GOP: we need more nativist partners
Rich Yeselson has written a fascinating analysis of the American electorate in the wake of the Democratic victory this week. It's worth reading in its entirety, but this particularly interested me:
[T]he Republican Party is stuck between the revanchist cultural anxiety it needs to sustain its white male and elderly base, (which is actually encouraged and shared by its paymasters), and the inexorable erosion of that base. Any efforts to appeal to new immigrant groups of Latinos and Asian Americans (also carried 3-1 by Obama), let alone African Americans, will come up against the fears of the base that the country they knew is fast disappearing. To affirm the base’s cultural anxiety is to simultaneously denigrate the dark, lazy (John Sununu’s description of the president), moochers, criminals, and degenerates. Even a bland, representative business chieftain like Mitt Romney couldn’t run a technocratic, Mr. Fixit campaign at a time of slow economic growth. He needed surrogates like Sununu and bogus issues like Obama’s gutting of the welfare rules to make sure that the resentful stayed resentful. Other moderating voices of intellectual conservatism, like David Brooks or Ross Douthat, have more influence with their liberal friends than they do with Mitch McConnell or John Boehner—or certainly with Emma and John Runion in Florida.
The Party seems to be trying to come to grips with that. But the solutions are very difficult. This one struck me as one of the most likely approaches:
No easy solution to this dilemma would appear forthcoming. The country badly needs a responsible, center right party, along the lines of the Canadian conservatives and almost every other center-right party in the world, led by a sober business class. When a party wins a landslide of the majority white vote, however, and still loses, it is in trouble.
The working-class white vote that created the modern Republican majority is precisely the subset of voters that feels most threatened by mass immigration, culturally and economically. They revolted when Bush tried to force it on them. They will revolt again. Conservative parties as a rule have constituents that resist the kind of social change brought on by mass immigration. You can be a conservative party or a mass immigration party, not both.
This is, of course, an old strategy called "divide and conquer" and it's been used successfully against immigrants since the beginning of this country. It's called "nativism" and it's been an important part of right wing populism since forever. I suppose it's a measure of progress that they're finally admitting that African-Americans are ... Americans. But the idea of Republicans pitting them against Hispanic immigrants is a whole new level of cynicism.
Over 70 percent of black voters believe that immigration is too high. Conservatives already need to learn to speak to urban voters; why not start with the most-churched members of the city? Just like your core of Midwestern working-class whites, they believe themselves to be part of an American core that is destabilized by mass immigration. It is time to reach out to them, to assure them that you will make immigration work for all Americans, that the interests of America’s oldest minority will not be lost in the America to come. That seems like the natural task of a conservative to me.