For leaders of a party that opposes same-sex marriage, Donald Trump and Paul Ryan are spending a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to court white men. On Thursday (May 12), the two met and concluded that despite their differences, they “remain confident there’s a great opportunity to unify our party and win this fall, and we are totally committed to working together to achieve that goal.” At the end of the day, that’s what the current Republican primary has boiled down to—a competition over which vision can better woo white male voters. It’s an interesting debate for 2016. Too bad the white male voters they’ve spent months so aggressively fighting over will be irrelevant after this election.
White men are, after all, already close to irrelevant for purposes of national and most statewide elections. In 2012, US president Obama won re-election “by carrying 93% of African American voters, 71% of Latino voters, 73% of Asian American voters, and only 39% of white voters.” The incisive political analyst Steve Phillips recently released a phenomenally important book on this point. Titled “Brown is the New White,” Phillips’ book notes that even today progressive people of color make up 23% of all eligible voters in the United States and progressive whites make up 28%. Together, they’re a majority. The old-line, moderate-to-conservative white voting base is no longer necessary for victory. Or, from the Republican Party’s perspective, no longer sufficient.
And that was before the 2016 election. Yes, Donald Trump may potentially bring new voters into the election and woo some white voters previously counted as progressives–but who are actually as resentful about their loosening grip on political, economic, and social dominance as white voters are in general. The white vote alone may be barely enough to elect Donald Trump, but don’t discount the booster effect that is racial resentment. The Republican Party in general, and Donald Trump in particular, are flagrantly using white racial resentment to try to ride the fumes of the white vote to victory.
But the reverse effect is also true. Support for Hillary Clinton and opposition to Donald Trump may or may not motivate progressive black and white voters to turn out in greater numbers than in 2008 for Obama, but Latino voters are certainly being activated by Trump’s anti-immigrant xenophobia. In 2016, 3.2 million Latinos will turn 18 and become eligible to vote and another 1.2 million Latino immigrants will become United States citizens. Historically, among registered voters, Latinos are less likely than whites or African Americans to turn out to vote. Trump appears to be changing that—and driving expanded Latino voter registration to boot.
Naturalization applications in the last six months of 2015 jumped by 14% over the previous year, a rate that far outstripped previous comparable data. Among the 8.8 million immigrant residents eligible for naturalization, 2.7 million are Mexicans. That’s the group Donald Trump called rapists and drug dealers. So while historically, 68% of other immigrant groups are naturalized—and thus eligible to vote—only 36% of eligible Mexican immigrants have naturalized. Until now. Donald Trump appears to be making America vote again, not to mention driving an increase in the number of new immigrant citizens.
Of course.part of the reason Ryan and other Republicans are desperately trying to figure out a way to make Trump work for the GOP is because they realize their party must appeal to more than just white voters, white male voters in particular. But the Republican Party is guilty of the same policies and rhetoric that demonize immigrants and women. Part of the reason Republicans are left fighting over white male voters is they’re the only bloc in America that the party hasn’t consistently pissed off.
And so now they’re debating Trump’s version of trade policy versus the Republican establishment’s vision; Trump’s tax cuts for the rich versus Paul Ryan’s budget cuts against the poor; whether to round-up and deport undocumented immigrants or simply fine and punish them. These guys aren’t dumb; they increasingly see the writing on the wall. The American electorate Republicans hypothesized about courting after the 2012 election is moving further and further out of reach. And they have their disastrous policies and now a disastrous presidential candidate to blame.
But go ahead, Republican Party, keep re-arranging those deck chairs on the Titanic that is your voting base. Good luck with that.