Republicans Need to Deal With Their Racism Problem

Though both U.S. political parties have evolved over the years, the past half-century has seen the Republican party become a sanctuary for racists. Starting with pushback to the Civil Rights Act by Barry Goldwater's minions in the mid-60s and picking up steam with Nixon's "Southern Strategy" in the '70s, this thinly-veiled racism has lasted into the 21st century, where it coalesced after Obama's first election. But this election, the eventual pushback was strong and by all evidence shocking to the Republicans. How could they lose? Well, when you'd spent your entire modern era stoking the fires of racism (as well as misogyny, homophobia and xenophobia) and the people you've so vilified begin to outnumber you, the problem simply becomes demographics and math. And that trend is not reversing any time soon. The racists that tweeted in the wake of Obama's election did get some pushback from the public, but the party they considerate themselves to be a part of is going to have an increasingly more difficult time appealing to the general populace with them on board.

For the Republican party to ever be relevant as a majority again, they must kick out the racists. Let them form their own Confederate Party and ride that train into the dustbins of history. But they must be banished entirely. And while I know how unlikely that seems, if your strategy is scaring white people against all "others" then it is a doomed strategy, as demographics go. The melting pot is truly melting. And there's no halfway denunciation of racism and bigotry. No eye-wink Dixiecrat codes and loaded terminology anymore; the secret is out. And it will hang like an stinking albatross around the neck of the Republican party until they make an effort to remove it, though doing so would run contrary to their current strategy of pumping fear into older white people and survivalists. Since the Fairness Doctrine was abolished under Reagan- and once Fox "News" really took off in the Dubya era -- this strategy worked in polarizing the electorate to where we are now. And that strategy just took it's first big step towards obsolescence.

But what did they expect? The Republicans had access to the same census data as everyone else. Perhaps the party thought they had at least another cycle or two before the demographic trending made their tact unsustainable. But they were jolted by the election results, especially considering the huge sums of money they donated to purchase their candidates success. They were shocked -- shocked! -- that it didn't work. But all the soul-searching, finger-pointing, hand-wringing and strategizing will be pointless without addressing the deep racism they have stoked -- to their electoral benefit -- for all these years. This election may very well have been the tipping point. In order to achieve relevance in this New America, any party must reach out to all Americans, or at the very least not alienate large portions of them. With all the post-Citizens United money flushing the system on their behalf, the Republican Hype Machine still could not sell the warmed-over Reagan-esque vision that they always managed to sling before. It went sour from the condensed rage that it has squeezed from its core.

So how do Republicans achieve this task of parting with the Confederate Wing of the party? That is for the moderate and progressive conservatives to figure out. But you can't attract Hispanics/Latinos by running Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush if they're in the same tent as the KKK. Until racism is eradicated from the Republican party they will be increasingly marginalized in society and out of majority power for good. But here's the catch: Even if they were somehow magically successful in ejecting all racists, that would reduce their numbers by so much that they would in effect be a marginalized minority anyway. With or without racism, the Republican party is going to have a much bigger marketing problem than they have ever had before. Here's Senator-elect Ted Cruz cutting straight to the point:

"In not too many years, Texas could switch from being all Republican to all Democrat," he said. "If that happens, no Republican will ever again win the White House. New York and California are for the foreseeable future unalterably Democrat. If Texas turns bright blue, the Electoral College math is simple. We won't be talking about Ohio, we won't be talking about Florida or Virginia, because it won't matter. If Texas is bright blue, you can't get to two-seventy electoral votes. The Republican Party would cease to exist. We would become like the Whig Party. Our kids and grandkids would study how this used to be a national political party. 'They had Conventions, they nominated Presidential candidates. They don't exist anymore.'"

Thomas Friedman also put it bluntly:

Republican politicians today have a choice: either change your base by educating and leading G.O.P. voters back to the center-right from the far right, or start a new party that is more inclusive, focused on smaller but smarter government and market-based, fact-based solutions to our biggest problems.

Well said and on target, but with racists on board, all that is moot. Republicans cannot attract those whom they stereotype and vilify. But are they willing to end the fear-based rhetoric and evict the elephant from their room? So far, not looking likely.

Friedman continues:

If Republicans continue to be led around by, and live in fear of, a base that denies global warming after Hurricane Sandy and refuses to ban assault weapons after Sandy Hook -- a base that would rather see every American's taxes rise rather than increase taxes on millionaires -- the party has no future. It can't win with a base that is at war with math, physics, human biology, economics and common-sense gun laws all at the same time."

And it can't win with racists.