Did they really think only old white men would hear the dogwhistles?
by David Atkins
The political world is still reeling from the stunning revelation that Mitt Romney and his advisers had no idea they were going to lose until the returns came in. It turns out that Romney's push into Pennsylvania was neither desperate nor a bluff. They literally did believe they were expanding the map.
There's much that can be said about this. The first point, of course, is that Romney and Ryan were supposed to be hard-nosed numbers guys if nothing else. That was their entire claim to fame. And they couldn't apparently see the numbers that anyone taking a random look at the poll trackers could tell at a glance. That is very scary, and says a great deal about the conservative bubble of epistemic closure. No longer are the pied pipers leading the deluded flock. The inmates are now running the entire GOP asylum.
But equally important to note is one reason why they disbelieved the polling that clearly showed they would lose: they thought that youth and minorities would turn out at lower rates than in 2008, despite the growth of both demographic segments in the intervening time. They believed that the 2008 election was a black sheep that could not and would not be replicated:
They misread turnout. They expected it to be between 2004 and 2008 levels, with a plus-2 or plus-3 Democratic electorate, instead of plus-7 as it was in 2008. Their assumptions were wrong on both sides: The president's base turned out and Romney's did not. More African-Americans voted in Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida than in 2008. And fewer Republicans did: Romney got just over 2 million fewer votes than John McCain.The question is, why did they believe this?
Despite the craziness of Sarah Palin, it's important to remember that John McCain and most of the GOP establishment didn't go hard after the Nixonland race card in 2008. Sure, there was some of that. But they knew that if they pushed it too hard, it would backfire on them.
In the intervening four years, the Republican message against Obama has been nothing but one long racist tirade.
Muslim. Kenyan. Foreign. Hussein. Doesn't share our values. Not Christian. Wants to cut the work requirement in welfare. Obamaphones. "Holder's People." Black Panthers. "Moochelle Chewbacca Obama." "The White Hut." "Entitlement society." "Makers versus takers." Recovery, not dependency. Parasites.
Did they think African-Americans wouldn't notice? Did they think only white people could hear those dogwhistles and outright racist primal screams?
Did they think Latinos wouldn't hear the last four years of vitriol thrown at them and their families by Fox News and the fever swamps on the AM dial? That they could celebrate Jan Brewer's and Joe Arpaio's sick sadism and that Latinos would take heed?
Did they think that Asians could be subjected to this hateful nonsense and not know exactly where they stood on the GOP's totem pole?
Did they believe that young people wouldn't notice that Republicans wanted to saddle them with Vouchercare, keep them off them parents' healthcare plans, burden them with massive student loans and spit upon every social value of equality they hold dear?
Did they believe that women would forget that the GOP platform wants to force them to carry their rapists' babies, and insist that they continue to cheated out of 25 cents or more on every dollar in the workplace? Did they believe that they could do this to the amazing Sandra Fluke and that young women wouldn't know exactly what to do about it?
Did they believe that they could reject wholesale every piece of sound science on reproduction, evolution, climate change and economics, use the word "Professor" as an insult during debates, and that educated Americans of all stripes wouldn't react as if their lives and safety depended on it?
Are boardroom and parish Republicans so used to speaking in code to one audience while bamboozling another audience that they thought no one would notice?
Sure, Barack Obama has lost some of the glitz and allure of his 2008 candidacy. The ugliness and realities of politics will do that, and Obama's insistence on compromise above all else hasn't helped.
But did the Republicans really believe that women, youth, minorities, and educated folk wouldn't recognize a visceral threat to our existence when we saw it? That we wouldn't turn out to vote? That we wouldn't do everything in our power to prevent the measures of our lives from being determined by these people?
Apparently so. But they misjudged badly. We're here. We noticed. The dogwhistles didn't go unheard. And we're as determined to stop them as we've ever been.