The GOP Outreach that Dare Not Speak Its Name
Mitt Romney's disappointing 2012 defeat has unleashed an orgy of GOP self-reflection aimed at winning in 2016. Alas, nearly everything entails "outreach" and "inclusion" to assorted minority groups plus ending the alleged Republican "war on women." Disbelievers should enter "GOP pandering" into Google--1.6 million hits as of March 24th.
But of all this pandering, the most important is the official100 page Growth and Opportunity Project issued by the Republican National Committee Chairman and its chair Reince Priebus. RNC researchers spoke with some 2,600 people both inside and outside of Washington, lots of voters, technical experts, party members and elected officials, an assortment of pollsters, some 600 Hispanic voters and former Republican voters who thought the party was either too little or too conservative. Some 36,000 people also contributed their thoughts online.
The bottom line: "Instead of driving around in circles on an ideological cul-de-sac, we need a Party whose brand of conservatism invites and inspires new people to visit us. We need to remain America's conservative alternative to big-government, redistribution-to-extremes liberalism, while building a route into our Party that a non-traditional Republican will want to travel. Our standard should not be universal purity; it should be a more welcoming conservatism."
Specifically, "We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too. [Young and low income people were included elsewhere.] We must recruit more candidates who come from minority communities. But it is not just tone that counts. Policy always matters." The Report abounds in lines such as "We've [Republicans] chased the Hispanic voter out of his natural home." Inclusion might even require filling party positions by quota and rebranding the GOP the Growth and Opportunity Party."
But absent from the outreach was the one group whose future mobilization holds the greatest promise for a GOP victory -- whites especially white males. This is the pandering that dare not speak its name and its omission is especially odd since today's Democratic Party has a lock on targeted constituencies, e.g., African Americans, gays, pro-abortion women among others. Note well, we are not speaking of some white nationalism akin to re-taking "a white" country. This is about promoting measures no different than those policies targeting minority groups, e.g., improved access to higher education.
Intentions aside, the inclusionary tactic seems futile and almost guaranteed to alienate the Republican ideological core. A savvy elected official surely knows that when seeking votes, hunt where the ducks are, and today's ducks are white Republicans, not the handful of gays or pro-abortion women.
A small sampling of statistics make this whites-are-the-ducks strategy apparent (these data are culled from various sources, see here here here and here). Overall, Romney received 59% of the white vote in 2012, a far cry from the 64% share from Reagan's victory in 1984. Moreover, even as America becomes more diverse, whites still comprise 72% of the electorate. The most telling statistic is that in 2012 whites cast seven million fewer votes than they did for the lackluster John McCain. By comparison, blacks increased their turnout by 300,000 and Latinos by 1.7 million.
Evidence from battleground states is even more depressing for the GOP. Romney lost Ohio by 2% and received 57% of the white vote (whites comprise 79% of the Ohio electorate). If Romney had captured 59% of the white vote in Ohio (his national average among whites) he would have carried Ohio. Ditto for Iowa, where whites are 93% of the electorate. Here he received a paltry 51% of the white vote and thus lost the state by five percentage points. In sum, If Romney could have matched Reagan in attracting whites, 2012 would have been a GOP landslide.
So, why the Report's glaring omission? Let me suggest that appealing to whites as "an ethnic group" is now taboo, and the prohibition exists regardless of the appeal's economic allure or similarity to appeals made to other demographic groups.. Such electoral rhetoric automatically certifies the advocate as racist, a nutcase, xenophobic and, worst of all, hateful.
Imagine a GOP candidate addressing college-aged whites. He might stress how their chances for a decent education have been undermined by affirmative action, a process probably personally known to every listener. That is, black and Hispanic high school classmates admitted to top schools, usually with generous scholarships while better qualified white classmates settle for second tier schools with less financial aid. Further add tuition increases thanks to costly campus diversity bureaucracy and feel good identity courses. Moreover, this reverse discrimination will continue long after they graduate as skin color and ethnicity trump merit in the quest for good jobs. Our GOP candidate promises an apple pie and motherhood solution: a level playing field for everybody.
What about blue collar workers? Our candidate will describe how wages for the average factory worker have gone nowhere, even declining over the past few decades and much of this stagnation, he asserts, results from unchecked immigration. In fact, even more skilled workers are hurt as corporations recruit low cost foreign engineers and computer specialists from abroad.
How about the local Chamber of Commerce? They will hear how Washington imposes pointless, costly burdensome rules to prevent assumed racial and sexual discrimination. Yes, the speaker continues, we all know that good workers, regardless of color or ethnicity, are hard to find so why should we be forced to hire the less qualified to avoid costly litigation? Does bigotry trump economic self-interest? Further add government contract set asides at a time when small business survival is difficult enough.
How about attracting mothers and those planning families? The speech would stress how their children's education is often hindered by Washington's incessant meddling to achieve "social justice" -- forced busing that often means fleeing to a private school, the suburbs or home schooling, school discipline by racial quota, requiring lessons heavy on feel-good invented history and dumbing down if not abolishing classes for the gifted. Again, an apple pie and motherhood solution: good public schools.
Examples could be multiplied but the point should be clear: a campaign targeting whites even with motherhood and apple pie proposals would elicit heartfelt cheers from massive crowds but, simultaneously, howls of outrage, accusations of racism and all the rest from "respectable folks." The GOP would be accused of trying to restore Jim Crow (or worse), depriving the disadvantaged of a deserved opportunity to catch up to whiles, stigmatizing Hispanic students and encouraging dangerous racial stereotypes. Ironically, of course, the opposite coming from a Democratic, e.g. yet more affirmative action, would be hailed as genuine compassion (save, of course, those pushed aside). In other words, Democrats have mastered the art of demonizing Republicans by making their most productive electoral strategy unthinkable.
What might the future hold if the beleaguered GOP truly embraces the Report for 2016? Not only will the Democrats win the presidency, but the party may fracture, perhaps something akin to the Democrats in 1948 (Strom Thurmond running as both a Democrat and a States Rights Democratic Party) who received 39 Electoral Votes. Or George Wallace who ran in 1968 under the American Independent Party banner winning 10 million votes and carried ten Southern states while almost winning Tennessee and North Carolina as well.
To repeat, we are not advising the GOP to embrace white nationalism. Reaching out to Democratic constituencies is, moreover, always a useful strategy no matter what the odds of success. Our point is less controversial: the Republican Party seems paralyzed to pursue its own best electoral interests and one might surmise that any party so easily intimidated does not deserve to govern.
Time for a duck hunt.