“We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long-term.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham
Inside today’s GOP, racism is like global warming. It’s an inescapable reality with powerful implications for our daily lives that is too ideologically upsetting for Republicans to even acknowledge, much less address. Like climate denial, the party’s grimly determined attachment to the remnants of white supremacy is going to cease to be viable soon. The demographics are relentless.
So what comes next? If reason wins out, Republicans will soon begin to build, or perhaps it’s better to say remember, a governing agenda independent of white racial paranoia. Reality-focused policies aimed at strengthening commerce, making government more authentically accountable, and fostering peace and stability through strength and wise alliances are sitting in the neglected back rooms of the Republican enterprise waiting to be dusted off and updated.
No one can promise that reason will win. Lincoln’s appeal to the better angels of our nature is 150 years old and we are still waiting on those angels. Today’s Republican Party might not pivot back toward reason, retreating instead into a Southern and rural regional fortress. What happens to the GOP in the 2016 and 2018 elections will likely determine whether the party recovers its sanity or retreats for the long term into a purely regional, obstructionist role.
Restoring a governing agenda that can win nationally will not be easy. The raw materials are there, but institutional forces inside the party are hard-wired to resist it.
Since the late Sixties conservative politicians have been busy retrofitting older Republican themes to make them fit into an increasingly sophisticated racist agenda. Every traditional element of the party has been reshaped by the demands of the Southern Strategy. Whatever cannot be fashioned around white cultural appeals, like the party’s old urban agenda and its appeal to women, has simply been jettisoned.
Fiscal responsibility has morphed into endless tax cuts. Commercial priorities have been entirely reduced to a program aimed at crippling federal authority. The Republican “traditional values” agenda has been re-imagined as an alternative explanation for the economic suffering of oppressed minorities.
Under the friendly green skies of the conservative alternate universe, racism ceased to exist one afternoon in 1964 when President Johnson signed a certain (ill-advised, according to some) law. Since that afternoon all subsequent inequality between whites and minority groups can conveniently be traced to their own sexual immorality, government dependence, and impiety. As a consequence, any and every reference to continuing racism is itself racism.
The process of grafting Southern racist fears onto the Republican agenda has gone unchallenged for so long that few people can even remember a Republican big-city mayor. Many voters in the prime of life cannot recall the days when Republicans dominated politics in New York, Connecticut, California, and Illinois. If a new generation of blue state Republican figures can quickly rise to prominence at the national level, it may be possible to start righting the party in time. That outcome is not assured.
Reason might not win. The collapse of the party’s influence at the national level might not be enough to change the party’s trajectory. Dog-whistle racist politics as perfected by Rick Perry, Rand Paul and Mike Lee might prevail over the older Hamiltonian commercial values represented by figures like Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani.
For the moment at least, we must recognize that the Perry wing of the party is winning. Across Dixie and the rural west they have mastered the art of white racial solidarity, racking up well over seventy percent of the white vote while Republicans slowly disappear from urban and northern landscapes.
A strategy aimed at consolidating national power by appealing to the racial fears of Southern whites has reached the end of its effectiveness. That does not mean we will stop using it.
It is entirely possible that a perverse new version of the Republican Party, the mirror image of its anti-slavery, Hamiltonian heritage may control its brand going forward. Political outcomes over the next four years may determine whether the Republican Party regains its national footing or retreats into a strategy of regional resistance with dangerous consequences for the country.
I agree with you wholeheartedly, however I have one bone to pick with you: the racism in the GOP isn’t just southern. I live in New York City and have personally witnessed how moderate ‘’northeastern’’ Republicans have also been indifferent to minorities.
Urban GOP clubs, for lack of a better word are not growth centers seeking to expand their base but ‘career networking’ gatherings , largely made up of white young professionals. I have known many conservative blacks/Hispanics that were turned off by the “tone” of gatherings. These gatherings are essential and determine what newly interested or on the fence person thinks about the entire party. My first experience at one of these events was terrible. No one talked to me or even reached out to ask my name. I wasn’t even a Republican at the time, just wanted to see what it was all about. It’s been years since, but the atmosphere is still the same. And then they wonder why they don’t win elections. Their cities are growing more diverse, while they are growing whiter. I’ll even go a step further: white moderate northeastern Republicans, by neglecting minorities, are indeed the architects of their own downfall. They have no groundswell of support in cities due to rapid demographic changes.
Many African-Americans see northeastern Republicans as the brains behind the fight against
early-voting and they view the party as coming off as a little too ”pro-police” state for their taste. Not to mention, they also know Republicans have been the face behind many of the mandatory minimum sentencing laws that have jailed thousands of black men.
Conservatives like to complain about Rev. Al Sharpton, but where are conservative leaders when a cop wrongly kills a black child? During the case surrounding the Central Park 5, northeastern Republicans like Donald Trump wanted to give the Central Park Five the chair; and local Republicans applauded him. Now we know they were innocent. Its incidents and toxic rhetoric like this that creates the strained relationship white moderate northeastern Republicans have with minorities.
Not only do these white moderate northeastern Republicans minorities but they alienated the white conservative (southern) base due to their views on abortion and gay marriage. This explains why Rudy Giuliani — and possibly in 2016 Chris Christie — had problems winning the nomination. Pragmatic Republicans and minorities need each other but unfortunately white moderate northeastern Republicans don’t seem to see this. It’s so unfortunate because the relationship with white moderate northeastern Republicans and African-Americans used to be a healthy and productive one — of course that all changed with Barry Goldwater.
The future of pragmatic republicanism will largely depends on it’s relationship with the middle class and minorities. The problem for the many of these white moderate northeastern Republicans: their own personal indifference to minorities. They are used to be around their “own kind” and “class”. It is a mindset that is destroying their influence; and most liberals are betting on it.
Fortunately, people like Bruce Rauner (R) in Illinois and David Perdue (R) in Georgia appear to get it.
They are both businessmen and not ideologues and have been reaching out to the black community to strip away their Liberal opponents’ base of support. The incident in Mississippi with Thad Cochran is a perfect example of things to come. Moderate Republicans in the south and northeast will have to finally do what they have failed to do for years: engage minority/middleclass/poor voters to win against their primary purist. In the case of the above-mentioned, they’ll likely succeed precisely because of this strategy.
It’s not about getting out your traditional base anymore; it’s now about appealing beyond it while keeping it. Indeed, a perfect political storm, almost tailored for northeastern Republicans.
If you truly believe that the GOP is the party of White Supremacy, you display a remarkable lack of integrity by staying a part of it.
Two people come to mind when I think of the changes that have happened in the Republican Party and the fact that the party has become VERY unwelcoming to anyone outside of the strict ideological confines of the core supporters (mainly in the South), Jim Jeffords and Lincoln Chafee.
Both were born into lifelong Republican families from northern states. Both were sterotypical Yankee Republicans…WASP, Ivy League educated from a priviledged backgrounds. Both spent decades in the elite of the Republican Party. Both were Senators. And both were chased out of the Republican Party by the extreme conservative, often racist, Southern base of the party. Jeffords is now dead and Chafee is now a Democrat. That says a lot about what has happened to the Republicans.
You forgot Arlen Specter, the late Senator from Pennsylvania who passed back in 2012. He tried to run in Philadelphia but was not accepted by the Democrats there. So he ran as a Republican and eventually was in the Senate for some time. From what I read, he was popular for a Republican in Philly. He was not loved by conservatives for keeping Robert Bork out of the Supreme Court and eventually doing things some (not all) conservatives like expanding the party base and being pragmatic (which makes you a RINO and not a real Republican to right wing purists)
In 2009, he switched to the Democrats because the RNC would cut off his funds for voting yes on the 2009 stimulus and lost in the 2010 Democratic Senate Primary.
I read one of his books, interesting to read about his life in the Senate.
Forgot about Specter. You’re right! He’s another one.
Serious change to the GOP platform and strategy will only happen after a cataclysm. The fairly resounding defeat in 2012 was not sufficient. There will have to be a huge national defeat in which it loses Congress and the Presidency by enormous margins. This obviously can’t occur in 2014, in which the GOP will probably do fairly well (and then grossly overstate the traditional thumping the President’s party takes in mid-terms as a non-existent mandate), but 2016 is shaping up to be that Waterloo. The 2016 Senate election has far more vulnerable Republican seats than Democratic ones to be contested. Have you heard serious presidential talk from a Republican candidate you’d vote for? Christie and Rubio I would consider. Cruz, Perry, Huckabee, Paul, Santorum? I wouldn’t vote for these guys if they were running against the proverbial yellow dog, and neither would a huge majority of the electorate.
I really don’t have a dog in this fight, but allow me to try to paraphrase, or at least read between the lines here, and you tell me where I get it wrong:
The driving force behind today’s GOP ideology is racism and white supremacy. Walker took a position against a public employee union, and is therefore a ‘racist’ – presumably because labor is a racial issue.
The rise of the Democrats in big city politics in America is because the GOP is racist. It has not a thing to do with demographics. (We all know minorities used to be big GOP voters.)
Opposition to any and all spending presented as ‘green’ by any measure, no matter how hare-brained, is racist – presumably because the GOP has a long-term goal of flooding out poor black people in the coastal regions with rising sea levels or something.
Any challenge or advocacy of the roll-back of federal power is ‘crippling federal authority’. Such a view is racist, as federal authority is the only hope for ‘oppressed minorities’.
It seems to me that were I a Republican, and had people preaching to me even half of the above, and in so doing, calling me a racist, I’d tell them to go have an auto-erotic experience. Just how in the hell does a message like this possibly hope go gain traction within the party?
The issue is that the GOP in the modern era has preached a subtle and not so subtle form of racial exploitation. Like you stated minority groups once voted for the GOP but they do not now. Why is that? Because people often vote for those that serve their interests. Minority groups are leaving the GOP because the perception is that they are not welcomed. It is not just African-Americans or Hispanics, it is even groups that traditional sided with the GOP even 10 years ago such as Asians, Cubans, and at one time Muslims. Somos Republicans was the largest Republican Hispanic advocacy group within the GOP and they disbanded shortly after the 2012 election because they felt the party no longer represented nor cared to represent their interest.
No one is arguing that rolling back federal authority is racists but minority groups do become concerned when people speak about withdrawing federal oversight because of their history with the activities of state and local officials. Minority groups that view local officials with trepidation due to their experiences with them in the past and present are they not going to support a roll back in the federal power without some assurances of legitimate checks on local government.
On the GOP side it is hard to argue that they are not playing with racial politics to exploit animosity within certain White voters when two past leaders of the GOP have admitted to the existence of a Southern Strategy to court and stir up those “White, Angry” voters.
It is going to be hard for the GOP to recruit minorities when they cannot admit that their message and actions suck in the eyes of those very minorities.
I blame the politicians with their negative campaigning and the media outlets with their quest for ratings for keeping everyone divided. As a form of free speech, of course, they are not given oversight as the levels of government you mention are.
People who are more or less getting along are then bombarded with sound bites about “maker and takers” and “the 47%” and even the “1%.” We need to learn to shut all that out and think for ourselves, and the world might be a better place.
I blame us for negative campaigns. Politicians would not do it if such campaigns were not vote getters (is that a word). We get the government and results that we ask for – nothing more, nothing less..
Fiscal responsibility, limiting government meddling in commercial matters, and countering the power of unions have been GOP priorities since the beginning. Curbing minority voting, race-baiting appeals to white paranoia, and enforcing white cultural supremacy under the guise of a “culture war” have been rather less prominent in the party’s history.
The driving force behind the GOP right now is racism. Period. Much of it travels under the banner of the “culture war” and “social conservatism,” but almost all of what passes for political holiness these days is just religious explanations of why God thinks we are superior to them.
Saying so may be unpopular, but failing to recognize that fact is slowly dooming the party. More reasonable voices have tried to avoid saying unpopular things for the past twenty years for the reasons you describe and they have been losing as a consequence. You seldom win in politics without putting up a fight and sensible Republicans are dying of politesse.
Walker is actually an excellent example because he’s not a Southerner and WI has a very different history from Texas. Walker won on a platform of fighting the unions and making the state more friendly for business. He won his union fight and despite all the union groaning the state remained pretty solidly behind him.
Then he started moving down the Tea Party’s list of white cultural war priorities, including the most blatantly restrictive voter suppression effort in the country. He has been losing ground politically ever since.
Is Walker as racist as Perry or Cruz? I seriously doubt it. He’s doing what he thinks the narrow core of his electoral base, which is rabidly racist, demands. And that’s the point.
The party is being pushed around by a very noisy minority carrying an agenda which is so noxious and occasionally insane that it cannot win on anything but a narrowly local level outside the South. Is Racism the reason that Republicans can no longer compete in major urban areas? Absolutely. And racism, if it continues to drive the party, will be the reason that Republicans can no longer field credible Presidential candidates or compete for the House and Senate after 2016.
Does this message upset a lot of Republicans? You’ve seen the evidence here. Is there a more palatable way to deliver this message? I hope someone will find one, but I doubt it. The circumstances are just too dire. I’m past giving a shit.
This blog is less an effort to persuade anyone in the present tense than to work out the kernel of an agenda that some remnant group of mostly Northern Republicans might work from, circa 2018-2022 to rebuild, along with an explanation of what happened to them. Persuasion would be nice, but that’s not what I’m after. I’m making plans for what comes next.
All this paints a mental cartoon for me. I wish I could draw better than I do, but bear with this:
Frame 1: A room inside GOP headquarters is filled with a bunch of old white guys dressed in white robes with pointy hoods. On the wall is a poster of Martin Luther King superimposed with a rifle scope reticle. On the table before them is a bible open to Revelations or Leviticus or something. A scribe dutifully enters the discussion into a book entitled “The Platform”.
Frame 2: A room inside the DNC headquarters that looks curiously like Hell. A group of horned demons stand before a Marx/Engels tome. They are surrounded by the Hounds of Hell, one with a SJL head grafted on, to be loosed on the nation outside, whilst Lucifer himself is gently pulling the strings of a marionette that looks like Obama standing in the Rose Garden.
We do agree on one thing here – that whether any of this is true is irrelevant going forward. I suppose we may disagree that any of it is true at all..
The point isn’t that the GOP is irredeemably racist in every thing they do. A position that a smaller and more accountable (e.g., more local) government is preferable is legitimate and reasonable. The point is that the GOP has been singularly unsuccessful in persuading anyone who is not white, straight, and Christian that this will lead to a country that is better for them. And, as Graham points out, this is the demographic in fastest retreat, so that bodes ill for the GOP.
And, as you know, we are not too far removed from when federal authority was the only hope for “oppressed minorities.” Memories linger long.
We probably all have at least a puppy in this hunt.
Undoubtedly, many of the claims of racism against GOP/TP folks ring hollow, but I think lots of GOP/TP folks have pushed aside much of what could be considered “eh, we’ll let this slide” when you have:
A one-time leading and very prominent Presidential candidate basing his presidential campaign on the President’s birth certificate. Alternatively, you have to assume his support was based on his winning personality and brilliant tax plan.
Focusing a whole lot of time and effort to combat in-person voter fraud with nary a mention to the more easily fraudulent mail in ballots. Many on the left are not even opposed to voter ID if done well, but no one is going to pretend Texas and a few others are doing it right.
Maybe calling Obama the “Food Stamp President” isn’t racist because I’m sure the folks saying it believe that their audience understands more White folks are on food stamps than Black folks, but there might be suspicion when the GOP/TP presidential nominees are running ads saying (incorrectly) that Obama is “gutting the work requirements” for welfare while showing a commercial with an inordinately large number of Black folks.
The two words you hear from the GOP after “We need to cut waste, fraud, and abuse” are probably going to be “in welfare”. The next time you hear a GOP/TP person say, “in defense contracting” following that phrase will be the first time you hear it.
Again, the folks having these discussions may very well believe their audience understands that the most typical welfare recipient is a White, single mother in her 20s, but color me skeptical.
While it is pretty darn difficult to do research on racism (few folks happily tell you they are racists), but I think almost all of the moderately decent research suggests that Democrats, Independents, and GOP/TP harbor about the same levels of racial distrust or animosity. The GOP/TP just seems to focus on, or at least seems to be more vocal about, issues that seem to have impact disproportionately on minority folks.
In fairness, it is an impossible situation for the GOP/TP as it is currently constructed. Given the perception (rightly or wrongly) of racism, almost any discussion of cutting government spending and poverty-focused programs, many of which disproportionately benefit minorities, is going to be viewed through some race-tinted glasses. Having more minority members in the GOP/TP would greatly benefit them (and the country), but there does not seem to be a whole lot of effort to make a bigger GOP/TP tent.
It seems like despite that report written after the 2012 loss, the party still listens to Pat Buchanan which is sad.
There is also an organization JC Watts founded to try to get more people who don’t feel welcome in the GOP to make the party more friendly but the leadership of the party is still white centric. I’m not sure how effective it’s been but it’s gotten worse I think because the crazies are still controlling the party and going on rants. JC Watts has been very critical about no outreach at all.
It’s very hard to be a Republican who isn’t a religious Southern white conservative or a Religious Right person in today’s environment. The party resembles a Catholic college I went to for a semester.
Plus, I think the Democrats are still going to try to get more ceiling breakers for leaders to get the GOP base angry. This might happen for a long time.
goplifer, would you leave the party in case this situation happens? It could be decades before they decide to change their tone which sucks for the country and the party. What do you think could make them change their minds? A very big loss in 2016? I’m cynical about Republicans even getting a chance at winning my generation (Millenials especially). But then, I post in a forum dominated by Democrats who think the GOP will always be the white party so I hear very biased opinions.
goplifer, why isn’t there a movement to take the party back for crying out loud or some organization to help broaden the appeal?
A lot depends on what happens with Bruce Rauner here in Illinois. He’s almost guaranteed a win this fall. He’s a Republican allied with Rahm Immanuel who has campaigned more aggressively in the city and claims to have no “social agenda.” I’m volunteering for the campaign and rooting for him, but….
Will he turn out to be like Scott Walker? Walker conducted a very similar campaign, but once he was through changing the public employee union rules he launched a pretty nasty campaign against women’s rights, voting rights, etc. In other words, he turned out to be just another Tea Party candidate.
Other examples are Rick Scott in FL and Tom Corbett in PA. All three of them appear to be on their way out of office.
Rauner could be the key to turning things around unless we discover after the election that it was all an act. More to come there.
And to add a little clarity to the “what would it take” question, if I still lived in Texas I probably would have switched to the Democratic Party by now. Don’t know how I would have any choice. In Illinois the GOP is still very welcoming toward people who rarely hear the audible voice of Jesus Christ. Pragmatism still plays here. I expect I’ll remain a Republican here for a long time to come regardless what happens at the national level.
I can’t say I would blame you if you switched in Texas. Bruce Rauner seems like a pragmatic Republican from what I read and not one to be obsessed with RINO hunting and who’s a “real conservative” (what the hell is that supposed to be some country club language?) and purity. I remember reading that Illinois’ Republican Party is more pragmatic than say Texas or Alabama.
There was an article on how he was building a coalition with Democrats. You can read it here:
There’s also Kevin Faulconer, the mayor of San Diego, who shows how to win as a Republican in a place where Democrats out register Republicans and be inclusive. I think he follows the strategy of how Arnold won re-election in California in 2006.
What irritates me is why aren’t these Republicans more involved in places like the party machines and the RNC? Why don’t we ever hear about them?
I know with gerrymandering districts, Republicans are never forced to compete for votes from groups that don’t vote Republican or force them to change so that’s one problem. The Democrats have their issues too with demographic groups they wrote off.
Sadly, there aren’t many moderate-to-progressive Republicans left. If that wing learned to adapt more and tried to stand their ground, perhaps gay marriage would’ve been legal by now and LGBT people would be more accepted and it wouldn’t be an issue. Last time I checked, only 8 House Republicans support the Employer Non-Discrimination Act and the party has a horrid public image in the LGBT community.
Those three Tea Party governors look like they’ll lose. I read all about Scott Walker on an independent newspaper. I’ve never been fond of the Tea Party to begin with. Where were they when Bush Jr did all that spending? Why was it only when Obama was elected they came up?
End rant, I appreciate the talk. I’m a moderate Republican in a blue state and it’s very hard sometimes talking to really liberal people and gun toting conservatives (yes they exist here in NY). Your site is a breath of fresh air from the extremely liberal and conservative forums I’ve been on.
I can confirm that the Republican Party north of the Mason Dixon line is quite different from the Republican Party in state’s like Texas. The elder George Bush comes to mind when I think of the Republican coalition in northern states.
Of course, what is ironic is that elder George Bush first got elected here, in Texas…as a Republican. Of course, that was also decades ago when the current Republican base here in Texas voted for populists in the Democratic Party. The fact that Bush Sr. couldn’t even win a primary here in Texas now just shows you how much the party has changed…and in my mind changed for the worse (much worse).
“I can confirm that the Republican Party north of the Mason Dixon line is quite different from the Republican Party in state’s like Texas.”
As can I. One notable difference is that I voted for Republicans north of the Mason Dixon line.
I’m a middle-aged white guy native Texan still living in Houston. I voted Rep until 2008 but never will again. The deciding factor for me was Iraq and the lies that led up to it but everything I have seen since just works to solidify my absolute horror at what the Rep brand has become. I am a decided minority in Texas, as most of my demographic have been driven gun-toting insane by Fox and Company. Just read the 2014 Texas Rep Party Platform. I can’t believe that document was written by a main stream party in 2014. Next time you visit Texas turn back your watch 150 years.
I attended a mass last night in which the entire homily consisted of the priest bemoaning what was being said about him on Facebook. Not befitting a man of the cloth. It’s a sad state of affairs when a Catholic priest is reduced to getting embroiled in drama, gossip, rumors, and innuendo. Social media has turned us — regular folks, celebrities, politicians, and now even clergy — into a society of drama queens.
“There was partisanship, of course, but it was characterized by extreme quietness.” – from IN THIS HOUSE OF BREDE by Rumer Godden, which I am currently reading
Sternn, our most notable local Neo-Confederate, has run away with his tail between his legs to spew his views back on the *Chronicle* site.
So, Chris, it seems like you may not get much disagreement on this entry.
Wow, Lindsey Graham is vile.
Graham is vile in several ways, but that quote was meant as something of a wake up call that they GOP can’t continue down the path it has been traveling, and in that, he is not wrong.
I agree. that was the message I got from Graham’s comment. The GOP cannot hope to remain a national party with a base that is literally dying off. I remember a few years someone that was running to lead the young Republicans was laughing at a “coon” remark made towards the President. Two things stood out to me. First, the lack of discretion she displayed on the social networking site she was on and more illuminating, she was 38 years old. The GOP has a real serious problem with youth voters when they consider 38 year old people as young.
Turtles, if the dreaded White racist base is a dying breed, as we are constantly reminded, then what is the worry? They will all be dead soon, and the base would have to be replaced.
“Lack of discretion” perfectly describes our current sad state of affairs. Lack of dignity and class.