Most of us who follow politics remember the analysis issued by the Republican National Committee in the wake of the 2012 Presidential election. One of the findings was that the GOP absolutely had to increase its percentage of the Latino vote if it ever hoped to regain the White House.
Needless to say, the outreach to the Latino community advocated in that document did not occur, and if this analysis–based upon research by Pew–is accurate, the incredibly divisive, racist tone of the 2016 presidential campaign thus far is a direct outgrowth of the fact that the Grand Old Party has written off Latinos and other minority voters.
Since the Republicans didn’t pursue the easier path of improving their popularity with Latinos, they have no choice to jack up that 59% number they got with whites. Let’s look at how much they’ll need….
It’s probably a lot easier to get new voters from a group that is generally opposed to you than it is to keep adding voters to a group you’re dominating. In other words, it might be an easier task for the Republicans to get back to the 40-plus percent Latino support that George W. Bush once enjoyed than to grow their white support from 59% to 64%.
But it’s the latter strategy (if we can call it a strategy) that the Republicans are pursuing. They need to racially polarize the electorate in a way that gets them 3-5% more of the white vote.
They can do some of this through turnout instead, of course, so if they can keep lots of blacks and Latinos from voting in the first place, they don’t need to improve quite so much with whites.
I think what’s key to understanding this situation is that the Republicans actually have crossed the Rubicon and they no longer have the option of going back and pursuing more of the Latino vote. They must pursue more of the white vote and there are not too many ways to do that other than aggravating racial consciousness and jacking up the sense of white racial grievance.
And that is what we are seeing–in Trump’s case, from a master of demagoguery. As Josh Marshall writes at Talking Points Memo,
Trump hardly comes out of nowhere. There’s really little about his ascent that is surprising at all if you’ve been paying attention to the direction of our politics in the last decade. I don’t mean that I would have predicted he’d do this well. I didn’t. What I mean is that the nature of his success, the effectiveness of his strategy and message, is entirely predictable. What Trump has done is taken the half-subterranean Republican script of the Obama years, turbocharge it and add a level of media savvy that Trump gained not only from The Apprentice but more from decades navigating and exploiting New York City’s rich tabloid news culture. He’s just taken the existing script, wrung out the wrinkles and internal contradictions and given it its full voice. There’s very, very little that is new or unfamiliar in Trump’s campaign beside taking the world of talk radio, conservative media and base Republican hijinx and pushing them to the center of the national political conversation. If you’re surprised, it’s because you haven’t been paying attention.
Those of us who have been paying attention are terrified.