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Friday, July 12, 2013

GOP Thinks Embracing Their Racism Counts as a Strategy

Poster: 'Welcome to America - Now speak English'
If you read my headline posts (and I've missed a few this week, sorry. I'll most likely miss tonight's too), you'll know that "David Brooks wrote something stupid again" is a running gag with me. He often goes to great lengths to promote the idea both parties are to blame for Washington being broken, taking Evel Knievel-like leaps of logic to arrive at his predetermined conclusions. But like pretty much all pundits, it proves impossible to always be wrong and the frustrating thing about Brooks is that he can be insightful when he drop his trademark false equivalency -- which he very seldom does. So I wasn't extremely surprised when I saw Taegan Goddard pick up two paragraphs from Brooks about immigration reform that were dead on the money. It's not that Brooks tends to be wrong so much as he's committed to not being right -- I guess because it gets him on TV so much (TV news show producers also love the innoffensive "both sides are just as bad" lie).

Here's his take on the GOP and immigration reform:

It's beginning to look as though we're not going to get an immigration reform law this year. House Republicans are moving in a direction that will probably be unacceptable to the Senate majority and the White House. Conservative commentators like my friends Bill Kristol and Rich Lowry are arguing that the status quo is better than the comprehensive approach passed by the Senate. The whole effort is in peril.

This could be a tragedy for the country and political suicide for Republicans, especially because the conservative arguments against the comprehensive approach are not compelling.
The thing about Brooks is, as the current Pope of the Church of High Broderism, that people take him seriously when he singles out one party as being the problem. Republicans won't of course -- mostly because they've become some weird hybrid fantasists/nihilists who don't take anything that happens to be real seriously -- but other pundits in the pundit echo chamber will. Not so much the political suicide part, which is pretty much what most of them are already saying, but the part about GOP arguments against reform being made out of suck. Republican excuses for killing immigration reform are mostly unpopular and all stupid.

And the stupidest of all is the mythical "missing white voter."


If you're unfamiliar with that particular hypothesis (it doesn't rate being labeled a theory), it's basically that Mitt Romney lost not because he alienated everyone who wasn't white, it's that he didn't get enough not-so well-to-do white people to the polls. But there are a lot of problems with this idea -- the most obvious being that the Republican Party is committed to policies that would backhand those same voters across the mouth. Take a look at the Farm Bill. Which demographic makes up the greatest share of food stamp recipients? Poor whites. Republicans like to use the word "welfare" as a dog-whistle to signify blacks -- and maybe they've done it for so long that they believe that only blacks get some form of federal assistance -- but when a party votes to cut food stamps and you're on food stamps, they haven't won you over.

"[M]ore than 60 percent of those benefiting from unemployment insurance are white," Paul Krugman wrote in dismissing the "missing white vote" idea. "Slightly less than half of food stamp beneficiaries are white, but in swing states the proportion is much higher. For example, in Ohio, 65 percent of households receiving food stamps are white. Nationally, 42 percent of Medicaid recipients are non-Hispanic whites, but, in Ohio, the number is 61 percent."

"Vote for us and we'll starve your kids" isn't really a great campaign slogan.

Another reason why this "missing white voter" idea is crazy BS is that -- assuming it's even true -- it can't work forever. Maybe even not next time. The demographic trends are undeniable and relying on white voters means relying on a dwindling share of the American demographic. Those who know the difference between a strategy and a tactic will recognize this as an opportunistic tactic. As a long-term strategy, it's a dog.

Of course, the best argument against it is that it's racist. You can't be the "screw minorities" party without being seen as racist by those minorities. That's no way to win the votes you'll need later. Part of what's driving this whole anti-immigration sentiment on the right is the belief that it just gives Democrats more voters. This is an astonishingly fatalistic view, since the very newest citizen created by the path to citizenship under the Senate bill wouldn't come into being for thirteen years. Republicans, in embracing the argument that more Latino voters means more Democratic voters send two messages: the first being that they have no interest in winning over Latino voters. Ever. If more than a decade isn't enough time to swing a few Latinos your way, then you just aren't planning on trying.

The second is that immigration reform would be a pander to Latinos to win over votes Republicans take a cost/benefit view of immigration reform and conclude that, whether it's the right thing to do or not, there's no pay off for them in it, so they won't do it. It's a purely political calculation, with any human cost completely ignored. In this message, the GOP is already damaging themselves, because even a vote for immigration reform comes across as false and calculating.

But maybe the biggest problem here is that it assumes that only Latinos care about immigration reform. This is very, very wrong. A new Quinnipiac poll out today reports, "54 percent of voters favor allowing those here illegally to stay and eventually become citizens, while 12 percent favor allowing them to stay but not become citizens and 28 percent say they should be deported." Last time I checked, we weren't a 54% Latino nation. They say they want to get more white voters to the polls? Then why do they keep voting against issues that have majority support? It's the same mistake they made with closing the gun show loophole. You can't keep handing political losses to the majority of Americans and expect them to reward you for it. This is already starting to take hold, as the same poll faults Republicans for gridlock in Washington.

And that last is the Republicans' biggest problem. On nearly every issue, they represent the minority opinion. When you don't represent the majority of Americans, you can hardly expect to win the majority of votes. Being the party of narrow special interests may help out with the fundraising, but 2012 proved that it wasn't enough. And as the demographics of America change, those special interests become narrower and narrower. Not everyone owns a fracking company or a prison, you know.

It's looking like Republicans killing comprehensive immigration reform is a done deal. They seem to believe they're headed for a win, but the truth is they'll wind up with a knife in their backs. That knife will have their fingerprints on the handle. As Brooks wrote, Republicans are racing toward political suicide. And they're doing it apparently convinced that it's the smartest thing anyone ever did.


[photo by C. G. P. Grey]

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