What This Chevy Commercial Could Teach the GOP

National Journal
Ronald Brownstein
Feb. 14, 2014, midnight

To un­der­stand the rolling demo­graph­ic and cul­tur­al trends threat­en­ing the GOP in pres­id­en­tial elec­tions, a good place to start might be with the poly­chro­mat­ic ads Chev­ro­let is run­ning dur­ing the Olympics.

First, con­sider the source. Chev­ro­let is not a com­pany that equates buy­ing its product with sav­ing the plan­et. It doesn’t cham­pi­on the rain forest, or­gan­ic farm­ers, or ar­tis­an­al sup­pli­ers with beards like Civil War sol­diers. In the past, its ads have linked the com­pany, without ap­par­ent irony, to “base­ball, hot dogs, [and] apple pie.”

But Chevy’s latest ads, un­der the title “The New Us,” cel­eb­rate the trans­form­a­tion of the Amer­ic­an fam­ily in­to a kal­eido­scop­ic ar­ray of new forms. In cas­cad­ing im­ages, one ad warmly por­trays couples of every race and eth­ni­city, in­ter­ra­cial couples, gay male couples, gay fe­male couples — all rais­ing what ap­pear to be happy, well-ad­jus­ted chil­dren. Not only does Heath­er have two mom­mies; in the world Chev­ro­let evokes, she’s per­fectly fine with it. “While what it means to be a fam­ily hasn’t changed, what a fam­ily looks like, has,” the ad in­tones. “This is the new us.”

The “new us” bears more than a passing re­semb­lance to the new co­ali­tion that has al­lowed Demo­crats to win the pop­u­lar vote in five of the past six pres­id­en­tial elec­tions. As the vet­er­an Demo­crat­ic poll­ster Stan­ley B. Green­berg has said, the mod­ern Demo­crat­ic na­tion­al co­ali­tion is es­sen­tially di­verse Amer­ica and the por­tions of white Amer­ica (largely white-col­lar whites, es­pe­cially wo­men) who are com­fort­able with di­verse Amer­ica.

That doesn’t mean, by any count, that all of the GOP co­ali­tion is un­easy with the trends of grow­ing ra­cial di­versity and ac­cept­ance of ho­mo­sexu­al­ity the Chev­ro­let ad evokes. But it is fair to say that the por­tions of Amer­ic­an so­ci­ety most un­easy about these changes — par­tic­u­larly many blue-col­lar, older, and rur­al whites — are con­cen­trated with­in that co­ali­tion.

Sep­ar­ate polling in 2012 by Na­tion­al Journ­al and the Pew Re­search Cen­ter, for in­stance, found that whites split about evenly on wheth­er Amer­ica’s grow­ing di­versity up­holds the na­tion’s tra­di­tions or is chan­ging them too fast — and that the whites who feared the change over­whelm­ingly pre­ferred Mitt Rom­ney to Pres­id­ent Obama. Al­though polls now con­sist­ently show ma­jor­ity sup­port for gay mar­riage, not more than one-fourth of Re­pub­lic­ans agree, only mod­estly more than 15 years ago. This cul­tur­al fault-line looms as the greatest bar­ri­er Re­pub­lic­ans must cross to win back the White House in 2016. In many ways, op­por­tun­it­ies for the GOP are ex­pand­ing. The in­ab­il­ity of the eco­nomy to ac­cel­er­ate bey­ond second gear has cor­roded Obama’s sup­port, par­tic­u­larly among work­ing-class whites who have al­ways been the most du­bi­ous of him. Though im­ple­ment­a­tion of Obama’s health re­form plan has un­deni­ably im­proved — and is stead­ily build­ing an eco­nom­ic con­stitu­ency of pa­tients and pro­viders com­mit­ted to the pro­gram — its over­all pub­lic stand­ing re­mains weak, with most Amer­ic­ans (es­pe­cially whites) doubt­ing it will help them per­son­ally.

These cur­rents are con­ver­ging to pro­duce ser­i­ous risk for Demo­crats in the midterm elec­tions. The risks are com­poun­ded be­cause the crit­ic­al battle­ground for 2014 is the sev­en Demo­crat­ic-held Sen­ate seats in states that voted for Rom­ney over Obama in 2012. These are al­most all whiter, older, blue-col­lar states (like West Vir­gin­ia and Arkan­sas) where there isn’t enough of “the new us” to mo­bil­ize a ma­jor­ity. Those dy­nam­ics could eas­ily tip the Sen­ate back in­to Re­pub­lic­an con­trol this fall, and pre­serve or even slightly ex­pand their House ma­jor­ity.

Yet Re­pub­lic­ans could make those gains without ad­dress­ing any of the cul­tur­al bar­ri­ers that con­front them in pres­id­en­tial con­tests, which draw a lar­ger, young­er, and more di­verse elect­or­ate. The evid­ence, in fact, sug­gests that Re­pub­lic­ans are fur­ther from ad­dress­ing those chal­lenges than they were the day after Obama’s reelec­tion. The rush by GOP lead­ers to cham­pi­on Phil Robertson, the Duck Dyn­asty star, after his re­cent anti-gay re­marks shows the pres­sure the party faces to re­flect those dis­ap­prov­ing be­liefs. That pres­sure is even more vivid in the de­cision by House Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers to shelve le­gis­la­tion bar­ring work­place dis­crim­in­a­tion based on sexu­al ori­ent­a­tion — and the fact that every Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­an con­sid­er­ing the 2016 pres­id­en­tial race felt com­pelled to vote against it when the bill passed that cham­ber, even though polls show two-thirds of Amer­ic­ans sup­port the idea.

House Speak­er John Boehner cap­tured an even lar­ger prob­lem last week when he aban­doned im­mig­ra­tion re­form just days after un­veil­ing “prin­ciples” that might have pro­duced a deal. Though some ana­lysts see a stra­tegic re­treat de­signed to re­sur­face an ini­ti­at­ive later, Boehner’s ab­ject sur­render has em­boldened the party’s im­mig­ra­tion op­pon­ents in a man­ner that will make it tough­er for the House to ever act, or for the party’s 2016 can­did­ates to re­pos­i­tion them­selves on the is­sue. It’s not hard to draw a line between Boehner’s ca­pit­u­la­tion and the first 2016 GOP pres­id­en­tial de­bate where Sean Han­nity asks any­one who sup­ports “Pres­id­ent Obama’s am­nesty” to raise his hand.

With its “The New Us” com­mer­cial, Chev­ro­let (like Coca-Cola and Cheeri­os in sim­il­arly themed re­cent ads) ac­know­ledged it is com­pet­ing in a chan­ging Amer­ica. The GOP’s re­cent ac­tions sug­gest it still hasn’t crossed that threshold.

What We're Following See More »
IN ADDITION TO DNC AND DCCC
Clinton Campaign Also Hacked
6 hours ago
THE LATEST
1.5 MILLION MORE TUNED IN FOR TRUMP
More People Watched Trump’s Acceptance Speech
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Hillary Clinton hopes that television ratings for the candidates' acceptance speeches at their respective conventions aren't foreshadowing of similar results at the polls in November. Preliminary results from the networks and cable channels show that 34.9 million people tuned in for Donald Trump's acceptance speech while 33.3 million watched Clinton accept the Democratic nomination. However, it is still possible that the numbers are closer than these ratings suggest: the numbers don't include ratings from PBS or CSPAN, which tend to attract more Democratic viewers.

Source:
AFFECTS NOVEMBER ELECTIONS
North Carolina Voter ID Law Struck Down
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday overturned North Carolina's 2013 voter ID law, saying it was passed with “discriminatory intent." The decision sends the case back to the district judge who initially dismissed challenges to the law. "The ruling prohibits North Carolina from requiring photo identification from voters in future elections, including the November 2016 general election, restores a week of early voting and preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and ensures that same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting will remain in effect."

Source:
NORTH DAKOTA TO ILLINOIS
Massive Oil Pipeline Approved for the Midwest
11 hours ago
THE DETAILS

An oil pipeline almost as long as the much-debated Keystone XL has won final approval to transport crude from North Dakota to Illinois, traveling through South Dakota and Iowa along the way. "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave the final blessing to the Dakota Access pipeline on Tuesday. Developers now have the last set of permits they need to build through the small portion of federal land the line crosses, which includes major waterways like the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers. The so-called Bakken pipeline goes through mostly state and private land."

Source:
×