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What it really means to woo white voters

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Dana Monsour
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« on: July 13, 2013, 08:25:14 pm »

 What it really means to woo white voters
It’s hard to imagine a GOP plan to consolidate its white base that doesn’t rely on appealing to white grievance
By Joan Walsh



Topics: White voters, Sean Trende, Ruy Teixiera, 2012 Elections, Editor's Picks, Race, Pat Buchanan, Rand Paul, News, Politics News
What it really means to woo white votersPat Buchanan, Rand Paul (Credit: AP/Lawrence Jackson/Ed Reinke)

I have a visceral reaction to conservatives arguing that Republicans should forget about trying to lure Latinos by passing immigration reform, and focus on turning out white voters instead. When Phyllis Schlafly or Pat Buchanan makes that pitch, it’s clear to me, it’s racist. They are urging their party to rely on the 50-year narrative of white grievance, perfected by Buchanan for Richard Nixon, that turned many white working-class people against Democrats. In some quarters, it’s a 150-year narrative that blames Abraham Lincoln for the War of Northern Aggression, and considers the father of the Republican Party a racist hypocrite.

Yet not everyone reassuring the GOP that it can continue to rely on white voters is making a racist argument. Real Clear Politics’ Sean Trende’s work on “missing white voters” tries to show that there are gains to be made by appealing to disaffected downscale whites who didn’t vote in 2012 (more on that later) – though he doesn’t argue that the party should ignore outreach to Latinos, blacks and Asians.

Still, it’s very hard for me to imagine a Republican effort to appeal specifically to white voters that doesn’t involve a strong element of racial grievance and a demonization of “government” as being the enemy that takes your money and gives it to those (non-white) people. That’s the Nixonian narrative that still played in 2012.

Having said that, I realize: I’ve argued that Democrats should do more to appeal to working-class whites. So what makes me think Democrats can reach more whites with an appeal that’s non-racial, while Republicans’ get-out-the-whites strategy can only rely on grievance and backlash?

Posing that question to myself helped me make a little more sense of the Twitter backlash against my piece, “How to Talk About White People” in April. I made three recommendations: Don’t assume they’re all Republican, all wealthy or all racist. I didn’t think it would be controversial, but it was. Some of the reaction from critics involved wild projection: that I was suggesting our “newest minority” might face discrimination or suffering on a par with the problems experienced by blacks, Latinos and Asians; that it was somehow time for America to turn to the special problems of white people. That’s silly.

It’s possible that it sounded like I was calling for special programs for working-class whites (though I wasn’t). I’ve long argued that a populist economic recovery program to rebuild the opportunity ladder that once led to unrivaled social mobility in the U.S. would appeal to white voters. That’s why the auto restructuring helped President Obama do better with white voters in Ohio than Virginia. Mostly, though, I was talking about the way we talk about politics, urging Democrats not to alienate white voters with triumphalist claims about a “coalition of the ascendant” that leaves them out.  I agree with Ruy Teixeira that the real gains to be made are among white women and white millennials. Democrats should want not just to consolidate the “Obama coalition,” but to expand it.

For Republicans, though, it seems very tough to craft a strategy to consolidate and even expand their share of the white vote without resorting to at least veiled racial appeals. Although we can’t accurately generalize about any racial group, and mostly shouldn’t, when we’re talking politics, we can at least take for granted that black voters, Latino voters, Asian voters, American Indian voters are united by the goal of ending racism and discrimination in a country where for too long, white people have disproportionately controlled wealth and political power. So what would unite white voters — unless we assume that they are united in opposition to policies designed to eliminate or minimize their racial advantages? What interests do we plausibly share primarily as white people — as opposed to as union members, tech workers, single mothers or hedge fund managers? What “issues” unite white voters that aren’t also potentially appealing to blacks, Latinos and Asians?

Take immigration reform. There’s an implicit, and sometimes (as in Schlafly’s case) explicit racial element to much GOP opposition. You don’t have to be a racist to oppose it – you might legitimately worry about the impact on low-wage workers, for instance – but there’s a strong strain of nativism and white paranoia in some of the opposition. A lot of the Republicans who support immigration reform do so because they think it will help the party not look as hostile to Latinos and Asians; many Republicans who oppose it are perfectly happy to look hostile to those groups because they think it helps them with their white base.

Similarly, you might argue that the GOP could run up its margin with white voters by being even more stridently the anti-government party, since white voters tend to be more skeptical about the role of government than non-white voters. But ever since people like Pat Buchanan and Lee Atwater managed to racialize issues like taxation and government assistance, white voters’ skepticism about government can’t be completely divorced from race. Indeed, that’s why Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, when they saw that Romney wasn’t closing the deal with working-class whites, turned to lies about Obama gutting the work requirement for welfare, or stealing your Medicare to pay for their Obamacare.

Many conservatives have argued that the GOP needs a more populist economic program, but it’s not clear what that would look like. Sean Trende writes: “Ultimately, the basic prescription for the GOP is a healthy dose of economic populism. This includes a lot of changes Democrats would presumably enjoy, such as jettisoning the pro-big-business, Wall Street-style conservatism that characterized the Romney campaign for something authentically geared more toward downscale voters.” But no one has explained what that means.

There is, apparently, something called “libertarian populism,” which Paul Krugman debunked in the Times Friday (and Mike Konczal did with more detail and precision in the Washington Post). Krugman’s optimism that libertarian appeals to slash spending can’t work to win downscale whites, because downscale whites depend on programs like Medicaid, food stamps and unemployment, might be a little bit too optimistic. The Times itself reported last year that the reddest states and counties tend to get the most government assistance. Clearly there are some white voters who either don’t understand that right-wing Republicans want to slash programs they rely on, or don’t care, because they believe the rhetoric that the big bad Obamastate is strangling the economy, and maybe they wouldn’t need government assistance if government would get out of the way.

Still, “libertarian populism” sure does look like the same old far-right policies with a new name. Sen. Ted Cruz is kind of typical: In his speech to New York Republicans in May he insisted Mitt Romney’s 47 percent remarks doomed his candidacy. “I am going to suggest that the last election can be explained in two words: 47 percent,” Cruz told the wealthy crowd. I have to tell you as a conservative … I think Republicans are and should be the party of the 47 percent.” But then he went on to back programs, including abolishing the IRS, that would actually put more money in the hands of the 1 percent.

Of course, if more Republicans coalesced around a genuine, race-neutral program of economic opportunity, it wouldn’t just appeal to white voters. As Sean Trende acknowledged in an email,  “I actually think that sort of switch probably enhances the GOP’s appeals to Hispanics (and, at the margins, African-Americans). “ So it would not necessarily serve to run up the GOP’s margin among whites.

In the end I can’t see how any appeal designed expressly to woo whites doesn’t traffic in race and racial grievance and tribalism. There’s still entirely too much willingness on much of the right to play with racial fire, as evidenced by Sen. Rand Paul refusing to fire his pro-secession “Southern Avenger” Jack Hunter, while praising a book that paints Abraham Lincoln as a racist hypocrite, all to appeal to the segment of the GOP base that admires “libertarianism” because they translate it as “states’ rights.”

I should acknowledge that there’s some debate over Sean Trende’s argument that there are “missing white voters” the GOP ought to go after. While white turnout indeed declined between 2008 and 2012, so did non-white turnout. You can read Ruy Teixeira and Alan Abramowitz minimizing the “missing white voter” theory here, and Trende’s reply here.

But Trende also takes issue with another key component of the “demography is destiny” argument for why the GOP is doomed: It takes for granted that Latino voters, in particular, will continue to vote overwhelmingly Democratic, which is not necessarily true. I agree with him, which is why I’m uncomfortable with the argument that “the Obama coalition” is a long-term fact of political life. Coalitions change.

Interestingly, Trende argues that the decline in white voter participation was most notable in the West and Midwest, what he calls the former “Ross Perot” strongholds. It’s possible that the Pat Buchanan/Lee Atwater racial grievance strategy isn’t working as well as it did, except in the South, and downscale whites outside of the South don’t see either party offering much that’s going to make their lives better. Some of those voters are genuinely up for grabs, especially in the younger generation, and there’s no reason both parties can’t compete for them.

Both parties should be competing for everybody. But Republicans too easily fall back on race, when all else fails. John Boehner’s not a birther, for Pete’s sake – but he doesn’t think it’s his job to tell other Americans what to think about President Obama’s legitimacy. Mitt Romney’s not a racist, but when struggling for white working-class voters, he reaches into the Lee Atwater playbook for lies about Obama and welfare.  Whatever you make of Trende’s data, I don’t think he is arguing that the GOP should exclusively focus on white voters, let alone use racial appeals to reach them. But I do understand why it could seem that way: Offering Republicans hope that they’re not facing demographic extinction will likely encourage the nativists and the racists to keep on keeping on, and they don’t need any encouragement.
Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is Salon's editor at large and the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."


http://www.salon.com/2013/07/12/what_it_really_means_to_woo_white_voters/
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Rebelitarian
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« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2013, 07:13:25 am »

It means that if you are a non-white you contribute to America and not just leech off it and turn it into a 3rd world hell hole from which you came.

Many non-whites master this idea, other so not.

It is the don-nots that cause all the problems.
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Volitzer
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« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2013, 01:23:48 pm »

The Republican Party is al about rich whites and Jews anyway.

Americans should start supporting the middle-class parties like Libertarians and Constitutionalists but no they'll vote against their interests and wonder why they can't make ends meet.

An Open Letter to Democratic and Republican Voters

Our dear slaves,

We, the Rothschilds and Rockefellers of the world, extend our heartfelt thanks to the tens of millions of mainline Democrats and mainline Republicans out there who make up the bulk of the American electorate.

First and foremost, thank you for the trillions in extortion “bailout” money, and for continuing to vote for one or the other of the two political parties that jointly gave us all that money at your expense.

Thank you for letting our uniformed goons grope, radiate and harass you and your loved ones (especially your children!) at the airport.

Thank you for always putting partisanship above principle.

Thank you for always winking and looking the other way (or mindlessly applauding) when "your" party does the very things you wax indignant about whenever the "other" party does them, and for being willfully blind to the moral and intellectual hypocrisy this betrays.

Thank you for never questioning the validity of the "wasted vote" argument.

Thank you for being such willing dupes for the teleprompter-reading puppets (e.g., Clinton, Bush, Obama, Romney, etc.) we put before you every election season, and for never asking them real questions.

Thank you for being so willfully stupid as to think there’s no fundamental difference between an election and a horse race, and for consequently assuming that even if the candidate you vote for supports the very policies you most passionately oppose, as long as he wins the election, you “win” as well.

Thank you for sheepishly letting our water-carrying, talking point-parroting minions in the TV "news" media dictate to you not only which issues are more important than others, but what your "choices" are on election day.

Thank you for being so ridiculously gullible that you honestly think a pro-war/pro-police state/pro-debt money/pro-NWO Democrat, on the one hand, and a pro-war/pro-police state/pro-debt money/pro-NWO Republican, on the other, represents an actual "choice."

Thank you for being so cowardly, so pathetic, and so unwilling to question the validity of your fairy-tale worldview, that -- no matter how many **** facts are spoon fed to you by informed truth-seekers -- you go right on clinging to the term "conspiracy theory" the way a four-year-old child clings to his teddy bear.

Thank you for having so much of your precious egos invested in the delusional fantasy that we (the ruling-class oligarchs you like to pretend don't exist) never "conspire" to engage in criminal wrongdoing, that you have to be dragged kicking and screaming (like the spoiled children you all are) into acknowleding each and every fact that points in the opposite direction.

Thank you for doing the "SIEG HEIL!" to the official story on 9/11 whenever someone criticizes either the Nazi-style police state or terroristic wars of aggression for which that official story continues to serve as the all-justifying excuse.

Thank you for spending nearly all your free time either gazing glassy-eyed at the television, playing video games, or fondling your cell phones.

Thank you for always treating politics as just another specator sport.

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And last but certainly not least, thank you for being so arrogant as to think that giggling and snickering at everything like you’re still in high school some how makes you part of our club -- and hence immune from our depopulation agenda. (News flash: it doesn't.)

Were it not for your willful ignorance, your moral and intellectul cowardice, and your childlike obsession with mindless distractions, we wouldn't be having such a laughably easy time economically ass-raping you and wrapping the Nazification of America in the American flag.

You are without question the wet dream of every totalitarian dictator who's ever lived, because there's absolutely no amount of tyranny or police state thuggery you won't sheepishly put up with as long as (a) you have TVs to gawk at and cell phones to fondle, and (b) you have someone -- anyone -- to look down your snooty little noses at.

Your increasingly and ravenously affectionate owners,

The Eight Families
 
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