What It Really Means to Woo White Voters
I have a visceral reaction to conservatives arguing that Republicans should forget about trying to lure Latinos by passing immigration reform, and focus on turning out white voters instead. When Phyllis Schlafly or Pat Buchanan makes that pitch, it’s clear to me, it’s racist. They are urging their party to rely on the 50-year narrative of white grievance, perfected by Buchanan for Richard Nixon, that turned many white working-class people against Democrats. In some quarters, it’s a 150-year narrative that blames Abraham Lincoln for the War of Northern Aggression, and considers the father of the Republican Party a racist hypocrite.
Yet not everyone reassuring the GOP that it can continue to rely on white voters is making a racist argument. Real Clear Politics’ Sean Trende’s work on “missing white voters” tries to show that there are gains to be made by appealing to disaffected downscale whites who didn’t vote in 2012 (more on that later) - though he doesn’t argue that the party should ignore outreach to Latinos, blacks and Asians.
Still, it’s very hard for me to imagine a Republican effort to appeal specifically to white voters that doesn’t involve a strong element of racial grievance and a demonization of “government” as being the enemy that takes your money and gives it to those (non-white) people. That’s the Nixonian narrative that still played in 2012.