Monday, May 26, 2014
The Great White Hope
I rarely read the NYT but the article below seems to have something in it
Three unlikely sources are providing qualified encouragement to Republicans who are either openly or covertly committed to a campaign strategy that focuses on white turnout, as opposed to seeking votes from Hispanics and African-Americans.
The first source of this qualified encouragement is an academic study — “More Diverse Yet Less Tolerant?” — that explores what happens to racial and ethnic attitudes when you present white voters with census findings that show that whites will be in the minority in the United States by 2042.
The second source is a related study by the same authors — “On the Precipice of a ‘Majority-Minority’ America” — that explores how the “salience of such racial demographic shifts affects White Americans’ political-party leanings and expressed political ideology.”
The third source is a survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit think tank. The survey measured the percentage of whites who are “bothered” by the “idea of” an “America where most of the people are not white.”
These studies present a challenge to those who have declared that the Republican Party must move away from the “white strategy” – formerly known as the “Southern Strategy.” That strategy has been the de facto Republican approach to elections since the mid-1960s. It was initially very successful, but over the past decade it has been effective only in low-turnout, midterm elections.
Now, partly in response to the Obama victories of 2008 and 2012, Resurgent Republic, a Republican organization that includes a segment of the party establishment and some of the party’s Bush-era elder statesmen, denounced the “white strategy” as “the route to political irrelevance in national elections. Mitt Romney won a landslide among white voters, defeating Barack Obama by 59 to 39 percent. In the process he won every large segment of white voters, often by double-digit margins: white men, white women, white Catholics, white Protestants, white old people, white young people. Yet that was not enough to craft a national majority. Republicans have run out of persuadable white voters. For the fifth time in the past six presidential elections, Republicans lost the popular vote. Trying to win a national election by gaining a larger and larger share of a smaller and smaller portion of the electorate is a losing political proposition.”
Maureen A. Craig, a doctoral candidate, and Jennifer A. Richeson, a professor of psychology, both at Northwestern, have written two papers that ask questions that are relevant to this internal party debate. The authors do not endorse such tactics but their work suggests that there are in fact ways to intensify white suspicion of and hostility toward minorities and immigrants. These tactics offer the potential to shift voters to the right, into the Republican column.
For their first paper, Craig and Richeson conducted a series of experiments that tested how whites respond to census data projecting that minorities will become the majority in the United States by 2042.
What did they uncover? That “exposure to the changing demographics evokes the expression of greater explicit and implicit racial bias.” One group of respondents was shown evidence of the demographic trends and another was not. Those who saw the evidence “expressed more negative attitudes toward Latinos, Blacks, and Asian-Americans” than participants who were not shown the evidence. The authors concluded that “rather than ushering in a more tolerant future, the increasing diversity of the nation may instead yield intergroup hostility.”
Craig and Richeson’s second study, “On the Precipice of a ‘Majority-Minority’ America,” published last month, is even more directly relevant to the strategic choices facing Republicans. The authors found that whites – whether they called themselves liberals, centrists or conservatives — all moved to the right when exposed to the information about the approaching minority status of whites. This “suggests that the increasing diversity of the nation may engender a widening partisan divide,” Craig and Richeson write.
These findings led the two authors to observe that the future of the contemporary Republican Party may not be as bleak as some say. “Whites may be increasingly likely and motivated to support conservative candidates and policies in response to the changing racial demographics,” they write. “These results suggest that presumptions of the decline of the Republican Party due to the very same changing racial demographics may be premature.”
Responding to my emailed questions, Craig wrote, “Overall, making this racial shift salient could bring more moderate White Americans into the Republican Party, as well as increase turnout among White Americans who already consider themselves Republicans."
The P.R.R.I. survey — conducted in 2013 of 1,028 respondents — was designed “to assess anxieties concerning the changing racial makeup of the country”; it was summarized in the May 2014 issue of The Atlantic by Robert Jones, the C.E.O. of P.R.R.I.
P.R.R.I. initially asked respondents a direct question: did they agree or disagree with the statement, “The idea of an America where most people are not white bothers me.” As you might expect, agreement was low, with just 13 percent saying they were bothered by the prospect of a majority-minority America. Then P.R.R.I. used a separate indirect technique to try to determine how many respondents were in fact disturbed by the growth of the minority population, but unwilling to admit it.
White respondents were divided into two demographically similar groups and then asked to describe how many of a list of short statements bothered them, but not to say exactly which ones, in what is known as a “list experiment.” One group was given three short statements unrelated to race and ethnicity, and the other group got the same three statements plus a fourth short statement which read: “An America that is not mostly white.”
This method allowed the institute to calculate the percentage of respondents who were actually bothered by the prospect of a white minority nation. The findings are striking.
While only 13 percent of whites say that they are bothered by the idea of an America in which most people are not white, the four-statement technique indicated that 31 percent are, in fact, bothered (to use the P.R.R.I. polling word). The survey also broke the respondents down into smaller demographic subcategories. The differences within some demographic subcategories of whites were substantial. Although 15 percent of born-again Protestants openly acknowledged that they were bothered by the prospect of a minority white population, the indirect technique shows that the actual number is 50 percent.
White Democrats, at 11 percent, were more circumspect than white Republicans, at 18 percent, when explicitly asked if they were bothered (see Figure 1). But the indirect response technique revealed another interesting fault line: The list experiment showed that a slightly higher percentage of white Democrats, 33 percent (compared to 30 percent of white Republicans), are bothered by the United States becoming a white minority nation.
A number of experts question the long-term viability of a Republican strategy that relies disproportionately on white votes. I emailed Robert Jones of P.R.R.I., to see how much comfort he thought conservative Republicans could take from his organization’s study. Not much, Jones replied. “There are still considerable anxieties among whites about the changing makeup of the country,” he wrote, but “any Republican strategy that relies on tapping these anxieties has a limited success horizon, primarily because the white voters who hold these anxieties the strongest are older. In a midterm election, where the electorate is strongly influenced by older white voters, this could be a plausible strategy, but it carries significant risks for the Republican broader party brand in 2016.”
Jones provided me with a recent PowerPoint presentation he gave at Washington College in Maryland. Figure 2 breaks down the Obama and Romney 2012 coalitions by race and religion and “as you can see, Romney’s 2012 coalition looked pretty much like 70 year old America, while Obama’s coalition looked like 30 year old America.”
I also asked William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who specializes in demographic analysis, what his reaction was to the political implications of studies that reveal substantial white unease with the idea of a minority-majority nation. Frey argues that “a strategy that relies solely on increased white turnout is a losing Republican gambit.”
Frey said his own studies show that “demography is running against them” — Republicans —"faster than many seem to realize. In 2012, the white Republican margin of 20 points was the biggest since 1984 (Reagan-Mondale) and they still lost. It can be argued that Romney could have won with a significantly higher white turnout. But that won’t be the case for the Republican candidate in 2016.”
Frey noted that he had created a simulation model based on the projected numbers of white and nonwhite eligible voters in 2016. He then used turnout percentages for whites and minorities specifically chosen to be favorable to Republican prospects. “Even under this Republican ‘best case’ scenario, the Democratic candidate wins,” he wrote me. “To win future elections, Republicans need to win more minority votes.”
Sean Trende, a senior elections analyst for RealClearPolitics, who contends that boosting white turnout is in fact a viable Republican strategy — although his work is analytic, not prescriptive — pointed out to me that he continues to get pushback from both liberals and some Republican who disagree vehemently.
Referring to the idea that there is an emerging Democratic majority, Trende wrote in an email: “The consultants and politicians have mostly bought into the EDM theory, I think, which is why my series from last summer made the waves that it did. I think most people even on the GOP side hadn’t considered contrary arguments, to be perfectly honest,” adding, “It just boggles my mind.”
Some members of the Republican establishment may disagree with Trende, but in practical terms his views have the support of many, if not most, House Republicans, and the tacit backing of Republican primary voters. Both groups, for example, have shown little or no willingness to moderate anti-immigration positions.
The power of the immigration issue was demonstrated in the collapse of support for a possible presidential bid by Marco Rubio, freshman Senator from Florida. After he endorsed liberalized immigration reform, Rubio fell out of the front-runner spot and became an also-ran in polls of Republican primary voters.
In their calls for moderation on immigration and gay rights, Republicans leaders like Karl Rove and Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, appear to be pinning their election strategy on the conviction that conservative voters can be persuaded to subordinate an overt preoccupation with ethnic and racial issues in favor of a more muted social-cultural approach. Ultimately, those in the Rove-Priebus camp would like to persuade conservative voters to switch their focus to less divisive economic matters like an embrace of the free market.
For many on the right, the various elements of the contemporary conservative belief system – from abortion to gun rights, taxes to immigration, welfare to same-sex marriage – now form a coherent, interlocking whole. The trick for Republicans in their quest to maintain white majoritarian hegemony is to allow this fusion of issues to do its mobilizing work at a subliminal level, without triggering widespread resistance to explicit manifestations of bias and race prejudice.
Republican primary voters make up the most conservative bloc in the party. Focus group sessions conducted with white evangelical and Tea Party Republicans last summer by Quinlan Greenberg Rosner Research for the liberal advocacy group Democracy Corps found that participants “staunchly reject immigration reform. The whole notion is anathema.”
Comments made during the Quinlan Greenberg sessions illustrate the degree of preoccupation with immigration in this segment of the party. “One of the things the Democrats have done is to create a dependency class of loyal voters. That’s why they want all the illegal aliens legalized,” a Roanoke evangelical Republican declared. “Don’t come here and make me speak your language. Don’t fly your flag. You’re on American soil. You’re American. You come to our country, you need to learn our language,” added another. “Why should I put — press 1 if I want to speak in English? You know, everything — every politically correct machine out there says, ‘Press 1 for English. Press 2 for Spanish,’ ” said a third.
One of the prospective presidential candidates struggling to find the right language to bring the Republican center and the right together is Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida. Bush is following in the tradition of his father and brother who used “a thousand points of light” and “compassionate conservatism” to detoxify an ideology that might otherwise be seen as mean-spirited. Last month Bush told Fox News that an illegal border crossing “is not a felony. It’s an act of love, it’s an act of commitment to your family,” adding that “I think we need to kind of get beyond the harsh political rhetoric to a better place.”
Bush and his party have just over a year to get this argument into shape before the presidential campaign begins in earnest. The gulf that separates Republican primary voters and the moderates Republicans need to piece together a majority coalition poses the single largest challenge to conservative candidates and party leaders as the 2016 election approaches.
Whoever their nominee is, the Republican Party will face a high-wire act: maximizing turnout among whites holding patent or latent racial and ethnic prejudices; eliciting enthusiastic support among more moderate or libertarian conservatives to whom prejudice is alien; and finally picking up adequate support from minority voters themselves – those African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans who have often pushed Republicans over the finish line. In the last victorious Republican presidential campaign, George W. Bush won 32 percent of the minority vote, while carrying whites 58-41; in 2012, Romney was swamped by Obama, winning just under 20 percent of the minority vote while carrying whites by a near record 60-40.
Republican prospects of reversing negative trends among minority voters are not good. The party’s nominees have received a steadily declining share of the nonwhite electorate over the past three elections, just as the proportion of nonwhite voters in general elections has grown steadily. But it is going to take much more than Karl Rove’s columns and white papers issued by the Republican National Committee for the party to abandon a 50-year-old strategy that depends on tapping racial resentment in all of its forms, particularly when there is new research to suggest that this strategy is not entirely obsolete — precisely because the world is changing as quickly as it is.
We need the government to make sure your hummus is authentic!: "One of the leading manufacturers of hummus in the United States wants the federal government to mandate what ingredients (and what proportion of them) are necessary to label your creamy chickpea spread as such. This is, of course, to protect the consumers, not the company, food spread magnate Sabra claims. If people go around eating things labeled hummus that aren't really hummus, all sorts of ... things ... could happen. Disappointed party guests, for example! What if you bring impure hummus to an office luncheon and everybody realizes it, including your boss? It could cost you your promotion!" [/sarcasm]
GM Recalls More Cars: "Government Motors has issued its 30th recall for the year, bringing the total number of vehicles now recalled to 15.4 million globally. "GM has recalled more cars this year than it has sold in several years combined," NPR's Renee Montagne said, "and it's only May." These recalls involve everything from bad welding in Cadillac Escalades preventing proper air bag deployment to the faulty ignition switch blamed for 13 deaths. GM was fined $35 million for that episode, a fraction of Toyota's $1.2 billion fine -- but then again, Toyota wasn't owned by the government.
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Posted by JR at 12:32 AM