Various and sundry observations on U.S. politics and culture; class, race and gender; international relations; transnational movements; geopolitics and resources; civil and ethnic conflict; political violence; nationalism; religion; and Central and Southeastern Europe
In the 2012 presidential election, Romney had bested Obama handily in the white demographic, with 59 percent of European-Americans voting for the Republican nominee.
Nearly nine in ten of Romney voters in 2012 were white. No GOP had had
attracted more white voters since Reagan routed Mondale in a 49-state sweep
back in 1984.
Nonetheless, Obama still won re-election by a comfortable 4
The reality for the GOP—which is well-understood by party establishment types—is that the party is increasingly dependent on the white vote. Minority Republican
voters make a disappearingly small share of the Republican base. The problem: the share of all-important white voters in
the United States is fast shrinking (from a high of 89 percent in 1976 to 72 percent in 2012).
"...among the steps
Republicans take in the Hispanic community and beyond, must be to embrace and
champion comprehensive immigration reform," the report read. "If we
do not, our Party's appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies
What are those “core constituencies”? In a word (or five):
white, Southern, male, rural, older.
To escape this bind, GOP strategists reckoned that Republicans would need to pass some form of immigration reform to appeal to the Hispanic community, which is disproportionately harmed by the US's byzantine immigration system. And at the very minimum, Republican politicians needed to stop race-baiting. The logic followed that if the
GOP could shake their image as hostile to minorities, then social conservatives
within the Hispanic and black communities might well come over to the GOP.
Fast Forward Three Years
The 2016 presidential election is still 11 months out, but
it is already clear that the GOP, far from moving toward a larger tent, has
pitched—so to speak—the smallest pup tent imaginable.Why? Because the tribalist core of the GOP
hates “inclusivity” and “outreach,” particularly to minority communities. And the tribalist core is increasingly in
the drivers seat. In short, the Republican Party has nowhere else to go.
For months, real estate mogul and reality television star, Donald J. Trump, has enjoyed a commanding lead in the polls, thanks largely to the support
of these core groups. The chart below, created through Huffpost Pollster, illustrates shifts in popular support for all GOP contenders from June to December:
The most notable feature of the Trump candidacy (apart from
the fact that the candidate has never held public office) is his unapologetic
nativism and America-Firsterism. Trump launched his bid by painting a picture
of an insecure U.S.-Mexican border openly flouted by a tide of illegal aliens
who are “rapists,” “murderers,” “bringing drugs and crime.”The solution announced Trump, is constructing
a “big beautiful wall” that Mexico would pay for. Trump later expanded on his
plan with a “deportation force” that could go door to door to round up and
expel undocumented individuals.
Trump does not so much ignore minority communities in his campaign speeches,
interviews and debate appearances as much as he openly antagonizes them--in order to pander to
the GOP’s “core constituencies.” Rather than a dog whistle, Trump favors a blowhorn.
Until the ISIS attacks in in Paris, Trump started nearly every campaign appearance with some statement about America needing to “win” again (against
China, Iran, Japan…) and how he would build an awesome wall to keep Mexican
After the Paris attacks, Trump pivoted neatly from Mexicans
to Muslims, proclaiming (among other things) that the US not take in any Syrian
refugees, for fear that some might be terrorists. When asked, he said he favored a database for keeping track of Muslims in America (a suggestion he
has since walked back to some extent). And of course, Trump would “hit ISIS”
and “hit them hard,” even "taking out their families." In the wake of the workplace shootings by two Muslims in San Bernardino, Trump advocated banning Muslims from entering the United States as either tourists or immigrants until the government "can figure out what's going on."
Trump’s raw, unfiltered tribalism resonate powerfully with
much of the GOP base. This much is clear from popular reactions to Trump’s
campaign events, focus groups, and opinion polls. Other Republican candidates
are following Trump’s xenophobic lead. Why? Because that is where the GOP’s
“core constituencies” are taking them.
careening down this road of nominating somebody who frankly isn’t fit to be
president in terms of the basic ability and temperament to do the job. It’s not
just that it could be somebody Hillary could destroy electorally, but what if
Hillary hits a banana peel and this person becomes president?”
When Frank Luntz conducted a focus group of Trump
supporters back in August, his supporters made it clear that there was
nothing anyone could say to shake their confidence in Trump, particularly when coming from members of the
Republican establishment. Luntz was most stunned by evidence that Trump's supporters seemed unshakable in their enthusiasm for the frontrunner, even negative ads highlighting Trump's lies or distortions. Luntz said later, "This is real. I'm having
trouble processing it. Like, my legs are shaking,"
The chickens have finally come home to roost for the GOP—decades
after Nixon’s Southern Strategy and the infamous Willie Horton ad that sank
Michael Dukakis in 1988. The fatal decision by the GOP to use race-baiting pick
up southern votes a generation ago left the party with a shrinking electoral
base that may now be too small to win presidential races. For its part, the
base resists the very makeover that will save the party itself.