The GOP just can't seem to shake its white guy fix. California is at the top of everybody's list as one of the most diverse population states. Yet, the California state GOP is a virtually lily white outfit. Whites according to a Field Poll make up nearly 80 percent of the party faithful, with white males calling the party shots. In quick succession, GOP senate luminaries John McCain, Mitch McConnell, Jeff Sessions, Jim DeMint and Jon Kyl noisily vowed to vote against confirming Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. The endless pack of conservative bloggers, talk show gabbers, websites, and chatrooms have in recent days escalated their assault on President Obama with countless crude, racist digs, slurs, cartoon depictions. This is no accident. The GOP has draw up a canny, political game plan to re-energize and reorganize its oldest, and most dependable base, white males.
Polls show that the GOP's relentless Obama bashing complete with borderline racial appeals to white males is having some success. Obama's approval ratings have sharply dipped among whites with incomes less than $75,000. Among white males in the same bracket they've plunged into free fall. According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, his approval-disapproval ratio dropped by nearly 30 points since January. Much of the ratings plunge came before the Obama's blast at Cambridge police for their handling of the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates.
This was the made-in-heaven political opening that the GOP has hungered for. It gave the GOP's attack team fuel to singe Obama as an anti-police, race-baiting bigot. This is a sure fire tact to stoke anger and backlash among white males. It worked. White males by a lopsided margin blasted Obama for defaming police and playing the race card.
The spark to reignite the GOP's traditional conservative, lower income white male loyalists has always been there. The final presidential vote gave ample warning of that. While Obama made a major breakthrough in winning a significant percent of votes from white independents and young white voters, contrary to popular perception, McCain (not Obama) won a slim majority of their vote in the final tally. Among Southern and Heartland America white male voters, Obama made almost no impact. Overall McCain, garnered nearly 60 percent of the white vote.
The hard reality is that the GOP could not have been competitive during campaign 2008 without the bail out from white male voters. Much has been made since then that they are a dwindling percent of the electorate, and that Hispanics, Asian, black, young, and women voters will permanently tip the balance of political power to the Democrats in coming national elections. It's true that blue collar white voters have shrunk from more than half of the nation's voters to less than forty percent. The assumption based solely on this slide and the increased minority population numbers and regional demographic changes is that the GOP's white vote strategy is doomed to fail. This ignores three major factors in voting patterns. Elections are usually won by candidates with a solid, and impassioned core of bloc voters. White males, particularly older white males, vote consistently and faithfully. And they voted in a far greater percentage than Hispanics and blacks.
Most importantly to the GOP brain trust, blue collar white male voters can be easily aroused to vote on the emotional wedge issues; abortion, family values, anti-gay marriage and rights, and tax cuts. GOP presidents and aspiring presidents, Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr. and W. Bush, and McCain and legions of GOP governors, senators and congresspersons banked on these voters for victory and to seize and maintain regional and national political dominance.
The strategy failed in 2008 only because of the rage and disgust of legions of white voters at Bush's horribly failed and flawed domestic and war policies. This was more a personal, and visceral reaction to the bumbles of Bush than a radical and permanent sea change in overall white voter sentiment about Obama, the Democrats, and the GOP. Even if the GOP is, as is widely seen, an insular party of Deep South and narrow Heartland, rural and, non-college educated blue collar whites that's not a demographic to be totally sneered at, because the numbers are still huge.
The other hard reality is that the party has absolutely no chance to win any significant support from black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American voters even if they made an honest effort to. Bush tried just that with his pitch to make the GOP a big tent, diverse party, and his high profile appointments of Colin Powell, Condeleezza Rice, Alberto Gonzalez, and other minorities to his administration team. It barely nudged the vote meter among minorities, especially black voters.
It will be the same in 2012. So the GOP driven by personal instincts, political leanings, history, demographics, and raw political necessity will do what it has done for decades, and more times than not successfully. It will lean on its white guy fix to try to put it back on the political playing field.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His weekly radio show, "The Hutchinson Report" can be heard on weekly in Los Angeles at 9:30 AM Fridays on KTYM Radio 1460 AM and live streamed nationally on ktym.com
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