Why the GOP is the party of white people

Sam Tanenhaus has a LONG LONG PIECE in the current issue of the New Republic dealing with the whiteness of the Republican Party — how it got that way and why it stays that way.

A few excerpts:

With Barack Obama sworn in for a second term—the first president in either party since Ronald Reagan to be elected twice with popular majorities—the GOP is in jeopardy, the gravest since 1964, of ceasing to be a national party. The civil rights pageantry of the inauguration—Abraham Lincoln’s Bible and Martin Luther King’s, Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s swearing in of Joe Biden, Beyoncé’s slinky glamor, the verses read by the gay Cuban poet Richard Blanco—seemed not just an assertion of Democratic solidarity, but also a reminder of the GOP’s ever-narrowing identity and of how long it has been in the making.

“Who needs Manhattan when we can get the electoral votes of eleven Southern states?” Kevin Phillips, the prophet of “the emerging Republican majority,” asked in 1968, when he was piecing together Richard Nixon’s electoral map. The eleven states, he meant, of the Old Confederacy. “Put those together with the Farm Belt and the Rocky Mountains, and we don’t need the big cities. We don’t even want them. Sure, Hubert [Humphrey] will carry Riverside Drive in November. La-de-dah. What will he do in Oklahoma?”

Forty-five years later, the GOP safely has Oklahoma, and Dixie, too. But Phillips’s Sunbelt strategy was built for a different time, and a different America. Many have noted Mitt Romney’s failure to collect a single vote in 91 precincts in New York City and 59 precincts in Philadelphia. More telling is his defeat in eleven more of the nation’s 15 largest cities. Not just Chicago and Columbus, but also Indianapolis, San Diego, Houston, even Dallas—this last a reason the GOP fears that, within a generation Texas will become a swing state. Remove Texas from the vast, lightly populated Republican expanse west of the Mississippi, and the remaining 13 states yield fewer electoral votes than the West Coast triad of California, Oregon, and Washington. If those trends continue, the GOP could find itself unable to count on a single state that has as many as 20 electoral votes.


Romney [can’t] be blamed for the party’s whiter-shade-of-pale legislative Rotary Club: the four Republicans among the record 20 women in the Senate, the absence of Republicans among the 42 African Americans in the House (and the GOP’s absence as well among the six new members who are openly gay or lesbian). These are remarkable totals in a two-party system, and they reflect not only a failure of strategy or “outreach,” but also a history of long-standing indifference, at times outright hostility, to the nation’s diverse constituencies—blacks, women, Latinos, Asians, gays.

But that history, with its repeated instances of racialist political strategy dating back many decades, only partially accounts for the party’s electoral woes. The true problem, as yet unaddressed by any Republican standard-bearer, originates in the ideology of modern conservatism. When the intellectual authors of the modern right created its doctrines in the 1950s, they drew on nineteenth-century political thought, borrowing explicitly from the great apologists for slavery, above all, the intellectually fierce South Carolinian John C. Calhoun.


Race will always be a complex issue in America. There is no total cleansing of an original sin. But the old polarizing politics is a spent force. The image of the “angry black man” still purveyed by sensationalists such as Ann Coulter and Dinesh D’Souza is anachronistic today, when blacks and even Muslims, the most conspicuous of “outsider” groups, profess optimism about America and their place in it. A politics of frustration and rage remains, but it is most evident within the GOP’s dwindling base—its insurgents and anti-government crusaders, its “middle-aged white guys.” They now form the party’s one solid bloc, its agitated concurrent voice, struggling not only against the facts of demography, but also with the country’s developing ideas of democracy and governance. We are left with the profound historical irony that the party of Lincoln—of the Gettysburg Address, with its reiteration of the Declaration’s assertion of equality and its vision of a “new birth of freedom”—has found sustenance in Lincoln’s principal intellectual and moral antagonist. It has become the party of Calhoun.



  1. Pat does have a point here but I still can’t figure out what is so good about Chicago? This city has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country and look at all the shootings (on the Southside) and even President Obama said during his speech last night some of it is only a mile from his home. I guess tougher gun laws are working there, right!

    One more point here and that is Pat we will give you California, New York and Illinois because before long these state will not exist as they will be broke and everyone will leave. Just look at California today for proof as many are leaving but that’s been going on for years.

  2. Luke Fredrickson

    As for California, Jerry Brown (Democrat) replaced Ahnold (Republican) in 2011, inheriting a huge defecit and no plan to fix it. Brown turned things around through increased revenue (as approved by a voter referendum), spending cuts, and education reform.

    The CA budget is now balanced, Dave. Next up for Moonbeam is their pension shortfall. Stay tuned.


  3. Yet, oddly enough, the GOP thinks that getting a Marco Rubio will magically transform the party. Trot out whatever Hispanic or Black conservative you want. That will make no difference. The GOP’s policies and ideas are out of touch with reality and their 1950s stance on women and other social issues becomes more laughable every day.

  4. Luke, are these the same analyst who predicted the unemployment rate would be at 5% when the Stimulus Bill was passed? Or are they hoping the new taxes imposed in California will do the job?

    But what bout the $26 Billion of debt they have now?

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