The GOP's ongoing race problem

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Can the GOP survive as an increasingly white, southern party?

Just wanted to link to this worthwhile article from Paul Jenkins at Huffington Post. In the wake of the controversy over the CD that includes the song “Barack, the Magic Negro” there’s been renewed attention to the Republican Party’s increasing difficulty in appealing to non-white voters.

Spelling out the general scope of the GOP’s political problems, Jenkins writes:

“[The GOP is] utterly unrepresentative of America in the 21st century. Its Congressional representation is nearly uniformly white, and overwhelmingly male. So much so, in fact, that there is not one single African-American GOP member of Congress (out of 219 or 220); nor, for that matter, are there any black GOP Governors (out of 22). There are just four Republican Latinos in Congress, all Florida Cuban-Americans; one of them, Senator Mel Martinez, has announced his retirement. He is the only non-white or Hispanic GOP Senator.”

Amazingly, as Jenkins points out, the last African American Republican in Congress was JC Watts, who left the House in 2002. Jenkins fails to note that Democrats are essentially no better in the Senate, but there are over forty African American Democrats and roughly two dozen Hispanic Democrats in the House.

Especially interesting is Jenkins’ observation that African Americans are increasingly able to win in Congressional districts that are majority white. This is a product of an important, larger trend:

“It was all supposed to end very differently: the Republican Party’s Southern strategy, which seemed to many so cynically brilliant as recently as the turn of this century, has backfired so badly that even parts of the South, such as Virginia and North Carolina, are now dominated by Democrats, and not the old-school segregation-era Democrats. These new Southern Democrats come in all colors and both genders and they range from the most socially progressive to others who would have felt quite at home in the more moderate Republican party of old. The failure of the GOP’s Southern strategy is also in evidence in one often overlooked respect: the election of candidates by electorates of a different race or ethnicity. Obama is, of course, the most extremely visible example of this phenomenon, but there are others, including in the South. In Georgia, for instance, the 2nd district’s Representative, Sanford Bishop, who is African-American, has been comfortably reelected several times despite redistricting that has given his constituency a slender white majority. The same goes for Mel Watt, one of the most progressive members of Congress, an African-American elected in a narrowly white majority district in North Carolina….In total, there are over two-dozen seats nationally that are represented by members who are in a racial or ethnic minority in their own constituency; half of these are African-Americans, many of them in the Midwest (Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Kansas City) and in California. This represents a sea change from just a decade ago, when it was considered far-fetched to believe that a black candidate could be elected from a district that was anything less than 60% African-American.”

The day after the election, I wrote that demographic changes in America were posing an increasing challenge to the Republicans’ political viability. The “Magic-Negro”-CD incident suggests that the Republican intolerance is still trumping its ability to face America’s political future. As Jenkins writes, the CD and other incidents are “just the more bizarre manifestations of a party that has wallowed for so long in the privileges of its white male supremacy that it does not even realize that everyone has left the plantation, and they are not coming back.”

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