Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Faces, Same Old Message

The oddest thing about the Republican Party today is that it has become more diverse despite becoming increasingly conservative.  It now has a number of young Latino, Indian and Black leaders pushing its rigidly conservative agenda at the local, state and national level.  The staunchest opponents to immigration and expanded social services have been Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal, despite the fact their parents were immigrants and relied on social services at one time.  It really is hard to figure what draws them to the Republican Party other than an opportunity for quick promotion up the ranks.

The GOP's outreach has been nil since recognizing its shortcomings in 2012.  The House purposely held up immigration reform legislation despite there being the votes to carry it in 2013.  Its leaders felt there would be enough backlash in the 2014 midterms to run the Democrats out of town.  Since then, immigration reform has been a dead issue and so too any attempt by the Republicans to reach out to Hispanic voters beyond wunderkids like Cruz and Rubio and Susana Gonzales, the governor of New Mexico, who currently finds herself in hot water.

I guess the feeling is that because these young leaders are Hispanic, Hispanic voters will vote for them regardless of the positions they take.  It seems to work for disaffected blue collar workers who vote Republican, seemingly oblivious that the party in no way represents their interests.  You've got all these voters presumably flocking to Donald Trump because he feels their need, yet Donald has repeatedly said he thinks wages are too high and the only way to be competitive is to do away with labor unions and the minimum wage.  Donald also thinks he can win over Hispanic voters, such as this highly enthusiastic woman.

The strategy appears more to be to freeze out minority voters than it is bringing them into the party.  At the state level, we have seen any number of voter registration measures and political gerrymandering that make it less likely that minorities will vote, or if so less impact on the electoral college.  Everything from voter ID laws to shortening the window of registration and early voting has made voting that much more inconvenient.  Congressional districts have also been redrawn to give minorities less voice.

Hispanic and Black voters don't have very many candidates that represent their interests to begin with.  Voting Democratic is more a begrudging choice because there is at least some attempt to accommodate their interests in the political party.  There is very little excitement so when voting becomes more a hassle, it is very likely these voters will stay home and that's exactly where the Republicans want them to be on election day.

The GOP has adopted the strategy that worked for them in 2000 and 2004, which is to turn the national election into a numbers game, electoral numbers that is, aiming at states where they can reach the magic number of 270 to win the electoral college.  The RNC works hard to get Republican governors in key states that can help push its presidential nominee over the top.  If a race is close, as it was in Florida in 2000, the RNC can count on the Republican state administration to turn the vote in its favor.  Its a cynical form of politics that tends to suck all the air out of the election, leaving just about everyone disgusted with the process.

Trump threatens to overturn that process by stirring up a virtual hornets' nest of anxieties, which have old time Republican operatives fearful he may swing key states into the Democratic column.  The Republican establishment prefers milquetoast candidates because they are less objectionable.  Their campaign strategy has never been about inspiring people, but rather putting them into a kind of stupor where voters are less likely to vote and therefor the GOP more likely to come out on top.

The GOP tends to win national elections when the turnout is low --  105 million voters in 2000 as opposed to 132 million in 2008.  It realizes it is a political minority, so the aim is to make it an election where their core voters outnumber the Democratic core voters, and splitting the difference among moderates.  Trump threatens to tip the moderates in the Democrats' favor.

Trump also has the ability to mobilize Hispanic voters against the Republicans.  In 2000 and 2004, George Bush carried 37 and 41 per cent of the Hispanic vote, edging out Gore and Kerry in the national election.  In 2008 and 2012, Republican candidates were only able to muster 31 and 27 per cent respectively and ended up losing their bids.  It's estimated that the Republicans will need at least 40 per cent of Hispanic voters in 2016 to win.  Right now, only 11 per cent of Hispanic voters have a favorable impression of Donald J. Trump.  So, if you are playing this one by the numbers, as the Republicans do, Trump is bad news.

It's not likely that any of the GOP candidates would win in 2016, given these depressing poll numbers among Hispanic voters.  Only Jeb Bush has a favorable rating higher than Mitt Romney in 2012 and that by only one point.

Tim Scott and Nikki Haley give South Carolina
a new image but little else

Black voters, unlike Hispanic voters, vote overwhelming Democratic.  Hispanic voters tend to split their votes in state and national elections.  Yet, there are some Black conservatives like Tim Scott, who thinks he might tip the balance for a Republican presidential candidate in South Carolina.  There's also Mia Love who won a House seat from Utah.  She's come out in favor of Marco Rubio.  However, it's unlikely that either will have any affect in a national election, and Ben Carson is fading fast in national polls.

Still, it is a diversity that Republicans like to point to.  They have even been promoting Lincoln as of late, as if they are the party of social reform and not the Democrats, quick to point out that it was the Democrats who put in place Jim Crow laws.  But, this kind of historical game playing doesn't work very well among an electorate that mostly looks out for its self-interests, and there is not much in the Republican Party today that benefits Hispanics and Blacks or anyone else for that matter.

The Republican Party is great for individuals like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, as it provides a rapid rise for them in politics as long as they stick to the conservative script, but looking at the poll numbers this script hasn't endeared them to Hispanic voters.  Only 20 per cent of Hispanic voters view Rubio favorably, and only 17 per cent have a good impression of Cruz.  This might not be enough to put either one on the 2016 ticket as a Vice-President nominee, and Rubio gave up his Senate seat to run for President.

The Grand Old Party still has a long way to go in its outreach attempts to minorities.  It can try to color the election anyway it likes but until it is serious about immigration reform and quits seeing social security and health care as giveaway programs, it will continue to see itself as an ever-shrinking political minority with less political clout.  They can tamper with the voting laws all they like, but they can't ban elections all together.  If ever there was a golden opportunity to mobilize unsettled voters against Republicans it is now.  Let's just hope the Democrats seize the opportunity.

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