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“Why The GOP Has Grown So Hostile”: Republicans Have Crossed The Rubicon And No Longer Have The Option Of Going Back

Pew Research surveyed 35,071 Americans between June and September of 2014 and compiled information about their religious and political beliefs. One of their findings was that white Christians no longer constitute a majority in this country. Another finding was that a political gap among white Christians has widened during Obama’s presidency.

Nearly seven in 10 white Christians — 69 percent — identify with or lean toward the GOP, while just 31 percent do the same with Democrats…

…In less than a decade, the gap in Christian identification between Democrats and Republicans has increased by 50 percent. According to the data presented, in 2007, 88 percent of white Republicans and 70 percent of white Democrats identified as Christian, an 18-point disparity. By 2014, 84 percent of white Republicans identified as Christian, but the share of white Democrats identifying as Christian fell by 13 points, to 57 percent, a 27-point gap.

Despite these changes, some things have been remarkably stable. For example, separate research by Pew shows that party preference among whites has been nearly identical in the last three elections: (2010: 37D 60R, 2012: 39D 59R, 2014: 38D 60R).

That 59% Republican number from 2012 serves as the baseline for the popular vote calculator used at Latino Decisions. You can play around with the racial and turnout variables to see how small changes can alter the outcome of our presidential elections. This doesn’t account for the Electoral College, of course, but the popular vote predicts the winner most of the time, doesn’t it?

One thing you’ll discover is that if the white percentage of the vote comes in as predicted at 70.5% and the Republicans continue to get 59% of the white vote and other ethnic groups’ preferences and turnout hold constant then the GOP candidate will need about 47% of the Latino vote in order to win the popular vote. It’s actually worse than this because the calculator assumes that without Obama at the top of the ticket, the Republican will get 12% of the black vote rather than the 6% Romney received.

More statistically significant, however, is the fact that Romney only received an estimated 27% of the Latino vote in 2012. So, here’s what this looks like for the Republicans. If they can double the percentage of black votes they got in 2012 and do 20% better among Latinos, they can win the popular vote without doing any better (or worse) with white voters.

Numbers like these are daunting, and they explain why the Republican National Committee’s post-2012 Growth and Opportunity Report (better known as “The Autopsy Report”) determined that passing comprehensive immigration reform was an absolute prerequisite for them having any chance of winning the presidency in 2016. This is why the Senate Republicans made it a top priority in 2013 and ultimately passed a bill in a bipartisan 68-32 vote that included 14 members of their caucus.

I don’t think I need to belabor this point, but what happened next is not going to help the eventual Republican nominee improve twenty points on Romney’s performance with Latinos. If Donald Trump is their nominee, I think he’ll be fortunate to get half the Latino votes that Romney gathered.

Now, here’s the important point.

Since the Republicans didn’t pursue the easier path of improving their popularity with Latinos, they have no choice to jack up that 59% number they got with whites. Let’s look at how much they’ll need.

Using the other Latino Decisions assumptions, if the GOP gets 27% of the Latino vote, they’ll need 62% of the white vote to win the popular vote. If they get only 13% of the Latino vote, they need 64% of the white vote to win the popular vote. And, again, both of these predictions assume that the GOP will double their support in the black community and also not lose any Asian or “Other” voters.

It’s probably a lot easier to get new voters from a group that is generally opposed to you than it is to keep adding voters to a group you’re dominating. In other words, it might be an easier task for the Republicans to get back to the 40-plus percent Latino support that George W. Bush once enjoyed than to grow their white support from 59% to 64%.

But it’s the latter strategy (if we can call it a strategy) that the Republicans are pursuing. They need to racially polarize the electorate in a way that gets them 3-5% more of the white vote.

They can do some of this through turnout instead, of course, so if they can keep lots of blacks and Latinos from voting in the first place, they don’t need to improve quite so much with whites.

I think what’s key to understanding this situation is that the Republicans actually have crossed the Rubicon and they no longer have the option of going back and pursuing more of the Latino vote. They must pursue more of the white vote and there are not too many ways to do that other than aggravating racial consciousness and jacking up the sense of white racial grievance.

This has been a mainstay of conservative/Republican electoral strategy since at least the time that Nixon pursued the Southern Strategy, but I doubt that it’s ever been this much of an urgent and indispensable part of their path to success.

So, we’re seeing two things: a revival of open racism that had been dormant on the presidential campaign trail, and continued efforts to suppress the minority vote. These aren’t really choices anymore. They can’t win any other way.

The only alternative (which is no longer available in this cycle) is for some adults to take back control of the Republican Party from the Conservative Movement. As long as the conservatives are in control and refuse to change, these incredibly unpleasant electoral strategies will only get more pronounced and dangerous.

What the poll numbers at the top tell us, though, is that the religious angle is an important and (it looks to be) successful way for the GOP to ramp up the racial polarization in the electorate. It’s just as important to them to cultivate a mass sense of victimhood among white Christians (e.g., gay wedding cakes, Starbucks coffee cups, War on Christmas, Sharia Law) as it is to talk about blacks and Latinos just wanting a handout.

So, expect a lot more of this.

 

By: Martin Longman, Web Editor for the Washington Monthly; Political Animal Blog, November 23, 2015

November 25, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Voter Suppression, White Voters | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Look No Further Than The Governor’s Race In Kentucky”: The Superficiality Of The Republican Commitment To Racial Justice

Last night in Kentucky, Matt Bevin, a Tea Party-aligned Republican who unsuccessfully attempted to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last year, was elected the state’s second GOP governor since the end of the Civil Rights Movement.

Conservatives are understandably elated. Bevin ran rightward even by Kentucky’s standards. His political career has been forged in the conservative backlash to President Obama, and Bevin supports both federalizing Kentucky’s extremely successful state-based health care exchange, and rescinding the state’s Medicaid expansion, which has brought coverage to over 400,000 poor Kentuckians since 2013. As a candidate for Senate, where his vote would’ve counted, he supported the outright repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

But amid the euphoria over a victorious politician who wants to roll back the tide of social justice, conservatives are also celebrating their own perceived sense of racial enlightenment. Because though Bevin and most of his supporters are white, his running mate, Lieutenant Governor-elect Jenean Hampton, is black.

In Kentucky we see the general scope of Republican minority outreach in microcosm—the touting of a popular black figurehead juxtaposed against an unrelenting pursuit of policies that harm, and are unpopular with, black voters nationally.

The most apt symbol of this conception of racial tolerance is Ben Carson, who climbed out of poverty to become the most renowned black neurosurgeon in the world. He also sits well to the right of the median Republican primary candidate, which helps explain his surge in the polls. Last week, National Review’s Jonah Golberg wrote a column arguing that Carson is “even more authentically African American than Barack Obama, given that Obama’s mother was white and he was raised in part by his white grandparents.”

Goldberg interprets the fact that a person of such authentic blackness is a popular, conservative member of the Republican Party as a matter of deep significance, when in fact it confirms that the right’s commitment to racial justice has a deeply superficial quality. After a predictable backlash to the blackness scale he contrived, Goldberg revised and extended.

“The Democrats, MSNBC, Salon, et al,” he wrote, “are so invested in their narrative that the GOP is a racist cult that they have trouble dealing with the fact that Ben Carson—a black guy—is arguably the front-runner and certainly the most popular figure in the Republican field (and drawing most of his support from precisely the voters the MSNBC crowd is most convinced are the recrudescent racist heart of the conservative movement). Rather than celebrate this huge step forward in racial progress, or at least think about what it really means, they instead ignore it, dismiss it, or attack my ‘racism’ for pointing it out. Well, to Hell with that game.”

This would fatally undermine the liberal critique of racial politics on the right, if liberals argued that Republicans belonged to a segregated party that espoused hatred for minorities no matter their politics. Instead, Goldberg is celebrating tokenism on the scale of a national, ideological movement.

That Carson is black and popular among Republican primary voters is incontrovertible. It’s also largely beside the point. The question of why Carson is popular on the right is complicated, and surely in part related to his aforementioned conservative politics, his religious devotion, and his hypnotically avuncular demeanor. But it is just as surely related to the fact that Carson absolves conservatives of their coarse and patronizing view of black voters and political leaders. Carson attributes his unpopularity with liberals to the notion that he had the temerity to “come off the plantation.”

Needless to say, the fact that Republican voters like a guy who tells them that other black people—the ones who support Democrats—are like plantation slaves doesn’t harm the liberal critique of conservative racial politics at all. Nor does it cancel out or refute the existence of racism.

The Kentucky poor are now in limbo, though their position is tellingly strengthened by the fact that Kentucky is whiter than the median state. Beneficiaries of the Medicaid expansion there are whiter and more geographically dispersed than in other states. The prologue to their story may come from Arkansas, which declined to rescind its version of the Medicaid expansion, even after voters there replaced a retiring Democratic governor with a Republican.

So there is hope. But there’s also peril.  What distinguishes Kentucky is that its Medicaid expansion was undertaken unilaterally by outgoing Governor Steve Beshear. Though he softened his position during the general election, Bevin could rescind it on his own, without going to the legislature.

If he declines to do so, conservatives will consider it a great setback in their ongoing campaign against the national wave of Medicaid expansion, a campaign that has done disproportionate harm to low-income black people all over the country. And that says far more about the racial politics of their movement than the fact that Kentucky’s incoming lieutenant governor is black herself.

 

By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor at The New Republic, November 4, 2015

November 7, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Matt Bevin, Medicaid Expansion | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Running Scared”: Democrats Are Turning Georgia Blue; Republicans Never Saw It Coming

In 2008, under the best possible conditions for a Democrat, Barack Obama lost Georgia by just over 200,000 votes, or 5.2 percent of Georgians who voted. Four years later he lost again by just over 300,000 votes, or 7.8 percent of Georgians who voted. By any measure the state is a reach for Democrats. And yet, the party is optimistic, both now—Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter, its Senate and gubernatorial candidates, respectively, are running close races—and for the future.

The “why” is easy to answer: Georgia has roughly 700,000 unregistered black voters. If Democrats could cut that number by less than a third—and bring nearly 200,000 likely Democrats to the polls—they would turn a red state purple, and land a major blow to the national Republican Party. Or, as Michelle Obama said during a campaign rally on Monday, “If just 50 Democratic voters per precinct who didn’t vote in 2010 get out and vote this November—just 50 per precinct—then Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter will win.” Given 2,727 precincts in Georgia, that’s just 136,350 new voters.

Enter the New Georgia Project. Led by Stacey Abrams, Democratic leader in the state House of Representatives, the project is meant to do just that—register hundreds of thousands of blacks and other minorities. Their goal, says Abrams, is to “directly or indirectly collect 120,000 voter registration applications.” That could be enough to push Democrats over the top. And it makes the project one of the largest voter registration drives in recent Georgia history.

So far, it’s been a success. “In addition to the 85,000 we have collected as an organization directly,” says Abrams, “we have also supported the efforts of 12 organizations around the state. We know there are groups doing registration in the Latino community, in the Asian community, and in the youth community, and we wanted to support their efforts as well.” These groups, she says, have collected 20,000 to 25,000 applications, putting the New Georgia Project in striking distance of its goal two months before Election Day.

Which brings us to this week. On Tuesday, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp—a Republican—said his office was investigating allegations of voter fraud from the New Georgia Project, following complaints about voter applications submitted by the group. To that end, Kemp has issued subpoenas to the group and its parent organization, Third Sector Development.

“Preliminary investigation has revealed significant illegal activities’ including forged voter registration applications, forged signatures on releases, and applications with false or inaccurate information,” he wrote in a memo to county election officials.

To Abrams, this has less to do with protecting the process and more to do with suppressing the registration effort. After all, she notes, Georgia law “requires that we turn in all application forms we collect, regardless of concerns over validity.” It’s the job of the secretary of state, she says, to determine the status of the applications. “We do not get to make the decisions about whether or not a form is valid or not.”

She’s right. “A private entity shall promptly transmit all completed voter registration applications to the Secretary of State or the appropriate board of registrars within ten days after receiving the application or by the close of registration, whichever period is earlier,” says the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office website. Nowhere are private organizations asked or required to filter or discard applications.

There’s little information on the scope of the alleged fraud. But there is an aggressive subpoena that, Abrams says, “essentially demands every document we have ever produced.” She calls it a “fishing expedition” meant to “suppress our efforts.” A spokesperson for the New Georgia Project, the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church, was a little more explicit. “I see this move by the secretary of state as the latest effort in voter suppression in the state of Georgia,” he said.

Kemp insists that this investigation is impartial and nonpartisan. “At the end of the day this is not going to be about politics,” he told a local reporter. “This is about potential fraud which we think happened.” At the same time, Abrams and Warnock are rightfully suspicious. Not only was Kemp a vocal supporter of the state’s divisive voter identification law, but he’s a Republican in a state where the GOP has worked hard to dilute the strength of black voters.

Under the old Voting Rights Act, Georgia officials had to clear voting changes with the Justice Department, and for good reason: The state had a long history of disenfranchisement, and “preclearance” was a way to pre-empt discrimination or prevent it entirely.

That changed with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder last year, which struck preclearance from the VRA. Now, along with other Southern states, Georgia was free to change its laws and procedures for voting. And it did. That year, in Augusta—which has a large black population—officials moved municipal elections from their traditional November dates, a change with huge, negative effects on turnout. (For a case study, look to Ferguson, Missouri.)

Likewise, officials in rural Greene County implemented a redistricting plan previously blocked by the Justice Department, and lawmakers in Morgan County floated a plan to eliminate half the area’s polling sites, a move that would have its greatest effect on low-income and minority voters.

Then, Georgia Democrats realized they could play the same game. Last week officials in the large, mostly black area of DeKalb County announced plans for Sunday voting for the upcoming November election. The state’s Republican lawmakers have responded with outrage. “[T]his location is dominated by African American shoppers and it is near several large African American mega churches such as New Birth Missionary Baptist,” said state Sen. Fran Millar, citing the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jim Galloway, “I’m sure Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter are delighted with this blatantly partisan move in DeKalb.” Millar is investigating ways to “stop this action,” and hopes to “eliminate this election law loophole.”

Against this backdrop of voter suppression, it’s no surprise Abrams is suspicious of the state’s investigation: From the harsh accusations of “fraud” to the aggressive actions from Kemp, it looks like another attack on efforts to increase participation and diversify the electorate.

With that said, there’s only so long Republicans can hope to win through such divisive methods. Six years ago, a “purple” Georgia was a pipe dream. Now, in a year when Republicans have the national advantage, it’s a possibility. The pace of demographic change is so fast that, soon enough, Democrats like Abrams won’t have to work to change the electorate—it will have happened on its own.

 

By: Jamelle Bouie, Slate, September 12, 2014

September 13, 2014 Posted by | Georgia, Voter Registration, Voter Suppression | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Power Of The Franchise”: Voting Still Matters When It Comes To Political Clout

More than a half-century after brave protesters marched and bled and died to demand the right to vote for black citizens, the ballot box remains a potent weapon for civic and political change — a radical undertaking that can shake up social systems and correct inequities and injustices. If there is any good news in the untimely death of Michael Brown, it’s that the black residents of Ferguson, Missouri, have been reminded of the power of the franchise.

As protests have ebbed and activists have sought solutions to police brutality, they’ve started to register Ferguson’s underrepresented black citizens to vote. That won’t solve every problem, nor will it produce instant results, but it’s certainly one obvious avenue toward social change.

It took tragedy and weeks of unrest — the unarmed Brown, a black teenager, was killed by a white police officer on August 9 — to awaken a sense of urgency. Even as the two elections of President Obama proved, once again, the persuasiveness of the ballot, many Americans, especially those in historically oppressed ethnic groups, failed to appreciate its power in state and local affairs.

As the demographics of Ferguson have changed over the last 10 to 20 years, its newer residents have not exercised their political clout. The city was about 80 percent white in 1980, but its white population was down to less than 33 percent by 2010, according to the U.S. Census. You wouldn’t know that from looking at its local leaders.

The city council of six has just one black member; the school board comprises six whites and one Latino. Of the 53 sworn police officers on the force, just three are black. That helps explain a law enforcement agency that shows disrespect and hostility toward its black citizens.

There is a danger, of course, in exaggerating the power of politicians to change the habits formed from centuries of racial injustice or to correct systemic inequities that remain stubbornly entrenched. Obama, indeed, is a case in point. He has attracted a noisy, if tiny, group of black detractors who regularly denounce him for failing to appreciably roll back the racism that has haunted black America for generations.

He has been criticized for failing to adopt a “black agenda” that would employ black Americans and close the gap between white and black earning power. He has been excoriated for occasionally reminding black audiences that hard work and responsible conduct engender success, even as racism remains a cultural force. He has even been castigated for failing to speak out more forcefully against police misconduct in Ferguson.

It’s understandable that there’s a degree of frustration and disappointment that Obama’s election hasn’t done more to mitigate historic forces. After his election in 2008, it seemed that barriers to black success would fall rapidly. Instead, there remains a significant gap in most measures of economic well-being, starting with the unemployment rate. While about 6.6 percent of whites are currently unemployed, about 12.6 percent of blacks are jobless.

That gap hasn’t changed in 50 years, and educational attainment doesn’t alter it appreciably. While the unemployment rate is lower for black college grads than for blacks with high school diplomas, there is still more joblessness among blacks with college degrees than among whites with similar educations.

There’s not much Obama, or any president, can do to change that. Still, elections matter because politicians can encourage progress in any number of ways, large and small. The Affordable Care Act — or Obamacare — is just one example of that. While its provisions apply to all Americans, it affects blacks disproportionately because they are less likely to be able to afford policies without it.

If the vote didn’t matter, Republicans would not have worked so hard over the last decade to block the franchise. They’ve pushed through voter ID laws, cut back early voting and purged voter rolls — all in an effort to block a few voters of color, a cohort that tends to vote for Democrats. That’s testimony to the enduring power of the vote, a power that Ferguson’s black citizens should put to good use.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, August 30, 2014

August 31, 2014 Posted by | Ferguson Missouri, Voter Suppression, Voting Rights | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Shake The Complacency”: Twelve Percent Turnout Is An Insult To Your Children

The Rev. Al Sharpton, host of msnbc’s “Politics Nation,” spoke at the Greater Grace Church’s services yesterday, and addressed the crisis surrounding Michael Brown’s death from a variety of angles. Of particular interest, though, was one of Sharpton’s challenges to the community itself.

“Michael Brown is gonna change this town,” he said, before criticizing the paltry voting record on the area. “You all have got to start voting and showing up. 12% turnout is an insult to your children.”

That was not an exaggeration. The historical and institutional trends that created the current dynamic in Ferguson – a largely African-American population led by a largely white local government – are complex, but the fact that black voters haven’t been politically engaged has contributed to the challenges facing the community. In the most recent elections, turnout really was just 12%.

Patricia Bynes, a black woman who is the Democratic committeewoman for the Ferguson area, told the New York Times that last week’s developments may shake the complacency that too often shapes local politics. “I’m hoping that this is what it takes to get the pendulum to swing the other way,” Bynes said.

To that end, Ferguson residents have had an enormous amount of work to do over the last several days – mourn, grieve, protest, and recover, all while struggling through moments of violence – but haven’t forgotten about the importance of civic engagement in general, and voter registration in specific.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a piece over the weekend that included a striking detail (thanks to my colleague Laura Conaway for the heads-up).

Rev. Rodney Francis of the St. Louis Clergy Coalition pointed to voter registration tent at the scene. “That’s where change is gonna happen,” Francis said.

Debra Reed of University City and her daughter, Shiron Hagens, were working at the registration tent. They said they set it up on their own.

“We’re trying to make young people understand that this is how to change things,” Reed said.

Note, some Republican-led states have made voter-registration drives far more difficult in recent years – Florida, for example, has imposed harsh restrictions without cause – but no such hindrances exist in Missouri.

State GOP policymakers have taken steps to restrict voting rights and curtail early voting, but none of this should be seen as an excuse to discourage Ferguson residents from registering and participating. The kind of systemic changes many in the community crave can be achieved through the ballot box.

To repeat Sharpton’s message: “You all have got to start voting and showing up. 12% turnout is an insult to your children.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 18, 2014

August 22, 2014 Posted by | Ferguson Missouri, Voter Registration, Voting Rights | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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