrasing F. Scott Fitzgerald: If the GOP persists in launching its boats against the current, it will be borne back ceaselessly into the past.
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