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The Republican Party is a white identity organization. This week, the polling firm Gallup has released new data that confirms how the Republican Party--a shambling corpse of Whiteness--lurches onward in the Age of Obama:

The increasing racial polarization in party preferences is evident when comparing the data by presidential administration. Nonwhites' average party preferences have been quite stable across the last three administrations, consistently showing a roughly 47-point Democratic advantage under Clinton, Bush, and Obama. On average, 69% of nonwhites have identified as Democrats or said they were independents who leaned Democratic, and 21% have identified as Republicans or leaned Republican.

Meanwhile, whites have become increasingly Republican, moving from an average 4.1-point Republican advantage under Clinton to an average 9.5-point advantage under Obama.

This polarization could ease by the time Obama's term finishes, in three years. However, given the already large racial gap in party preferences in his first five years, unless there is a dramatic shift among whites toward the Democratic Party or among nonwhites toward the GOP in the next three years, party preferences will end up more racially polarized in Obama's presidency than in his two predecessors' administrations.

Political pundits have generated a narrative which concludes that changing racial demographics will continue to make the Republican Party noncompetitive on a national level. The election of Barack Obama was viewed by mainstream political analysts as a coronation for "the browning of America", and the Republican Party's near, if not, inevitable obsolescence as a competitive political party.

I have thought for some time that such a claim is premature because politics is a "push and pull" story.

The Republicans have aggressively reacted to the election of Barack Obama, the country's first black president, with a strategy designed to use racial anxiety and overt racism to win the support of new white voters while simultaneously mobilizing its existing base.

The Republican Party's strategy of voter harassment, efforts to restrict access to voting for people of color, the young, and the poor, and using the courts to subvert democratic rule and consensus, is an effort to shrink the electorate so that a dying and older cohort of white voters can continue to exercise an out-sized amount of influence on American politics.

The Republican Party may be a shambling corpse of Whiteness, but it still refuses to die.

In the 2012 election, 88 percent of Mitt Romney's voters were white. Romney won 59 percent of white voters nationwide.

Gallup's finding that the Republican Party has increased its support among white voters 5 points during Obama's tenure is in many ways a function of the White Right's concerted strategy of coordinated racial appeals that range from the bizarre and histrionic (Birtherism); to outright lies (Obama is the "food stamp" president and want to give things to "lazy" black people); an intentional obstruction of governance (a record number of filibusters and holding the American federal government hostage during the debt ceiling debate by Republicans); and an assault on the symbolic power and legitimacy of Barack Obama because his personhood as a black man is incompatible with '"real (white) America".

The phrase "white identity organization" conjures up visions of the KKK or Neo Nazis. In reality, White identity organizations are any group which is dedicated to maintaining a superior relative group position for white people, and the various economic, material, political, and psychological privileges that come with the arbitrary distinction of what it means to be "white" in America.

Of course, all white people, and most certainly all white Republicans and conservatives, do not benefit from Whiteness and white skin privilege in the same way--this is of course true for poor white people (who are over-represented in Red State America).

Nevertheless, Republican elites, corporatists, and supporters of the robber baron class can use white identity politics as a means of mobilizing their base into supporting policies that in fact hurt poor, working, and middle class Americans across the colorline. The "psychic wages of whiteness" are most deeply felt when used to create an arbitrary distinction between "them" and "us"...even if it is the "us" who are hurt the most in the process.

Research suggests that the naked embrace of the Republican Party as the natural political party for "white people" is already occurring among members of the Tea Party faction. Moreover, recent work by Theda Skocpol details how the Tea Party--what is the contemporary descendant of the John Birch and White Citizens Councils--has served as a racializing experience for its white members in which they are learning to openly embrace their racial identity as central to their political decision making.

In response to this claim, there will be an obligatory protest or comment about African-Americans and their overwhelming support for the Democratic Party, such as "why can't white people organize for their own political interests too?"

Individuals and groups organize, advance, and fight for their own political goals. However imperfect in process, this is the core of interest group politics in the United States.

Of course, Black and brown folks have political interests: those political interests have been "racialized" by how centuries of personal and institutional White Supremacy have forced African-Americans and other people of color to think in terms of group uplift, survival, and advocacy. But, the Black Freedom Struggle has been radically inclusive and democratic. It created opportunities for all Americans to be more free.

There are two important distinctions to be made here.

White identity politics is based on exclusion.

The open racialization of white people's political interests is not new.

In many ways, white identity politics and White Supremacy have been the Constitutional and legal norm in the United States from the founding to the near present. Whiteness--be it mobilized and manifested by Jim and Jane, housing segregation, slavery, or "colorblind" institutional racism in the Age of Obama--is dependent upon a sense of group superiority and power over other those understood by "common sense" to be "non-white".

Although White Supremacy has morphed and changed, the multicultural, colorblind present still operates from many of its long-standing principles: black and brown people can ascend as individuals while institutional white racism still exists; white people can enjoy black and brown culture, but the former simultaneously morphs and changes the latter to their liking and sensibilities, while very often denying the equal humanity of African-Americans and other people of color in the process.

Racism works for the Republican Party in the short-term. Ironically, the Republican Party's name brand as a white identity organization in post civil rights America, and efforts to further expand its white voting base, will enable the GOP to lose by winning.

American (and world history) is replete with examples of how Whiteness does not play well with others. Consequently, the racialization of white voters' political interests by the Republican Party and its media apparatus is a threat to American democracy.

As we are seeing with the Right's efforts to subvert the democratic process, and eviscerate the social safety through appeals to white identity politics and white racial resentment, the further whitening of the Republican Party does not bode well for the American people in mass.

The historian Noel Ignatiev famously suggested that treason to Whiteness is loyalty to humanity. It is also true that treason to the Republican Party's white identity politics is loyalty to the Common Good, the General Welfare, and American democracy.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm glad you mentioned the short term: (10+ / 0-)
    Racism works for the Republican Party in the short-term
    And it works in off year elections, where all politics is local and all the campaigns are nominally separate, that is, no republican needs to apologize or denounce racial politics as long as it is not in his particular state or district.

    The dossier on my DKos activities during the Bush administration will be presented on February 3, 2014, with an appendix consisting an adjudication, dated "a long time ago", that I am Wrong.

    by Inland on Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 01:38:44 PM PDT

  •  I'd like to see this by region/gender. (10+ / 0-)

    If this tracks with voting results by region/state, it's not so much that whites nationwide have uniformly switched to the Government Only for Palefaces mode. Instead, there seemed in 2012 election to have been a massive shift in the south, and much less change in the rest of the country. At your link, Gallup's website just presents aggregate data but presumably they have finer-grained data also.

    •  that would complement the polarization (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TomP, blueyedace2, a2nite, janis b, Shawn87

      we are seeing on the county and district level by vote choice, pid, and even lifestyle measures. such a divided country. very worrisome.

    •  Yes. Are white women in step (6+ / 0-)

      with white men? I was trying to find the cross-tabs on the site, but no luck. Republicans are almost as hostile to white women as they are to non-white women. Not quite, but close. I would be surprised if their numbers were the same as the men's. If the number is up it must be due to a surge of white men.

      Breaking down the numbers coming out of Appalachia and south vs. whites in other areas would also reveal a more complex picture.

      You can wake someone who is sleeping, but you cannot wake someone who is pretending to sleep.

      by gnothis on Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 02:41:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Unfortunately, they are (9+ / 0-)

        Not as much as white men, but overall they are more R than D:

        The Elephant in the Exit Poll Results: Most White Women Supported Romney

        Across all ethnic groups, women vote about 5-10% more for Democrats than Republicans, but the Democratic advantage among women overall is because they have enormous advantages among minority women groups, which counterbalances white women support of the GOP.

        Age and marital status also influence the totals, but it's easy to see how those categories are not independent of race.

        Btw, it's also true for young voters: young white voters aged 18-29 voted 51-44 Republican in 2012. 'Young voters' as a whole are much more Democratic because they are much more nonwhite - whites 18-29 are about 62% of the total age group, and that # is dropping fast.

        I'm becoming sort of a broken record about this, lol, but when I found the stats it blew my mind. To the extent those 2012 and 2013 exit polls are representative, we need to take this into account.

        Of course, the takeaway message is that we can't take groups for granted, nor do we have to give up - no reason white women can't make a turnaround in 2014 and beyond!

  •  I think that is their answer to changing (12+ / 0-)

    demographics: to try to increase the white vote for Rs.  In some ways, the Republican project is to turn the entire nation into the Deep South with racially stratified voting, low wages, etc.  

    The election and re-election of Barack Obama suggests that there are enough whites who will reject that appeal.  I think Obama got 40% of the white vote (roughly) and easily prevailed in both elections.  I hope their is a ceiling on the white vote that Rs can achieve.  California is not Mississippi in terms of racially stratified voting.  Where white votes for Obama's opponent sometimes approached 80% or more in Mississippi and Oklahoma, I don['t think it will elsewhere.

    So lets Rs double-down on racism and see what happens.  While many whites are unaware of their white privilege, they also recoil from Republican racism (and sexism also).

    Rs may win a few off-year elections like 2010 (although unemployment was around 10% then), but I think their road will end in failure, which is good for this nation.  

    Good post.    

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by TomP on Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 01:47:03 PM PDT

  •  About 6.25 percent genetically outraged, (0+ / 0-)

    morally and intellectually, puts outrage over 100 percent.
    What's the record?

    Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. Sam Clemens

    by Wood Gas on Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 01:52:18 PM PDT

  •  What happens to the Republicans (6+ / 0-)

    ...when they face a Democratic presidential candidate and Democratic president who is not only white, but who can cut into their white vote significantly?

    No wonder Republicans seem scared, almost to the verge of apoplexy, about the prospect of facing Hillary Clinton in 2016. Not only will they face someone who is clearly widely accepted by minorities as one of their allies, but she can also cut into the Republicans' advantage among whites while also carrying even larger shares of the women's vote.
    She represents the Republicans' worst nightmare and, in a way, their "perfect storm," demographically speaking.

    That, alone, is reason enough for me to support her (though there are others, in my case, as well).

  •  The problem remains though (4+ / 0-)

    that old white people remain the group most likely to vote, at least in midterm elections.  If Dems could somehow get their base to turn out in greater numbers in midterm years, then the Repubs would be fucked.

    And no, merely fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare won't win these older white voters over.  Bush ran twice on privatizing Social Security and the Republican share of the old white vote only increased.  The last two Repub presidential candidates did the same, with the last one picking a guy who wants to turn Medicare into a voucher program, and the Repub share of the old white vote accelerated even further.

    This is about culture as much as it is pocketbook related, folks.  Old white folks are afraid that giving benefits to the growing hordes of the young, the poor, and the minorities will bankrupt their favored programs and increase their taxes.  And they blame the Dems for it.

    "Those who have wrought great changes in the world never succeeded by gaining over chiefs; but always by exciting the multitude." - Martin Van Buren

    by puakev on Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 02:10:43 PM PDT

    •  Old Whites Are on Defense of What They've Always (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      puakev, a2nite, janis b, oldpotsmuggler, LSmith

      had. Dem constituents are generally more marginalized and need to be offered a plausible plan to gain something they've never yet fully gotten.

      But our conservative party is not willing to offer a program of serious increases in opportunity and upward mobility for minorities, women and youth. The farthest we go consistently is to defend the status quo or even to stand for a lesser decline than the more conservative party offers.

      So with our party continuing to court moderate conservatives and the RW energizing their base, yes the Republicans continue lurching fwd.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 03:07:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It would help greatly (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        oldpotsmuggler

        if Democrats had a bolder program that would animate their base.

        I think they're motivated by the old political maxim that you don't promise what you can't deliver on.  But I've never believed that maxim to be very useful since politics always involves, in some for or another, promising stuff that you can't deliver on.  Might as well go big, I say.

        "Those who have wrought great changes in the world never succeeded by gaining over chiefs; but always by exciting the multitude." - Martin Van Buren

        by puakev on Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 03:20:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  This racial (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    laurak, anon004

    focus is another reason they deny science. Race is a social construct.

    You can wake someone who is sleeping, but you cannot wake someone who is pretending to sleep.

    by gnothis on Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 02:27:25 PM PDT

  •  As a member of the dying and older cohort of white (16+ / 0-)

    voters, it frightens the sh*t out me to see the Republicans doing so well with my generation of white voters.  

    I guess I have to keep in mind that for every one of us  marching for civil rights there were probably two of us  on the sidelines throwing bottles at the marchers and seven us at home watching it in black and white on the evening news, not wanting to get involved.

    "The Trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat." attributed to Lily Tomlin

    by uniqity on Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 02:36:35 PM PDT

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