White People Power

Ideas and Issues National Politics Voting Rights

nyt-southern-fold-600x365New Orleans    Reading the papers this morning, I could see the future, and it was very scary!

The New York Times was speculating in the wake of the Republicans beat down of the Democrats in the midterm elections about where the Republicans might find a path to victory at the presidential level that has seemed to increasingly elude them with the changing demographics of the United States. Not to put too fine a point on it, but surprising no one, the path leads right through white people.

Yes, I know you thought it was already all about white people, didn’t you? Well, here they come again.

Even as the majority in the United States tends increasingly towards minorities and white people become the largest minority in the country, they are steadily becoming their own monolithic voting bloc. When the statisticians analyzed the path to electoral power in some of the elections where there were surprises, like Iowa, they found that rural white voters, even those that had been traditionally Democratic voters were going Republican now. Additional information indicates that the same conundrum exists in the Southern states which are now leeching themselves of Democratic Party representatives. The traditional political rule-of-thumb had been that if a Democrat in the South got 40% of the white vote, then with huge support among African-Americans and solid support among Latinos, they would win. Now it appears that Democratic candidates are lucky to be able to figure the math at 30% and are only winning 25%.

It gets worse!

Where Democrats and many Republicans had assumed the presidential electorate was stacked heavily in their favor with a coalition of African-Americans, Latinos, young people, and women, this white people power thing is a problem. Experts are noting that too many of the soothsayers were discounting the fact that President Obama in his two victories actually polled very well among whites outside of the South and in rural areas, especially in the northeast and Pacific states. A Democratic candidate would have to do about as well with whites to hold that coalition together even with the increased voter turnout that comes with a presidential election.

So the bottom line is that rather than it being a laugh line that the Republicans are a party of old, white men, this could be their ticket into the White House, especially if they have a candidate who doesn’t stink with Latino voters, who are more conservative than African-Americans, and make the mistake of wearing their misogyny on their sleeves.

It could happen, despite the numbers. We always knew in New Orleans that even with a solid 65% African-American majority that a conservative African-American that appealed to the business community and could pull 90% of the whites and a third of the black vote could win, and that’s how we got C. Ray Nagin as mayor for two terms. A Republican candidate like Jeb Bush or Mark Rubio who wasn’t crazy and polarizing could erode Latino support and confuse some of the other voting blocs with the big “if” being whether they could get through the primaries. A Democratic candidate like Hillary Clinton, who many have already conceded the nomination, could make it tricky because of her age with young voters, her baggage with all voters, and the 10-year hiatus on whether or not she could erode the white people power bloc of the Republicans.

Nothing looks easy for anyone today going into the 2016 contest. We’ve lived with white people power for years in the United States, so the notion that it could be back will provoke many screams in the night from sound sleepers throughout the country.