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Posted Aug 31, 2012, 8:00 pm
History will write that Republican Harry Dent invented the modern Whites-Only Party in the late 1960s with something called the Southern Strategy. Republican Barry Goldwater was the first beneficiary. Republican Richard Nixon rode it to the White House. Republican Ronald Reagan won on it. Republican George Bush senior Willie-Hortonized it and the younger George Bush – to his lasting credit – tried to get away from it.
And less than fifty years later, the Republican Southern Strategy is now breathing its last gasp. Good riddance.
It may already be a bridge too far. For the first time in recorded history, a poll of likely voters found zero percent of black voters who said they would vote for the Republican, Mitt Romney. Republicans will make all kind of rationalizations about this, but the bottom line is that today’s Republican Party is FWBW – For Whites, By Whites. Members of the party are 92 percent white – the highest percentage since Reconstruction. In fact, until the invention of the Southern Strategy, the party of Lincoln was the choice of most black people.
Still the party’s standard bearer, Mitt Romney, has settled on one more try at a whites-only election strategy.
Since 66 percent of all voters are still white, it is still mathematically possible. But with no black votes and as few as 25 percent of Hispanic votes, Romney will need to get over sixty percent of white votes. That’s a near impossibility since he still trails among white women and, of course, white Democrats. Romney’s chances are somewhat better in swing states, where Hispanics are only eight percent of voters. He can win most of these states, even though he isn’t currently.
In any event, this is clearly the last time whites-only has any chance of winning a national election.
Plenty of party insiders, especially Jeb Bush, will tell you that the party risks permanent minority status unless it can find a new way to reach out to black people and Hispanics and Muslims. But when Jeb Bush is your leading go-to guy for Latino issues, you’ve already got a big problem.
The other Hispanic voice, Marco Rubio, seems to lose appeal beyond the Cuban community, a small subset of Hispanics not particularly respected or beloved by everyone else. That leaves an effective governor, Susan Martinez, as perhaps the legitimate first wave of a new kind of Republican leader that can attract a new kind of Republican voter.
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And it is clear that, while comfortable with pandering to whites, The Romney campaign and the Republican Party are trying their best to give the impression that they’ve already made the pivot to racial inclusion. The final night of the party’s convention included quick video cameos by most of the prominent Hispanic Republicans. It also found time for Mitt Romney’s son to take a few moments to speak in Spanish. Notably, though, he felt the need to apologize first. The party’s platform still calls for “English as the nation’s official language.”
Americans have a real chance to send a message this election. There is a real chance to put a final nail in the coffin of this insidious political strategy. We’re well past the sell-by date for divisive, racial, dog-whistle politics.
We can all say that we’re all Americans, and that we are evolved enough as a people that we won’t be divided by color, or religion, or gender. A party that is not welcoming to everyone – regardless of race – has no place in American politics. It is time to give the Republican Party a final nudge away from divisive politics and into the new era of inevitable – and exciting – multiculturalism. You’d be doing them a favor.
Jimmy Zuma splits his time between Washington, D.C. and Tucson. He writes the online opinion journal, Smart v. Stupid. He spent 5 years in Tucson in the early ‘80s, when life was a little slower, swamp coolers were a little more plentiful, Tucson’s legendary music scene was in full bloom, and the prevailing work ethic was “don’t - unless you have to.”