Posted on 07-11-2012
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

In 1994 California Governor Pete Wilson secured re-election by enthusiastically attacking illegal immigrants with rhetoric that offended Hispanics.  As a result the Latino vote in California turned overwhelmingly Democratic.  The Republican Party in the home state of Reagan and Nixon has withered away and yesterday ceded super-majority control of the California legislature to the Democrats.

That is the demographic destiny that stares the national Republican Party in the face.  After 6 years of virulent rhetoric on illegal immigration and the passage of laws in states like Arizona that threaten anyone with brown skin with racial profiling, a presidential nominee who promised to deal with illegal immigrants by encouraging them to self deport, opposing the DREAM Act, the at times racist opposition to the elevation of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and many such issues the Republican share of the Latino vote dropped from 31% to 21%.  Even Faux News acknowledged this demographic disaster yesterday.  The Old White core of the Republican Party is gradually dying off.  The percentages of Hispanics is surging.  Unless the Republican Party can bottle up the crazies they face a future as a permanent minority party or dissolution like the Whigs.

It is unclear the Republicans know how to solve this problem.  Talking heads like George Will and Bill O’Reilly suggested the solution was to highlight rising young stars like Florida Senator Marco Rubio.   It is profoundly ironic that the party that rails against affirmative action so eagerly highlights its token minority mascots as a solution to its problem with minority voters.  It is a superficial solution that really does not address the core of the Republican Party’s campaign.  To begin with Cuban Americans like Rubio or newly elected Texas Senator Ted Cruz have limited appeal to non-Cuban Hispanics – a big reason is the preferential visa regime available to Cubans.  Also, while the Republicans have gathered an impressive collection of minority faces in elected office – Governors Martinez (New Mexico), Sandoval (Nevada),   Jindal (Lousiana) and Haley (South Carolina) and former party head Michael Steele – none of this has translated to greater minority support.  The last few Republican presidential conventions appear to have had more minority speakers than attendees.

The simple reason is that the Republican Party’s policies turn off many minorities.  Putting a minority mask on policies the community despises is not likely to garner much support from the community.  So far most minority groups have not embraced the Randian fantasy of no government and do acknowledge that government can play a positive role.

One of the bright stars at the Republican convention was Mia Love.  A woman, African American and a Mormon from Utah she wowed the convention attendees.  She was widely expected to take out the one Democratic congressman from Utah – Jim Matheson.  She lost.  Her campaign was disorganized and extreme views on matters like ending the federal school lunch program did not help, even in Utah.  The more I read about her I get the distinct impression that the Republicans fell in love with a young attractive charismatic but inexperienced mascot who was just not ready for prime time – Sarah Palin anyone?

Expecting tokenism to trump policy is offensive.  Condescending remarks like those from Bill O’Reilly that embrace Mitt Romney’s infamous 47% comments are offensive.  Video below:

Active campaigns carried out by Republican Secretaries of State to discourage minority voting, the series of misleading robocalls directed at minority communities, the habit of sending poll watchers only to minority communities are factors that convince minorities that the Republican Party does not respect them or care about them.  And these are still basic matters of tone.  This does not address the substantive disagreement on bread and butter issues which trump agreement with Republicans on the religious culture wars.

The Republican Party was the party that freed the slaves.  However one of its founding constituent groups was the anti-slavery wing of the Know Nothings who were notorious for attacks on immigrants in antebellum America.  Even though the Republican Party held on to a large portion of the black vote until Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act and Nixon implemented the Southern Strategy, they spent the intervening period pissing off large chunks of every single ethnic immigrant group entering the United States.  So why would it be different for Hispanics?

The Republican Party needs a through rethink on how they approach minorities.  Nominating someone like Rubio is papering over its serious problem with minorities and will not do much to draw support.  They need to adapt to the reality that we are no longer in Bill O’Reilly’s wet dream of an America controlled by the white establishment and stop embracing race baiters like Joe Arpaio.

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