The Deconstruction of Falling Stars

Rather than writing some lengthy dissertation on the 2012 election, I think I’ll opt for a series of short thoughts that, like non-partisan polling analysis, allows people to consider everything and then form their own conclusions.

After listening to most of what Rush Limbaugh has had to say since November 7th (I opted to listen to his show for myself), it occurred to me this afternoon that the new conservative meme of couched racism as a kind of caulk to repair breaches in their information filters and ecosphere created by the poll denial disaster has a fatal flaw: Jews and women.

Before I get to that, let me explain how I’ve arrived at the racism angle.

There’s a long running stereotype amongst racists that blacks are poor and uneducated because they are lazy and don’t want to work. Mitigating circumstances like institutional discrimination and being born to poor families in poor cities with few prospects for a good life are ignored because they don’t serve the purpose. These days, that stereotype has been expanded to include Hispanics and even Asians. With the rise in the number of Americans living off food stamps (due to the recession), it was a natural reaction for people like Newt Gingrich to label Barack Obama the food stamp President because again, it served the purpose. It doesn’t matter that the increase in reliance on food stamps began before Barack Obama won the Democratic Primary, or that a lot of that increase is accounted for by whites dropping out of the middle class into the ranks of the poor and impoverished as the income inequality gap continues to widen at an accelerated pace.

All blacks are lazy and want handouts, so it just makes sense that a black President’s primary mission in life would be to give his own people government welfare, because deep down inside, obviously, that’s what he wants, too.

Thus the post-election meme is that Republicans can’t possibly fight for the minority vote unless they embrace big government by feeding the addiction of blacks and Hispanics to free handouts, simultaneously exposing the racist undercurrent that’s existed beneath that party for decades, and the very problem that has kept the GOP from making inroads with the minority electorate for generations.

Understand, this is a discussion involving the party, not the people in that party. There have always been significant differences between the two. Democrats in Congress are as subservient to financial interests as Republicans are, even if voters in both parties are sickened by such corruption. And it’s the party that’s in crisis these days, not the voters.

As Glenn Greenwald noted on the night of the election when Bill O’Reilly made this argument, paraphrasing here, if the GOP wants to get the minority vote, it’s probably not a good idea to call them a bunch of lazy good-for-nothing leeches that just want a bunch of free stuff.

This excuse allows the professional GOP to maintain its aggressive policies that drive off minorities in droves. Hispanics don’t want free TVs and Obama phones or even necessarily amnesty for undocumented immigrants. From what I gather, many legal immigrants find illegal immigration quite upsetting, given everything they had to go through to get into this country legally by doing things the right way. Rather, it’s things like making English the official language of the United States, and racially discriminatory laws like SB1070 in Arizona that make legal immigrants and their families feel persecuted — because they are — and border fences that drive Hispanics towards the Democratic Party. It’s certainly not Democratic Policies in most cases because while Democrats talk a good game about positive immigration reform, Dems have accomplished little to nothing in the past 20 years.

One could say the same about African Americans and Asians. Racist ads like the one run by Pete Hokestra and Romney’s promise to begin a trade war with China probably figure prominently in Asian support of Dems. And I shouldn’t even have to get into racist drug laws, attacks on welfare, etc, for blacks.

Yet (amazingly) the fatal flaw in this strategy — little more than a softer version of the previously successful Southern Strategy that no longer works because minorities collectively are too big a demographic — is its implicit attack on American Jews. Every election, Republicans say this is the year they’ll finally win the American Jewish vote. And they never do. And they never understand why, for the same reasons they don’t understand why they keep losing everybody else. (That explanation is perhaps the simplest of all: American Jews care deeply about the affairs of Israel, but they also care about themselves and their families, which ties them to American affairs like the economy first and foremost.)

If the argument is that non-whites (of which I consider American Jews not just because Jew is an ethnicity as well as a religion, but because it’s also a wildly separate demographic politically) vote for Democrats because they want free stuff, then that is an implicit attack on all demographics that vote predominantly Democratic. That’s not just blacks, Hispanics, and Asians, it’s also American Jews, women, and just about everyone born after 1985.

Given that, I think it’s fast becoming conventional wisdom to say that losing an election is not necessarily a refutation of an entire ideology. Which is to say that just because the GOP has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, that doesn’t mean the GOP has to (or should) stop being the GOP.

But if the changing demographic observation is correct, then conventional wisdom may once again be failing us. The GOP may be able to peel off one of the six important demographics they routinely lose by adjusting their message within the margins. But they can’t win them all that way. The GOP will never win American Jews by calling minorities a bunch of lazy freeloaders. They can’t win Hispanics by putting Israel first and America second. They certainly can’t win women by embracing biblical misogyny.

Good luck to them figuring out exactly how to become competitive in the future, because I don’t see a path to that if the GOP remains the GOP. Virginia, Nevada, and Florida used to be reliably red states for decades. Now Nevada looks to have gone a light shade of blue and Virginia has joined Florida as a left-leaning tossup. Two of those states changed because of Hispanics.

North Carolina’s slow bleed of manufacturing and tobacco jobs has been replaced by significant growth in tech, medical, and banking — all liberal vocations, and minority growth. (While investment firm executives tend to be Republicans, traders and regular employees actually tend to be Democrats, same as you’ll find it virtually every business sector.) George W. Bush won North Carolina by 13% in 2000 and 12% in 2004. Obama won it by 0.3% in 2008 and Romney by just 2% this year. It appears to be a swing state today on its way to being Nevada quite soon.

Arizona’s population is 1/3rd Hispanic and growing fast, and Hispanics make up 38% of Texas’ population. Hispanics tipped the scales in Nevada and Florida and it’s not out of the question that both Texas and Arizona could be in play in 2016 for Democrats if the Hispanic demo is turned out like it has been in Nevada.

If you don’t think things can turn around that fast, again, just look at North Carolina. Arizona was closer this year (10%) than North Carolina was in 2000 (13%) and 2004 (12%) and it only took one cycle for NC to flip. Texas was almost as close in 2008 (11.7%) as AZ this year, although it widened this time around (16%), it has the fastest growing Hispanic population in the nation. That matters. If you’ve got 100 Hispanics today at a growth rate of 10% per year, then after four years, you’ve only got 46 new Hispanics in one general election cycle. But if you’ve got 9.5 million like Texas does, even a growth rate of 1% would give you almost 100,000 more per cycle.

The actual number for Texas is that Hispanics accounted for 89% of the state’s population growth between 2000 and 2010. Between Hispanics and blacks, whites are already the minority.

Because of that, Texas is projected to become a majority Hispanic state by 2020. Not majority-minority where all the minorities together outnumber whites. We’re talking Hispanics alone will make up the majority. And we’re not that far off. It’s only a 38.1% to 44.8% mix right now.

You can already see these changes taking place. Texas gained four House seats from the 2010 census and all of that growth is attributed to Hispanics. You can also see one of the reasons that the GOP is pushing minorities away. The GOP-dominated state government of Texas redrew districts that created four new majority white districts that they only got because of Hispanic growth.

I think most people grasp the changing demographics storyline now. But what they don’t get, I think, is how fast things will continue to change because of the math. Think about how quickly North Carolina went from reliably red at 12-13% to being a swing state. And Virginia. And Florida. In the last eight years, Republicans have lost four reliable red states: Nevada, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida to tossup status, while Democrats have lost none. Texas is destined to be majority Hispanic within ten years.

It’s not really a matter of the GOP changing along with the demographics. In fact, I suspect you’ll see some discussion amongst the Nerd Kings about whether or not the GOP is headed for permanent minority status when it comes to Presidential elections, not accounting for outside factors like recessions, world wars (since regular wars don’t seem to matter anymore), and poor candidates, and whether that’s even something they can change.

So, yeah. A few short thoughts..

Paul Tenny

Paul Tenny

I'm not a journalist but I do it anyway. I cover elections and have interviewed television writers and producers.
Paul Tenny

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