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The GOP Last Hurrah – Can Romney Use Race and Gender to Get His Magic Number in the White Vote?

Why is the GOP spending hundreds of millions to push policy that is, by so many polls, out of step with the majority of America? This election is the Alamo of both major camps of the old white power structure, Libertarian and Neocon, that have controlled this country since the dawn of the Industrial Age.   This race is using race and gender in a last ditch effort by a traditional white America to hold power.

According to the National Journal:

“Romney’s camp is focused intently on capturing at least 61 percent of white voters. That would provide him a slim national majority—so long as whites constitute at least 74 percent of the vote, as they did last time, and Obama doesn’t improve on his 80 percent showing with minorities.”

To put that in context, John McCain only got 55% of the white vote in 2008. George W. Bush got 58% in 2004 and 54% in 2000.  Dole only got 46% and H.W. Bush only got 40%/49%.  In fact, Mitt Romney would have to approximate the popularity of the GOP political Jesus, Ronald Reagan, who landed 64% of the white vote in 1984.

It’s a tall order for a candidate who came out of his own convention with staggeringly bad personal popularity numbers.  According to ABC News:

“[A] new ABC News/Washington Post poll released this evening found that Romney has the lowest personal popularity of any major-party nominee in nearly 30 years.

More than half of all respondents, 51 percent, rate Romney “unfavorably,” while only 40 percent rate him “favorably,” a broader concept than simple likeability, which reflects a sense that the candidate understands the problems of average Americans, according to the poll.

No candidate has ever won the general election with such low favorability numbers.”

Population shifts in the American electorate favor minorities.  It will make money and stampeding the white population into fearful obedience harder and harder in the coming years.

Diversity is not the Republicans’ friend. A census study released this year shows  that “[t]here were 114 million minorities in 2011, or 36.6 percent of the U.S. population. In 2010, it stood at 36.1 percent.”  Further four states  and the District of Columbia are majority minority: Hawaii (77.1%), D.C. (64.7%), California (60.3%), New Mexico (59.8%) and Texas (55.2%). [1].  Swing states like Florida also have sizable minority populations.

Which is why the voter suppression that you have seen in key battleground states like Florida and Ohio has become so important. Shaving even a few points of voter turnout from the minority base helps the GOP both in the national contest for Romney, and in state/local races trying to hold on to the power spike of the 2010 midterms.

It’s also why the Romney campaign is spending the majority of its TV ad money ginning up false claims about welfare, racist code to white that somehow Mr. Obama is working to keep poor blacks in food stamps and welfare checks as a political payout.

Brown University political scientist Michael Tesler writes:

“According to [New York columnist] Jonathan Chait, then, ‘the political punch of this messaging derives from the fact that white middle-class Americans understand messages about redistribution from the hard-working middle-class to the lazy underclass in highly racialized terms.’

An extensive body of social science research described as racial priming seems to support Chait’s contention.  That research shows that such code words as “welfare” and “inner-city,” especially when combined with racial imagery (e.g., the hardworking whites in Romney’s ad), can make racial attitudes a more central determinant of political evaluations (see: 12345).  One might therefore expect the welfare ad to activate racial attitudes in public opinion.”

Tesler went on to say:

“[R]acial resentment affected whether people thought Romney will help the poor, the middle class and African Americans. Moreover, seeing the ad did not activate other attitudes, such as party or ideological self-identification. It only primed racial resentment.”

Racial resentment is all that Republicans need, though.   They include enough trigger “code” though, to do the job of setting off people, including poor white Democrats whose rising xenophobia, aggravated by job loss to other races overseas, is a strong tie into the weak job market.

Romney has pushed the welfare queen lie extensively, thanks in large part to a docile media that doesn’t question him. A USA Today interview allowed Mr Romney to get away with suggesting that Mr. Obama has been “shoring up” his base of welfare voters, e.g. minorities by cutting work rules. That claim was even debunked by intellectually lazy CNN.

Gender & Race Affect White Women Voters


All of the racial coding is to try and push Romney’s white voter numbers up to the magic 61% level.  One big roadblock in his way though is not race, but gender. Republican policy on reproductive rights, particularly in the states leading up to the election, has been a big roadblock.  TIME’s Swampland blog commented at the end of August:

“[A] TIME/CNN poll of likely voters released Monday found [that in] close races in Florida and North Carolina, Obama led Romney by 12 points and 10, respectively, among women in those two states. It’s a deficit that has dogged Romney all year, and the problem seems to be getting worse.”

Congressman Todd Akin’s remarks about “forcible rape” on the eve of the GOP Convention turned that resentment into a four-alarm fire. Republicans went into damage control. The blaze spread to the Romney ticket when it was pointed out that the very same language appeared in anti-abortion legislation which Akin and V.P. hopeful Paul Ryan co-sponsored.

Ryan became a problem for Romney with women. So much so that his wife, Ann, has been tasked to damage control.

“According to a Hart Research Survey poll conducted in Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada from Aug. 9 to 13, women in those states prefer President Barack Obama to Romney by a 13-point margin (52 to 39 percent). The survey also found that half of women said they were less likely to vote for Romney now that he has chosen Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as a running mate. Only 19 percent of women said Romney’s pick made them more likely to support the ticket.” [1]

Have you wondered why so many white women back Romney and Ryan at all, given their harsh stances on reproductive rights and even contraception? Many women will place racial identity ahead of gender in their political thinking.

“Race dictates how gender, sexual orientation and other aspects of identification are experienced, practiced and processed,” says Dr. Jerome Rabow in his Models of Identity Development. [9]

In the book Race is a Nice Thing to Share (1995), Dr. Janet Helms breaks down the process into six stages.  Even when a white person starts as “colorblind” in their attitudes, they may understand, even subconsciously, the privilege of white skin in American society, which may trigger what she terms “disintegration.”

Initially most white people who come to understand their position in modern society have some deep-seeded feelings of guilt or shame. Some channel it positively. Others go into “reintegration,” where they essentially blame the victim: If whites do have privileges, it is because they somehow have earned them, and that is why they are superior.  Many white people move on to the next three stages of recovery from that mindset, but a fair number become “trapped” at that reintegration stage, and racism flourishes.

For women, this racial identity is so strong that they seem to feel that somehow the harsh treatment of women by the Republican Party in general, and Mr. Ryan and Mr. Romney in particular, doesn’t apply to them.

Most conservatives don’t believe that they will be put in a position of vulnerability. They have good morals and ethics and that Algerist work ethic, therefore they will never need an abortion, unemployment, or (gasp) welfare.

Even contraception, practiced by a majority of highly religious women, seems to roll off as an “other” experience that does not touch them.

So race is the cornerstone to a political race against a black President fueled by extremists like the Kochs and the rest of the Dead Billionaires Club who fund the GOP.

Here’s the problem: If the GOP strategy wins, America loses.  For all of their anti-immigrant saber-rattling, the forward birth numbers and population numbers make the GOP positions unsustainable in a democracy as we know it.  A few Republicans recognize it, but they are all “RINO” moderates, being hunted down in primaries by the Club for Growth.  The rightward lurch of the sinking GOP ship continues as the band plays on.

According to a report last May from the U.S. Census Bureau, “50.4 percent of our nation’s population younger than age 1 were minorities as of July 1, 2011.”  The report went on to note that “There were 114 million minorities in 2011, or 36.6 percent of the U.S. population. In 2010, it stood at 36.1 percent.”  The hispanic population, the largest minority group, was up 3.1% in one year. Blacks are the second largest minority group, and their numbers were up 1.6% from 2010-2011.[10]

The GOP is making a last-ditch effort to hold on to power by way of race baiting, voter disenfranchisement, the Big Lie, and obliterating the airwaves, print, radio, and billboard advertising with negative messaging geared toward these “trapped” whites.

We hear, frequently from various corners, people in the Republican Party talk about “exercising their Second Amendment rights,” a thinly-veiled reference to violent insurrection.

It’s a long way to 61% of the white American vote for Mr. Romney, particularly in many of the swing states.  Even if he and the party prevail, they will govern a population with which they are increasingly out of step and out of touch.

We’ve watched the GOP go ostrich and stick its collective head in the sand in its implementation of its agenda of anti-worker, anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-education and anti-LGBT legislation since 2010. If they can’t strong-arm the ballot box, how will the hugely wealthy 1% of the 1%, the Libertarian elites, and their terrified middle and lower class white minons, cope with living in a diversifying and inclusive America that does not “respect” their presumed superiority through white power?

One would think, given the shifting population demographic, that this would be the GOP’s last hurrah as the party of the white and the far far Right.  Don’t count on it.  As I pointed out in Forward? It’s Game Over, Dear Progressives. Here’s What You’ve Missed…, the Right has resorted to severe tactics bordering the illegal in this election.  They are a patient, powerful bunch.  They will find a way to retain control, even if that means further mangling American democracy, or usurping it, in the process.

My shiny two.

About Brian Ross

Brian Ross is a writer, screenwriter, political satirist, documentarian and short filmmaker who blogs for Truth2Power, the Huffington Post, and the Daily KOS, among others.

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