In one of the many post-election assessments of how the GOP failed to see the demographic shift as a significant factor this time around, a Reuters piece by Andrea Shalal-Esa brings up an interesting proposition that crossed my mind some time ago — what if the Republicans, a group that thinks an inch deep on real ways of changing to attract new voters as its base ages and dies off, decided the fastest path to bring in votes from Latinos and Asians is to cultivate animus and division against blacks to break up the voter coalition that did them in in 2012?
You know, the old “we’ll let you in The Club of Privilege” tactic, resulting in a pull-up-the-ladder-behind-you effect, leaving blacks behind:
“Michael Omi, a leading scholar on U.S. racial politics at the University of California, Berkeley, said the Republican party faced a crisis in how to adapt to changing demographics, which show blacks, Latinos, Asians and others will eclipse whites as a majority of the U.S. population in three decades, without moving away from its core constituency of white males.
“All of that amounts to a pretty thin veneer,” Omi told over 1,400 teachers, doctors, artists and others at the “Facing Race” conference hosted by the non-profit Applied Research Center. He said it was still unclear if Asian-Americans and Latinos would be increasingly accepted as “honorary whites,” which could align them more closely with the Republican party while perpetuating a black-white divide, or if the country would move toward a new, more multi-faceted view of race.”
It obviously wouldn’t be the first time, as history has shown us, ethnic white minorities (e.g., Irish, Italians) in this country were treated no better than American blacks, but those groups achieved full white status and privilege over time and became part of the dominant culture — along with the benefits accorded by that.
There’s every reason to believe that the playing on the psychology of evolving from minority to majority status (granted by the majority race in power) is a powerful and dangerous inflammatory road to travel politically, but do you really believe that the GOP won’t “go there?” The Republican party has successfully time and again managed to get poor and working-class whites to vote against their own economic self-interest with the pitiful pipe dream that they can all become wealthy like, oh, Mitt Romney — and because certainly, they are obviously not like “those people” — poor blacks. Despite all of the rhetoric about blacks (and other minorities) being the face of “the takers” and benefiting from all of that government largesse, I doubt any of the voters who hold those views would want to wake up tomorrow and be Black and Beautiful.
And so it’s interesting that Michael Omi (and no one else I’ve read so far), has been willing to walk this third rail. Will Latino and Asian voters resist that temptation if approached by the GOP with siren songs of privilege, or see through this attempt to continue an unhealthy fixation on race rather than the policies of the party? Given how ham-handed and unsophisticated that the Republicans have been in their sudden conversion (less than 24 hours after the election) to see the value of the Latino vote, I think they are going to have a hard time convincing reality-based people of color to divide and conquer.
But they will try. And it will be ugly.
Photo by Barnabus, Slayer of 3vil under Creative Commons license.