This week in the Herald, I explore the reasons why the conventional wisdom on the “new GOP” is likely wrong — and the party won’t be changing, or dramatically expanding its demographics, anytime soon…
The uncomfortable truth for Republicans is that, as ignominious former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once notoriously stated, you go to war with the army you have. And who is in the GOP’s army?
Older, white (Southern) men form the bulk of the party base, and Mitt Romney’s strongest constituency. Much of that base has been steeped in the rhetoric of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck for a very long time. They’re suspicious of the kind of multiculturalism the pointy heads in Washington are calling on the GOP to engage in, and they’re very, very conservative.
In fact, the great irony of the Republican Party is that the base has long been much more conservative than its presidential nominees, who have had to contort themselves into increasingly right wing shapes in order to fit in.
Sure, we’ve seen Rupert Murdoch’s lead canary, Sean Hannity, float the idea of reversing course on immigration reform. But what makes anyone think Dittoheads and tea partiers are going to go quietly along, just so the party hacks can acquire and hang on to Washington power? Opposition to “amnesty,” as most of the GOP base views even ideas like the DREAM Act, is part and parcel of being a Republican. It’s far more likely that Hannity gets back on the reservation, than that the party base follows him back from the demographic abyss.
Besides, Republicans have a difficult case to make to Latinos, who in the decades that the right has been dissing them, have grown closer to Democrats in their views on subjects other than immigration. The latest polling by Pew Research and by Latino Decisions confirms that Hispanics of all ages, but particularly younger Latinos and Hispanic women, are more liberal than the general population on abortion, more likely to buck their church (largely Catholic) on the subject of birth control, and more supportive of a robust role for government. Can substantial numbers of them be wooed with talk of faith and small business?
Well, African-Americans are highly religious too, and those arguments have been tried on them, successfully in some cases, and yet fewer than one in 10 African-Americans are Republican.