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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

GOP Race- and Religion-Baiting Finally Pays Off

Bigoted billboard attacks atheists
In May of this year, the Republican Party received crushing news -- it was dying:

CBS News:

For the first time, racial and ethnic minorities make up more than half the children born in the U.S., capping decades of heady immigration growth that is now slowing.

New 2011 census estimates highlight sweeping changes in the nation's racial makeup and the prolonged impact of a weak economy, which is now resulting in fewer Hispanics entering the U.S.

"This is an important landmark," said Roderick Harrison, a former chief of racial statistics at the Census Bureau who is now a sociologist at Howard University. "This generation is growing up much more accustomed to diversity than its elders."

Yes, white people were becoming just another minority in the vast, multicultural landscape of America. It was terrible. Decades of scapegoating minorities as the source of all evil in the nation -- whether it be casting Latinos as people who "refuse to learn English" or blacks who they pretty much argue are all on welfare -- had finally come back around to bite them from behind. They had been launching racist attacks against minorities for decades. These people would never vote for them in any real numbers in a million years. Richard Nixon's racist "southern strategy" turned out to be as lacking in forethought as the invasion of Iraq. And as disastrous. Publicly, Republicans either shrug their shoulders over the troubles they have with minority voters or blame Democrats for it. But in their heart of hearts, they know why minorities shun them.

Already coping with that particular demographic death sentence, the GOP received another yesterday.


Bloomberg News:

Protestants have lost the majority status they’ve had in the U.S. for more than two centuries, as the number of Americans who don’t claim any religion has surged, according to a Pew Research Center survey released today.

The number of Protestants has fallen to 48 percent, from 53 percent in 2007, reduced by the growing number of unaffiliated Americans, now 33 million, as well as 13 million agnostics and atheists. Almost one of every five Americans doesn’t belong to a church, the center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life found.

“This is part of a long-term trend,” Cary Funk, a senior Pew researcher, said in a telephone interview. “The startling thing, though, is that in the past five years, the pace of change has accelerated.”

This is bad news because, according to the report, the unaffiliated are "reliably Democratic, overwhelmingly voting for the party’s presidential candidate in the last three elections."

Worse, where Republicans used dog whistles and code words to attack racial minorities, they're openly hostile and intolerant to the non-religious. If there's a demographic group that's more "gone for good" for the GOP than non-whites, it may be atheists and the unaffiliated. Conservatives attack people and groups for being insufficiently pious and when people complain that Republicans are forcing them to abide by their religious believes, Republicans shriek that they're being persecuted. The hypocrisy is rank -- and obvious to everyone other than evangelical Republican voters, who are apparently as prone to idiocy as they are to fits of blind, unwarranted panic.

All of which brings to mind a February New York Magazine piece by Jonathan Chait. Titled "2012 or Never," it foreshadowed the census report on minority births. Chait argued that demographic trends spelled GOP doom and, in typical conservative fashion, they've waited until it was nearly too late to address that disaster. That explains the sudden rash of voter suppression efforts like voter ID, voter list purges, and various other dirty tricks.

With racial groups, there's a chance at keeping them from the polls, since race and class are nearly identical in America. But with the religiously unaffiliated? No such luck. How do you keep people of a certain religious persuasion -- or in this case, non-persuasion -- from the polls? How do you attack the non-religious when legislation that would hurt them would be clearly unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds? After all, a law has to stand up in court if it's to be anything other than a waste of time.

When I write the words, "Unless they change, Republicans face eventual electoral doom," I'm reminded of Strunk & White's advice to writers in the Elements of Style: "A sentence should contain no unnecessary words."

So I rewrite it "Republicans face eventual electoral doom." Because Republicans are, by definition, resistant to change.


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