Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Big Trouble on Horizon for Republicans: Their Primaries Fail to Draw Nonwhite Voters

Results Reveal African-Americans Continued Their Decades-Long Boycott of GOP Primaries and Latino Participation Nosedived Amid Red-Hot Furor Over Immigration; Advocacy Group Charges Plot by Republicans and Tea Party Groups in Wisconsin to Suppress Nonwhite Voter Turnout in November's General Election

UNPREPARED FOR AN INCREASINGLY NONWHITE ELECTORATE -- Voters enter and leave a polling station in Savannah, Georgia during the 2008 general election. With the U.S. population -- and electorate -- becoming more and more racially and ethnically diverse, the Republican Party faces a crisis of survival as the results of this year's GOP primaries show that turnout, while greater than that in the Democratic primaries for the first time since the 1930s, was overwhelmingly -- and in some states, almost exclusively -- among white voters. To complicate matters for Republicans even more, a liberal advocacy group is accusing the Wisconsin GOP and Tea Party groups of plotting to suppress nonwhite voter turnout in the November 2 general election and has called for an investigation by the U.S. Attorney and the state's Attorney General. (Photo: Getty Images)

(Posted 5:00 a.m. EDT Tuesday, September 28, 2010)


Much has been discussed and written in the mainstream media about how Republicans stand poised to gain seats in November's midterm congressional elections -- perhaps even taking control of the House of Representatives.

Much also has been discussed and written about the fact that for the first time since the 1930s, more people voted in Republican primaries than in the Democratic primaries, amid a wide "enthusiasm gap" between partisans of the two parties.

But almost nothing has been discussed and written about a striking pattern in the primary voter turnout that should sound loud alarm bells to the Republican Party's electoral viability in the future -- and not just Tea Party insurgents scoring stunning upset victories over establishment Republican candidates.

In state after state, the results found that turnout in the Republican primaries was overwhelmingly -- in some states, almost exclusively -- among white voters, as African-Americans continued to shun the GOP in droves, despite the largest number of black Republican candidates for Congress since the post-Civil War reconstruction era.

Of much greater concern to the party, however, Latino voter turnout in the GOP primaries also nosedived to record-low levels, the clearest sign yet of a backlash by Latino voters -- even conservative Cuban-Americans in South Florida -- against Republicans over the volatile issue of immigration that could have serious repercussions for the party in November and beyond.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Wisconsin and the state's Attorney General have been asked by a liberal advocacy group to investigate the Wisconsin GOP, the conservative Americans for Prosperity and Tea Party groups in the Badger State after the group made public what it said were documents and tape recordings of a plan to suppress turnout of nonwhite and college-student voters in the November 2 election.

Implementation of the plan would violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the advocacy group Own Wisconsin Now charged in a press conference last Monday.


Thirteen of the record 33 black candidates seeking Republican nominations for Congress won in their states' GOP primaries. But they did so with very little support from African-American voters, who have cast their ballots for Democrats by overwhelming margins since the early 1970s. Most of the black GOP candidates are staunch conservatives, some with the backing of the Tea Party movement.

The most high-profile black Republican candidate, South Carolina state Representative Tim Scott, knocked off Paul Thurmond, son of the late Senator Strom Thurmond, in a June 22 runoff for the GOP nomination.

Scott -- who won the backing of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin -- will face a black Democrat, Ben Frasier, in the November election. Scott is heavily favored to win in this deeply conservative state, but is unlikely to win over black voters, who make up nearly 30 percent of South Carolina's population and who vote Democratic by a margins of up to eight to one.

There have been no black Republicans in Congress since Representative J.C. Watts of Oklahoma retired in 2003 amid rumors, denied by Watts, of a feud with then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas. Watts' late father, Buddy was often quoted as saying that "A black man voting for the Republicans makes about as much sense as a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders."


Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, told reporters at a press conference in Madison, the state capital, that his organization had obtained documents and tape recordings that he said showed the state Republican party was plotting with Tea Party groups and Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a national conservative group, an effort to suppress turnout by nonwhites and college students in November's election by employing the practice of "voter caging."

Ross identified on one audiotape Time Dake of the Wisconsin GrandSons of Liberty, a local Tea Party group, as talking during a June 12 meeting with Reince Preibus, chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party and Mark Block, the Wisconsin state director of Americans for Prosperity, about sending out mailings to voters across the state and use any mail that is returned to challenge voters' registrations.

The result? "Some voters are forced to cast provisional ballots, which require them to follow-up the day after an election for the ballot to be counted," Ross said. "Historically, about 35 percent of all provisional ballots are never counted."

Ross said his organization had made formal requests to the U.S. Attorney and to the Wisconsin state Attorney General's office for an investigation into the alleged plot "to engage in voter suppression and to monitor the organizations' activities leading up to the November 2, 2010 election to prevent any actual unlawful voter suppression."


Dake confirmed in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal of Madison that he and other local Tea Party members had attended the June 12 meeting, but said it was AFP that had been planning on sending out mailings to confirm people are "legitimate voters." But Dake insisted that the effort was aimed at preventing voter fraud and denied targeting nonwhites or college students.

"No, it wasn't targeting anyone," Dake said. "I don't know how you could tell these were minorities or students."

Mark Block, a spokesman for AFP, denied attending the June 12 meeting, telling the State Journal that he wasn't in Madison. But in a separate interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Block said he had discussions with Dake and others about targeting voter fraud.


For nearly a century after the Civil War, African-Americans were the Republican Party's most loyal voting constituency. This was, after all, the party of the "Great Emancipator," President Abraham Lincoln. The GOP was founded in 1854 as an anti-slavery party by former members of the Whig Party, which tore itself apart in the early 1850s over the slavery issue.

It's hard for anyone alive today to imagine, but the fact is the two major parties' political philosophies in Lincoln's time were the exact reverse of what they are today. From its founding in 1792 until the late 1940s, the Democratic Party was far from friendly to African-Americans. On the contrary, the party was an arch-enemy of blacks, especially in the Deep South, where Democrats wrote, passed and strictly enforced the region's blatantly racist "Jim Crow" segregation laws.

Many Southern Democrats in the 1920s and 1930s were, in fact, also members of the white-supremacist Ku Klux Klan. That anti-black hostility by the Democrats didn't leave post-Civil War African-American voters -- That is, those outside the South who could vote -- much of a choice than the GOP, the party of Lincoln.

Things began to change in 1947, when President Harry S. Truman, a Democrat, issued an executive order to desegregate the Army and introduced civil-rights legislation to Congress the following year. This resulted in conservative southern white delegates walking out of the 1948 Democratic National Convention in protest. The southerners later formed the States' Rights Party -- which came to be known as the "Dixiecrats" -- with South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond as its presidential nominee.

By the 1960s, the Democratic Party was a house bitterly divided -- pitting northern liberals against southern conservatives -- over civil rights for African-Americans. It took the support of Republicans in Congress, mostly northern and midwestern liberals and moderates, to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

President Lyndon Johnson, a southerner from Texas, confided to his aide, Bill Moyers (now a prominent TV newsman and commentator) after signing these two landmark bills into law, that "We've lost the South for a generation."


By "we," Johnson meant his Democratic Party. But what Johnson didn't anticipate was that the Republicans were about to lose Black America for a generation -- and longer -- when Barry Goldwater won the GOP nomination in 1964. Goldwater voted against both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act (which he publicly regretted years later).

The damage to the GOP's standing with African-Americans had only just begun.

Enter Richard Nixon. In a bold and determined comeback bid eight years after losing his first run for the White House to John F. Kennedy in 1960, Nixon devised an electoral strategy for victory in 1968 that forever altered the character of the Republican Party -- and turned the fortunes of both major parties completely upside-down.

It was a formula best described by Kevin Phillips, a top Nixon campaign strategist, in a 1970 interview with The New York Times: "From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the [African-American] vote and they don't need any more than that... but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.

"The more [blacks] who register as Democrats in the South," Phillips continued, "the sooner the [anti-black] whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That's where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats."

But there was also the threat posed to Nixon's 1968 candidacy by the third-party run of the arch-segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace. The Nixon campaign felt compelled to outflank Wallace in the South in order to win the election. In the end, Wallace took enough Southern votes away from Nixon to nearly cost him the White House.


More than four decades later -- and despite the election in 2009 of an African-American, Michael Steele, as its national chairman -- the Republicans' "Southern Strategy" is still very much alive and now threatens to alienate another entire segment of the electorate: Latinos.

Unlike blacks, however, Latinos are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population -- and of the electorate. A recently-released study of U.S. Census Bureau data by the University of New Hampshire predicts that non-white births will likely outpace white births sometime this year -- and that the Latino birth rate already is outpacing the white birth rate in the Southwest, particularly California.

Indeed, the current furor over illegal immigration may very likely have led to the defeat of two incumbents in the Texas Republican primary in March. Both incumbents were Latino and they both lost to white challengers by landslide margins.

In a blog posting on LatinaLista.net, blogger Marisa Trevino blamed the defeat of incumbent Texas Railroad Commissioner Victor Carrillo and other Latino candidates in the March 2 Texas GOP primary squarely on "a steep rise in anti-Hispanic sentiment perpetuated by GOP politicians, ultra-right conservatives, conservative talk-radio hosts and the budding Tea Party movement" brought on by the bitterly divisive issue of immigration.

Another Latino Republican incumbent, Judge Felipe Reyna of the Waco-based 10th District Court of Appeals, was soundly defeated by a white challenger, Al Scoggins, 68 percent to 32 percent. Four other Latino Republicans in Texas also lost to white candidates in the primary by landslide margins.

By contrast, in the seven Texas Democratic primary contests in which Latino candidates competed, the Latino candidate won in six. Of the three Latino Democratic incumbents who lost their bids for renomination, two lost to Latino challengers. The lone Latina who lost to a non-Latino challenger, state Representative Dora Olivo, was defeated by an African-American, Ron Reynolds, in a heavily African-American Houston-area district.


A newly-released Los Angeles Times poll found that California Republicans are still paying a severe political price among Latino voters for their support of Proposition 187, a 1994 ballot initiative that designed to prohibit illegal immigrants from using the state's social services, health care, and public education.

The measure, introduced by Republican state Assemblyman Dick Mountjoy and strongly backed by Republican Governor Pete Wilson, passed with 59 percent of the vote -- only to be struck down by the federal courts on the grounds that immigration is the exclusive domain of the federal government.

With Latinos comprising 30 percent of the California electorate, the state GOP's support for Prop. 187 cost it control of both houses of the state Legislature, both U.S. Senate seats, the majority of the state's congressional delegation and four of the five statewide elected offices.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger -- a moderate who is himself an immigrant from Austria -- is the only Republican in the last 16 years to have escaped Latino voters' wrath. And he's likely to remain so, for the Timespoll found that Latino voters are still refusing to support Republican candidates, backing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown -- a former governor who is currently state attorney general -- over his Republican opponent, former eBay executive Meg Whitman, by 19 percentage points.

In the race for the U.S. Senate, Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer holds a commanding 38-point lead over her Republican challenger, Carly Fiorina among Latinos, the poll found.

Passage by the GOP-dominated Arizona Legislature of Bill 1070, a highly controversial anti-illegal-immigration measure, has triggered a backlash by Latinos against Republicans across the country . The law itself, which requires police to verify the status of someone they have stopped or arrested if they suspect that the person is in the country illegally, has come under withering legal attack as a state intrusion into federal authority and as opening the door to racial profiling by police against Latinos, who make up nearly a third of Arizona's population.

With Latinos comprising the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population -- already outpacing whites in births, according to the Census Bureau -- Republicans are staring into permanent minority status, if not outright oblivion, if they continue to play the anti-immigrant card.


Historically, with the notable exception of the post-9/11 election of 2002 -- when the dominant issue was national security and the "war on terror" -- the party in control of the White House has suffered losses in every midterm congressional election since 1934. The 2010 midterms are unlikely to buck that trend, with pre-election polls all pointing to Republicans making significant gains this November as voters grow increasingly disgruntled over the still-sour economy.

But with Tea Party-backed candidates scoring a stunning string of primary victories -- including the shocking upset wins in Delaware by Christine O'Donnell and in New York by Carl Paladino -- The GOP is being pulled ever farther to the right, while at the same time alienating nonwhite voters at an astonishing rate.

While the GOP may claim big gains this November, its victories could prove to be short-lived. already, there is much speculation about whether former Alaska Governor and 2008 GOP vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin is positioning herself to make a run for the top spot at the 2012 Republican National Convention.

If she runs, Palin will likely face a formidable opponent who has his own designs on winning the White House: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. A Palin-Gingrich battle for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination would be bruising enough; the power struggle between the Tea Party movement and the GOP old guard is almost certain to intensify in the next two years, regardless of what happens this November.

And that -- combined with the GOP showing little sign of reflecting America's growing racial and ethnic diversity -- spells serious trouble for the Republican Party in the not-too-distant future.

# # #

Volume V, Number 38
Copyright 2010, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved


Sphere: Related Content


Post a Comment