Still studying the autopsy, desperate for another cause of death
I'm still hearing a lot of talk among the chattering class about how the GOP is going to compete nationally with just white voters. The most recent Big Idea, is this one I wrote about called "Waiting for Perot.")
Today Benjy Sarlin at MSNBC analyzes another reason why this is such a hard task for the GOP to wrap its mind around: basically it means they would have to completely throw out their economic philosophy.
Here’s the alternate theory: If Latinos demand a government that helps working people, the implication isn’t that Republicans should write them off. It’s that Republicans should help working people.
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat is one prominent evangelist for this approach, even if he has virtually zero buy-in from Republicans of any stripe. The key to his diagnosis is that both Latinos and poor whites are ditching the GOP for the same reason: stagnant wages, higher costs of living, booming health care expenses, and few Republican policies that address them.
“For all his faults, Bush understood that his party couldn’t win over Hispanics—or any economically-vulnerable constituency—without substantive as well as symbolic overtures,” Douthat wrote in an April post.
Pre-election polls of Latino voters in 2012 showed that immigration lagged far behind economic concerns in their list of priorities. That’s changed since Congress began debating the issue in 2013—the same Latino Decisions poll this week found immigration surging to the top of the issue list—but some Republicans think the old trend might return once the legislative battle is over.
The RNC’s own autopsy of the 2012 election stated that the “perception, revealed in polling, that the GOP does not care about people is doing great harm to the Party.” But while the same report recommended immigration reform to deal with the GOP’s Hispanic problem, it failed to suggest anything more than rhetorical changes to address the plutocrat problem. Many of the party mega-donors pushing immigration legislation are doing so because they think it will prevent Congress from redistributing their wealth downward. For now the call to override them is mostly limited to a few heretics here and there.
Policy changes from the “tack left on the economy” crowd might include adjusting the tax code to boost family take-home pay at the expense of tax breaks benefiting the wealthy, offering an alternative to Obamacare that would actually subsidize health coverage for the uninsured, and placing a stronger emphasis on education. Some suggest a more populist stand against free trade.
Why can’t Republicans just revamp their economic policies and pass immigration reform at the same time? Skeptics argue legalizing undocumented immigrants over time would add at least some net Democrats, since even the most optimistic strategists think Republicans winning a majority of Hispanics is unlikely in the medium term (keeping them in 60-40 range is the more modest goal). There’s also concern that passing reform wouldn’t actually be the end of the issue. One former GOP Senate leadership aide sympathetic to Douthat’s thesis suggested that Democrats could still run on speeding up the legalization process, especially if Republicans demand a longer list of “triggers” that have to be met along the way.
“Politically, there’s no upside to doing it,” the former aide said.
Right. But lets not pretend that one of the other reasons there's no political upside is that the base will have a meltdown --- and who knows what tea partying freakshow they might get behind in protest.
It also seems to me is that they would still have to dogwhistle racism in order to give these white working class voters some reason not to vote for the Democrats. After all, if it's tax breaks at the expense of the wealthy, health care and education, it's not as if there isn't a party already offering that and doing it with more credibility than the Republicans can offer. So, the only reason they could give for not voting Democratic would be the old "we'll keep the wrong people, if you know what I mean, from getting the same goodies you deserve." And once you do that, you're not going to get the Latinos and you're probably going to chase off at least some of those white working class voters you need to vote for you.
They have a problem and it's called the GOP base. Until they figure out a way to convince those folks that they have to compromise everything they've been told for 40 years are sacred conservative principles, they're stuck. As well they should be. They've spent billions on this propaganda, creating an entire industry of wingnut welfare queens promoting this bilge. And at some point they apparently convinced themselves that everyone believed it --- even those their cramped philosophy has explicitly relegated to second class status. Ooops.