Since the presidential and senatorial defeats it suffered this past Election Day, the Grand Old Party has been wrapped in the throes of an identity-crisis.
The thing of it is, far from being the epiphany that the usual talking heads on the right are making it out to be, the identity-crisis to which they speak is the very same crisis over which they have been perspiring for decades now. It is the same crisis of identity of which Republicans become acutely conscious at least every four years—whether they win or lose.
From all of the moaning and groaning, a common refrain can be gotten: The Republican Party must win over non-whites or else. On this score, Democrats and Republicans agree.
Yet as is almost always the case with conventional wisdom generally, this piece of conventional wisdom in particular is deeply flawed.
The speciousness of the conventional wisdom derives, not from what it says, but from what it fails to say.
For one, the nation’s changing racial demographics of which Republican and Democrat alike can’t seem to stop talking are not the forces of nature that the pundits’ tone would suggest. Asians and Hispanics—especially the latter—owe their growing numbers in no small measure to American immigration policy, specifically, immigration policy since 1965.
Until this juncture in our history, our immigration policy had always favored immigrants of European stock. But even throughout this time, there were several moments—like in 1924—when immigration was halted so as to allow for assimilation.
In glaring contrast, the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 assigned pride of place to Third World immigrants, about 90% of whom have constituted all immigrants to the U.S. over the span of the last five decades. Of these non-white immigrants, the vast majority stems from below our southern border.
Since 1965, not only has the American government refused to arrest the flow of immigration. It has actually encouraged it via the non-enforcement of its laws, the allocation of all manner of goodies (entitlements) to illegal immigrants, bilingualism, and the granting of amnesty in one form or the other.
The point is this: unlike the shifts in the Earth’s tectonic plates, the tectonic-like shifts in America’s racial demographics are the products of design. They are the results of policy. This means that something can be done about them.
The conventional wisdom is mistaken in another respect. To hear the talking heads, particularly the Democratic talking heads, it is hard not to think that underlying all of the fatalistic chatter over the hemorrhaging of the white vote is the desire to expedite this pattern along. Some perspective here is desperately needed.
Although blacks, Hispanics, and Asian voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama (93%, 71%, and 73% respectively), with just 59% of the white vote, Mitt Romney still lost the popular vote by only 2%. In short, he would have defeated Obama handily had he garnered just 61% of white support.
This he could have done. At any rate, he stood a far greater chance of doing so than any Republican stands of increasing appreciably their party’s share of non-white support.
Sean Trende, of Real Clear Politics, has noted that over six million fewer whites showed up at the polls this year than in 2008. These whites dislike Obama, he notes, but, thanks to the President’s negative campaign strategy against his rival, they aren’t too keen about Romney either. Romney, these jaded white voters believe, really is the aloof, vulture capitalist that Obama depicted him as being.
Trende’s analysis is cogent as far as it goes. But it only goes so far. Romney, like the typical Republican that he is, took these whites’ votes for granted. If their perception of him was flawed, it was up to him to rectify it.
And he could have. He could have fought back against Obama’s smear campaign by speaking to those issues—affirmative action, Third world immigration (legal and illegal), crime, etc.—that are near and dear to the hearts of just those white voters who decided to stay home on Election Day. In doing so, he could have knocked out several birds with one stone as he advanced themes that were simultaneously conservative and American while speaking to the precarious economy in a way that would resonate with such voters. (The language of national debts and deficits and all of the zeros that it entails just isn’t the stuff of which the passions of the average working man or woman are made.)
Radically revise current immigration policy and genuinely work for an ever greater portion of the white vote. This is what the Republican Party must do if it wants to survive.