Monday, July 02, 2007

Republicans lurch toward a fall

On July 2, 1964, Democratic President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act that created a legal framework for racial equity in the U.S. Legend says he remarked:

''We have lost the South for a generation."

It's now more than a generation, and the Democrats still seem to have lost the South to racism and reaction. Modernity continues to wear cracks in the "solid" edifice, but the general picture is that the South remains a Republican stronghold; everywhere else, even the libertarian-minded Mountain West, is potentially up for grabs.

I'm going to go out on a limb here. Far wiser observers than I tell me I shouldn't draw such sweeping conclusions from demographic developments. But I am convinced that, in the first half of the twenty-first century, Republican embrace of racial inequality will lead to national marginalization. To draw a metaphor from another Republican bug-a-boo, failure to evolve puts the party on a path to extinction.

We're in for a rocky season. But the "browning" of the country, the gradual but inexorable population shift toward the day when persons of European ancestry now classified as" white," cease to be a majority and become simply one of several "racial" groups, cannot be stopped. Anxious whites will try to hold back the encroaching landslide, but we can't.

Whites have already ceased to be a majority in California and just recently in Texas. The shift will have happened in the country at large by around 2050.

If the rest of country follows the pattern we've seen in California, white demographic anxiety will inspire efforts to enshrine and reinforce structural obstacles to the full equality of non-white groups. Got to "protect" that shrinking white majority. That's the meaning of the long push outlaw race conscious policies. So a Republican court came up with last week's decision outlawing voluntary efforts to create diverse school systems so as not to "unfairly" burden white parents. Race conscious policies feel like a threat when you can no longer use them solely to keep those other people down.

It's on immigration that Republicans have really "shown their colors." The debate on the rotten immigration bill recently defeated in the Senate brought all their racist skeletons out in the open. Democratic opponents pointed to the indentured servitude aspects of the "guest worker" proposal and the unfairness of the point system. But Republican opponents might as well have just put on their sheets and lit up the crosses as they railed against "illegals."

Polling shows why. Surveying likely primary voters, Kathy Frankovic of CBS News reported in late May that intensely xenophobic views of immigrants hold sway in the Republican party.

For Democratic voters, there is no contest [among domestic issues]. One issue — health care — dominates. Seventy-two percent name health care availability, and just 12 percent say strengthening immigration laws should be the priority....

But on the Republican side, immigration dominates. Forty percent of Republican primary voters choose strengthening immigration laws as their chief domestic issue. ...

And those four in 10 Republican primary voters who care about strengthening immigration laws have more negative feelings about immigration and immigrants than do other Republicans. For example, among those who see strengthening immigration as the most important domestic issue:

  • Fifty-eight percent believe that people now coming to the United States will in the long run make American society worse. ...
  • Nearly two thirds (65 percent) say illegal immigrants are more likely than others to commit crimes. ...
  • Fifty-eight percent want to deport all illegal immigrants, even those who have lived and worked in the U.S. for two years. Only about a third of other Republican voters agree.
This group of Republican primary voters also supports construction of a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.
These people are "the base" of the Republican Party and they are unapologetically racist.

When the trolls dominate, a political party becomes stupid, inept and unattractive. At least that is California experience. I believe we will see the national Republican party follow that trajectory.

Josh Marshall agrees:

This whole episode has branded the Republicans as the anti-immigrant party. And that's not good for a party that wants to compete for the votes of America's largest bloc of new immigrant voters.

It's going to be a rocky season, but these people aren't going to win. They can make a lot of lives miserable, but they'll have to stop human history to stay on top and this isn't going to happen.

Nativism, fear of black and brown, is the path to obsolescence for the Republican Party, a party now angrily marching off toward the cliff of irrelevance.


tina said...

Seen from outside the USA: when it comes to us, Arabs, one can see that the Democratic Party is as racist as the Repulican. So it is surprising to read you trusting that those same politicians and their suporters are going to keep an anti-racist profile when it comes to the population inside the USA. A racist is a racist, no?
from Beirut

janinsanfran said...

Sure, the Dems are just as racist as the Republicans in many (though slightly different ways) -- yet within the country, they serve as the locus of whatever anti-racist energy there is. At the simplest level, most people of color work through the Dems.

In general, this is a better country when all the racists get pushed into one side of the two party mechanism. Then one at least has somewhere from which to push on the other side.

Can't TRUST any of them. Have to work with some of them or give up, which would be irresponsible for me.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Jan, I don't think you're going out on a limb. The timeline for the marginalization of Republicans is arguable, but the trend is correct.

I agree that you can't trust any of them, but you work with what you have.

johnieb said...


one of our writers, I believe it was Mr. Twain, observed that we can only trust our leaders so far as we have their necks in our noose.

I certainly do not trust either major party, but I do recognize, as Jan points out, the Democrats are more open to pressure to "do the right thing." The Republicans went over to Satan after the American Civil War, and have chosen to remain there since, for the most part; they have been the party of the rich and well-connected against the poor and the weak.

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