GOP Racial Woes and 2016

03/30/2015 01:08 pm ET | Updated May 30, 2015

Within the GOP, there's been some ugly rhetoric on issues of race and authority, but that's quite frankly nothing new; what is new, however, is the magnitude of the problem they have been creating for themselves. What is this laundry list, and how will it be affected by the run to 2016?

It's true that the last election was a full-on "Red Wedding" where the Democrats took a brutal beating that was largely the result of ineffective campaigning and an extension of Obama's unpopularity. It's also true, however, that this was a midterm election with demographics that heavily favored Republicans; at the last general, even though Romney won a record amount of white male voters, he lost pretty much everyone else and was crushed by coalition politics.

The trend of coalition politics can't be reversed: it's demographic fate. In this new era of politics, how does the GOP plan to turn around the narrative that is even more caustic amongst minority voters than it was the last time around?

Looking at the relationship of minorities and authority, we should first consider the leadership of the GOP. Former Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA), the only Jewish member of the GOP Congress, held the position of Majority Whip, but was defeated in a primary in one of the biggest upsets leading up to the midterm elections. His replacement, Steve Scalise, was recently busted addressing a Neo Nazi convention, and has infamously described himself as "David Duke without the baggage." Duke was a notorious KKK leader often in the media who was unelectable mostly because of his stance on race and Jews.

Steve King's (R-IA) immigration rhetoric, while little more than toxic hyperbole, continues to define the party as there is a lack of a viable alternative: while there have been some very modest bills to be written by Republicans allowing Dreamers with DACA to join the military and serve for citizenship like the ENLIST Act, these were literally the least they could do, and were abandoned so quickly they are reminiscent of Rubio bailing on the Gang of 8 bill.

Much more significant than rhetoric was the vote led by King to add an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding to defund DACA, a preview to the more-recent DHS funding showdown. Considering how Republicans were never shy about draining 9/11 and my dead neighbors for every bit of political leverage they were worth, attacking DHS funding as leverage to deport Dreamers and the parents of U.S. citizens probably wasn't the way to go.

While there were many Republicans that turned on their own party as a result of this dramatic round of brinksmanship, it's undeniable that the Ted Cruz (R-TX)/Steve King far-right Tea Party brand still completely controls the narrative within the GOP.

Perhaps the divide over race and politics is most obvious over voting rights: for the 50th anniversary of the "Bloody Sunday" march in Selma, Alabama, Democrats were well represented with John Lewis (D-GA), who had his skull split on that bridge for his right to vote, introducing Barack Obama, the first African American President, talking about how far we had come, and how we still had so far to go.

Republicans, meanwhile, hastily sent over token representation when they saw it reported that they had nobody from their party going, and they didn't send over anyone in leadership or with a household name.

This comes at a time when there are stark divides over restrictive voter laws, including some that were struck down as too racist in the past that were passed within hours of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act being declared unconstitutional. Memories of 12 hour long lines to vote and severe voter restrictions that fell disproportionately on minorities and college students are fresh in places like Ohio and Florida, and those problems existed before the Voting Rights Act was gutted.

Looking to Bloody Sunday, we see another glaring example of a racial divide that Republicans come down in the same predictable way that alienates minorities with an apparent lack of understanding and/or empathy: policing. While many want to forget, this was something that happened within many people's lifetime: the police being used as an agent of the state to deny basic civil rights.

On the topic of policing, since the Eric Garner killing escalated the already-high tensions, the clashes between police and minority communities has been playing out on social media, with another cop beating another person doing little to nothing illegal on someone's smartphone popping up on my Facebook and Twitter feed every few hours.

Where does all of this lead? While it is true that the parties have lost much of their control over individual Senators and Representatives because of increasing independence from the parties in fundraising, they still represent their parties. What does it say about the brand that these conditions on policing, voting rights and other glaring injustices are not having the serious political weight thrown behind them required for a cure?

Looking towards 2016, although Jeb Bush may have some moderation and kind rhetoric on immigration, he was the first to sign "Stand your Ground" legislation into law and said that he would undo the President's executive order on immigration. While he may truly wish to ferry legislation through Congress, this has only become more difficult: how does he think he'll succeed where both Obama and his own brother failed?

Even if successful, what would he do about the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people who would qualify for reform but will be deported in the time between the repeal of the order and passing legislation?

In addition, between hitting the Iowa Freedom Summit and refusing to answer about immunizations, it doesn't look like Scott Walker (R-WI) is willing to lose the primary to win the general like Jeb: he's going to jump to the right on immigration and any other issue he needs to for his primary campaign, and many conservative polls put Walker ahead of Bush for the time being.

Whether or not Walker flames out spectacularly under the weight of their own incompetence like a dozen "front runners" (i.e. Michelle Bachmann and Donald Trump) remains to be seen. For the political dynamic, however, it's most likely inconsequential: the only room to challenge Jeb now that he's solidified his donor base is as an outsider fighting the establishment from the far right.

Anyone who does that will necessarily have to be a bit of a rebel that can energize the primary base, and will need to embrace the same politics we see now from Walker. How far right will this drag the conversation, and what will it do down ticket in a race that will bring out the same demographics we saw crush the Mad Men vote for Romney in 2012?

From over here, it smells like dead elephants.