Running on white resentment is not a winning strategy, and the next Republican who tries it will lose, too.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Republican vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan pose with their campaign staff for a group picture at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012.
Ann Romney said one thing during her husband’s presidential run that no one can dispute. “This is hard,” she said, referring to the slog. (Actually, being president is hard, too, as George W. Bush once noted 11 times in a single debate.)
Here’s one campaign call, though, that should never have been a head-scratcher: Running on white resentment is not a winning strategy, and the next Republican who tries it will lose, too.
Lyndon B. Johnson knew when he pushed through civil rights legislation that the Jim Crow South he’d grown up in would reject the Democratic Party for decades to come as a result. But somewhere, Johnson is smiling today, because the GOP’s Southern strategy to capitalize on racial animus has now worked so completely that it has turned back to bite Republicans, with Mitt Romney overwhelmingly losing the growing share of America’s minority voters. President Barack Obama won 93 percent of the African American vote and 71 percent among Hispanics.
Turns out, not even competing for them was a mistake. And here’s how to blow more than a billion dollars and wind up right back where you started: Carefully alienate Latinos with talk of “self-deportation” and promises to veto the Dream Act. Vow that, if elected, you will cancel a widely celebrated reprieve from deportation for some young immigrants. Oh - and this is important - call those in this country without papers “illegals” every chance you get. Then, just sit back and hope that no one who finds that insulting turns out to vote.
Keeping African Americans out of the tent should be a snap at this point, but Romney certainly took nothing for granted in that regard. To review: He joked about Obama’s birth certificate and pitched to the angry-white-guy vote with a wildly inaccurate ad about how the president had supposedly “gutted” welfare work requirements. (In fact, not a single waiver has been granted, although the Obama administration did invite applications for waivers.)
Romney surrogate John Sununu stated his startling belief that Colin Powell’s endorsement of the president was a case of ring-knocking within the black brotherhood. And while behind closed doors, the candidate himself told donors he’d written off nearly half of America from the start - and had assumed that those who did not support him weren’t interested in his jobs plan because they don’t want to work.
In the final hours of the campaign, Romney either developed never-before-seen acting skills or truly believed he was on the glide path to victory; inside the Fox News bubble, no other outcome seemed possible.
But far more important than any of this, as we look to the future, is that since Romney’s loss, we’ve continued to hear conservatives who do know they are on camera or writing for publications carry right on cementing the impression that they think Obama won only because he was the choice of Moocher Nation: Not only had they failed to “take back America” from the guy Newt Gingrich delighted in calling “the food-stamp president,” but non-white America, they inferred, is not really America at all.
All of which explains how, in a tepid economy, Romney managed to lose the election more than Obama won it. And yet, they’re still at it, with Ole Miss students contributing some standout visuals to the narrative that the GOP is not minority-friendly.
George Allen, meanwhile, blamed his senatorial campaign loss to Tim Kaine on the anti-business bias of his fellow Virginians: “It would be nice if we had an electorate that supported entrepreneurs.” In Obama’s reelection, conservative radio host Mark Levin literally saw the end of civilization: “We will not negotiate the terms of our economic and political servitude. Period. We will not abandon our child to a dark and bleak future. We will not accept a fate that is alien to the legacy we inherited.” And in National Review Online, Ed Whelan wrote that “the great American experiment in constitutional republicanism is in grave peril, if not doomed,” because somehow, the greatest country on Earth has been overrun with layabouts: “As the Framers understood, self-government depends on a virtuous citizenry. Instead, we have a growing mass of citizens seemingly wedded to dependency on big-government spending.”
This must have been a moment brand-new Republican Artur Davis knew would come when he spoke at this summer’s Republican National Convention, where 98 percent of the delegates were white. “The Republican conservative base seems perilously close to shrinking to white southern evangelicals, senior white males, and upper-income Protestants,” Davis wrote on Thursday.
His new fellows would do well to take some cues from him and other minority voices on how to address that problem. But first, they’d have to stop hurling pejoratives at the Americans they so mistakenly see as “takers.”