Sunday, July 12, 2015

GOP Dreamworld

Howell Raines describes the Dreamworld of Southern Repubicans in The New York Times.

For now, Republican officeholders live in a dream world where they think rhetoric and repetition will somehow cause minority voters and center-left whites to turn into Republican voters. Alarmed Republican political professionals warn that unless their candidates stop obstructing on health care and make progress on gender issues, the party will lose the White House in 2016 and in quadrennial spurts see its Southern hegemony dismantled by new voters in the New Sunbelt.

In presidential politics, the transition will most likely be seen first in red states like Texas, Georgia and North Carolina, all states that could be in play next year and could become purple, if not yet blue, as early as 2020.

In a sense, it’s the reverse of what happened in the South after the passage in 1965 of the Voting Rights Act. For some time, a coalition of moderate white Democrats and newly enfranchised black voters won victory after victory in the old Confederacy. But then, white flight to the Republican Party, driven by the regional appeal of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, wiped out many of those gains, although some major cities still have black mayors. Now we’re seeing a new coalition politics, in which Hispanic, black and Asian voters are joined by Democratic-leaning younger whites who, unlike older white voters, do not care about dog-whistle issues.

It is a quintessential Southern pattern. The region’s most affluent citizens always resist the obvious at first. The plantation mandarins denounced Henry Grady’s gospel of industrialization and more humane racial policies. The most prominent Southern intellectuals of the ’20s and ’30s, the Vanderbilt Agrarians, looked to rural values and white paternalism to preserve a distinctive post-Confederate culture. In the ’60s Birmingham’s business leaders allowed George Wallace to run amok in their town. It will take awhile for Southern and national Republicans to understand that, as Mr. Frey put it, “Demographics is destiny.” The longer they take to get it, the greater the odds that multiethnic Democrats will finally break the Republican lock on the solidly red South.

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