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Buchanan: GOP Needs More Race-Baiting, Not Less

By Matthew Yglesias on July 15, 2009 at 9:56 am

"Buchanan: GOP Needs More Race-Baiting, Not Less"

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Pat Sees White People (wikimedia)

Pat Sees White People (wikimedia)

A provocative article by Pat Buchanan argues that contrary to conventional wisdom, Republicans shouldn’t worry about alienating Hispanic voters, they should just focus on getting white people to like them more:

In 2008, Hispanics, according to the latest figures, were 7.4 percent of the total vote. White folks were 74 percent, 10 times as large. Adding just 1 percent to the white vote is thus the same as adding 10 percent to the candidate’s Hispanic vote.

If John McCain, instead of getting 55 percent of the white vote, got the 58 percent George W. Bush got in 2004, that would have had the same impact as lifting his share of the Hispanic vote from 32 percent to 62 percent.

And he sees race-baiting attacks as the way to do it:

Had McCain been willing to drape Jeremiah Wright around the neck of Barack Obama, as Lee Atwater draped Willie Horton around the neck of Michael Dukakis, the mainstream media might have howled.

And McCain might be president.

His specific argument about Sonia Sotomayor is that Republicans need to get more explicit about the idea that, as a Latina, she will make rulings that disadvantage white people and that white America ought therefore band together to stop her. This is already the subtext of their arguments but I guess he feels it’s not close enough to the surface.

At any rate, while Buchanan is being repugnant, I do think this is something conservatives are going to want to think about. Consider the case of Jeff Sessions (R-AL). We’re talking about a guy who’s too racist to get confirmed as a judge, but just racist enough to win a Senate seat in Alabama. And it’s not because Alabama is a lilly white state. With 65 percent of its electorate white, and 29 percent of its electorate African-American, Alabama is much more demographically favorable to the Democrats than is the country at large. But while McCain pulled 55 percent of the white vote nationwide he scored 88 percent of white vote in Alabama. And this is what you tend to see in the Deep South, white Americans exhibiting the kind of high levels of racial solidarity in voting behavior that you normally associate with African-Americans in the US political context.

Consequently states with small white populations like Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi can be solid GOP territory. Under the circumstances, it’s not entirely crazy for Republicans to believe that the right way to respond to shifting American demographics is by just trying to amp-up the level of racial anxiety in the shrinking white majority. An analogy might be to religion. When the country was overwhelmingly Christian, Christianity didn’t play much of a role in our politics. But as the Christian majority shrank it became more and more viable to explicitly mobilize Christian identity for political purposes.

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