The Republican Party’s Dilemma for 2016: Should It Increase Its Hispanic Or White Voting Percentage?

Steven Cohen, at The New Republic, concisely slices and dices the Republican dilemma surrounding Hispanics:

Republican elites believe that they can stave off this racialized fissure with bilingual campaign ads and half-hearted appeals to pragmatism. What they ignore is not simply the extent to which they themselves have deliberately encouraged the accommodation of white supremacy within their ranks, but the likelihood that those elements actually have a more coherent vision for the future than they do. Latinos are not a one-issue monolith. Polling shows their views on key issues such as climate change, social welfare, and the minimum wage are out of line with GOP policy. Whites, meanwhile, still make up over 70 percent of voters. It’s entirely possible, likely even, that scaring enough white voters away from the Democrats to win a general election represents a more manageable task than moderating the Republican Party on almost every major issue. So while Santorum stands no better chance of becoming the next president than Graham does, his strategy of pitting working class whites against immigrants at least has the prospect of electoral success. Consciously or not, the Republican Party has decided to put it to the test.

Got that? The Republican Party has a choice between “scaring whites” or “moderating the Republican Party” (that is, moderating GOP policy positions in such a way that the most conservative whites still vote in large numbers; they don’t sit on their hands on election day).

At first glance, the “scaring whites” path looks far more likely to be a winning strategy for Republicans in 2016, but look again: the more you ramp-up white conservative energy, you also ramp-up white liberal energy (like mine). It may be that the Republican Party has reached its high water mark in getting the white vote with Mitt Romney in 2012 (70% and he still lost), and now it’s just a matter of gravity. Go further to the right, and more whites peel off than peel on.

There’s probably no escaping the fact that Republicans have to win more non-white votes than they did in 2012 to capture the presidency (or hope non-whites stay home on election day).

So this is also an interesting paragraph in Cohen’s essay:

What we are seeing now is more than just the usual dash to the right in the Republican primary. It is the end stages of a long fight for the soul of the party itself, the “tug of war,” as New Republic’s Brian Beutler has written, “between its own ego and its conservative id.” It may be tempting to dismiss Trump’s fearmongering (“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”) or Bobby Jindal’s fascism (“immigration without assimilation is invasion”) as outlandish and politically untenable, but Santorum’s appeal to the anxieties of “workers” is in keeping with a demonstrated decades-long migration of white lower and lower-middle class voters to the Republican Party. Taken together, they are articulating a coherent strategy to win back political power, one predicated on the supposed threat that immigration poses to the security, cultural purity, and economic stability of white America.

Here’s Lindsey Graham in debate with Rick Santorum doing an especially good job summing up the Republican dilemma (worth watching to the end for his comment on Strom Thurmond):

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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3 Responses to The Republican Party’s Dilemma for 2016: Should It Increase Its Hispanic Or White Voting Percentage?

  1. Staffan says:

    You should be looking at what is happening to the country due to this demographic shift. Poverty and crime rates are much higher along the border than the average – and that’s not counting all the illegals. The real situation is much worse. You may comfort yourself with GOP being in trouble. But the decline of the entire American society should be a problem for you too.

    Maybe personally, you can shield yourself off from these problems, but what about the less fortunate and future generations?

    • Santi Tafarella says:


      I live in a county (Los Angeles) in the United States where Hispanics, not whites, are in excess of 50% of the population, and it’s a good place to live. I live in a state that is about 35% white, and it’s a good place to live (California). California’s economy is growing faster than the rest of the United States, and its economy recently passed that of Brazil’s to become the 8th or 9th largest in the world.

      As for crime, wherever the population is younger, there will be more crime; where it is older, there will be less. And crime rates are the same as in the 1960s in the United States.

      It’s also true that there is economic vibrancy where young people are just getting a start.

      And it’s also true that the United States has a terrific luxury: we can increase immigration from all parts of the world because people are eager to come here. Where I live, for example, is a large Syrian Christian community. Immigration helps us with taking care of the white, retired population (someone has to be working to maintain Soc. Security and Medicare). And even if average economic growth is relatively low over the next fifty years (1.5-2.0%, say), which I doubt it will be, it means that the U.S. economy will still be roughly twice as large as it is today.

      I just don’t see the dystopia that you do (either in the present or future). 90% of all human beings by the end of the century will live in cities (demographers tell us), and those cities are likely to be much nicer than today.

      In the early 1990s, when Republicans in California self-immolated themselves on immigration, it was the party, not California, that was in trouble. If the national Republican Party now engages in the same hari kari, it doesn’t mean anything for the long-term prospects of the country as a whole. The broken wheel squeaks loudest.

  2. Staffan says:

    I can’t argue with “a good place to live” because it’s subjective. I don’t doubt the existence of more intangible qualities that add to well-being. But I think we can agree that things like economic wealth and crime are very important, and they can be measured to give us some estimates.

    The size and growth of the economy may seem like great metrics to that end, but they’re not. Nominal GDP is heavily influenced by mere population size. India is one of the biggest economies. And growth doesn’t really tell us much either unless we know what time period and from what base level the growth is coming from. Africa has some serious growth but if anything, life is probably even worse there than in India.

    A better measure is GDP per capita as it adjusts for population size. I looked at BEA’s numbers for 2014,

    America 49.4K dollars
    California 54.5K
    Nebraska 52.8K

    However, if you look at all people who live and work in California, or elsewhere, you can’t get around illegal immigrants. So let’s add those to make this more realistic. The best estimates I could find was PEW 2012 but the relatives should still give a fair estimate,

    America 47.8K
    California 51.2K
    Nebraska 51.3K

    Then you have other factors, like state debt. I don’t have the time or even expertise to properly adjust for that. But the debt in dollars per capita according to US Census is

    Average 3597
    California 3970
    Nebraska 988

    As you may have noted, adjusting for illegals will improve this picture for California, but not by much as they are the poorest part of the population with little capacity to fix the problem. Indeed, should they become legal then public expenses would make things a lot worse.

    This debt isn’t just something that needs to payed off, but it also increases the GDP measure which gives the appearance of wealth. The big spender looks rich even if it’s not his money.

    Another perspective I mentioned before is the simple fact that IQ averages correlate to wealth. No country or region on the planet is doing well at 96-97 and California is now estimated at around 95. Again, you have to ask yourself why this state would be the exception to the rule.

    For other metrics, I did a comparison of California and Nebraska that I think show the overall picture fairly well,

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