Responding to my unspectacular analysis of the GOP’s self-immolation over immigration, Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama accused me of being part of a Democratic Party “war on whites.” Where do I start?
First, two facts for the record: I am white (not that it should matter), and I am not a Democrat (nor am I a Republican). Like most Americans, I am disgusted with both major parties for reasons that the immigration debate — and Brooks’s baffling remarks — underscore.
This strange episode began on Fox News Sunday, when host Chris Wallace suggested to conservative activist Michael Needham that “everything” the House GOP had done to oppose immigration reform since 2012 ran counter to the Republican National Committee’s own postmortem of President Obama’s reelection win.
“Well, I don’t rely on the same political consultants who have run every single Republican presidential campaign since 1992 to tell [me] the solutions that are best for the party,” Needham replied. He argued that the party’s best interest are served by focusing on issues like affordable housing and gas prices, which matter to all Americans, including Hispanics.
It was a fair point and a conservative talking point, but it didn’t answer Wallace’s question. I jumped in, “The fastest growing bloc in this country thinks the Republican Party hates them. This party, your party, cannot be the party of the future beyond November, if you’re seen as the party of white people.”
After some back and forth, I added, “The president had a chance to have immigration reform in 2010 [and 2009]. His party passed on it. They wanted the issue.”
Both statements are unfortunately true, and partisans can’t handle the truth. The first statement undercuts the narrative of uncompromising conservatives. The second pierces the White House claim that Obama is absolutely blameless for the immigration gridlock.
The White House ignored me. Brooks should have had as much sense. Instead, when conservative radio host Laura Ingraham asked Brooks to respond to my analysis, he did. According to Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post, their conversation went like this:
Brooks: This is a part of the war on whites that’s being launched by the Democratic Party. And the way in which they’re launching this war is by claiming that whites hate everybody else. It’s a part of the strategy that Barack Obama implemented in 2008, continued in 2012, where he divides us all on race, on sex, greed, envy, class warfare, all those kinds of things. Well that’s not true. OK?
And if you look at the polling data, every demographic group in America agrees with the rule of law, enforcing and securing our borders. And every one of them understands that illegal immigration hurts every single demographic group. It doesn’t make a difference if you’re a white American, a black American, Hispanic American, an Asian-American, or if you’re a woman or a man. Every single demographic group is hurt by falling wages and lost jobs.
And so the Democrats — they have to demagogue on this and try and turn it into a racial issue, which is an emotional issue, rather than a thoughtful issue. If it becomes a thoughtful issue, then we win, and we win big. And they lose, and they lose big. And they understand that, and as they get more desperate, they are going to argue race and things like that to a much heightened emotional state …
Ingraham: … [C]ongressman, don’t you think … that characterization is a little out there?
Brooks: But that is, in effect, what they’re doing, though. That’s the political game that they’re playing …
Ingraham: No, they’re playing the “race” card. They’re playing the“‘race” card just like they’re playing the “war on women” card. This is what the left does. But I just think that phraseology might not be the best choice.
Capehart had an interesting response to the exchange. “You know you’ve vaulted over a line when even a firebrand conservative talker like Ingraham feels compelled to call you out.”
I don’t know about that, but I do feel compelled to remind Brooks that nothing I said should surprise him, because his party leaders agree with me. If I am part of a war on whites, so is RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and the 2,600 fellow Republicans interviewed for the “RNC Growth Opportunity Book 2013,” the so-called GOP autopsy.
“If Hispanic Americans perceive that a GOP nominee or candidate does not want them in the United States (i.e., self-deportation), they will not pay attention to our next sentence,” the report reads. “It does not matter what we say about education, jobs, or the economy; if Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies.” That essentially echoes my counter to Needham.
The report notes that other minority groups consider the GOP unwelcoming, and catalogues the steep decline in support since President George W. Bush earned 44 percent of the Hispanic vote. “As one conservative, tea-party leader, Dick Armey, told us, ‘You can’t call someone ugly and expect them to go to the prom with you. We’ve chased the Hispanic voter out of his natural home.’ “
War on whites, really? Does Brooks consider the RNC and 2,600 Republicans from around the country to be antiwhite? Is Dick Armey at war with whites? How about the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page, which wrote the morning of my Fox News Sunday appearance: “The GOP again gave the country the impression that its highest policy priority is to deport as many children as rapidly as possible back from wherever they came.”
The Journal chastised “Deportation Republicans.” Are the paper’s editorial writers racial demagogues?
Seriously, Representative Brooks, please Google “Ron Brownstein” and read his watershed work on political demography. Start with the story titled, “Republicans Can’t Win With White Voters Alone.”
This much is undisputed: In 2012, President Obama lost white voters by a larger margin than any winning presidential candidate in U.S. history. In his reelection, Obama lost ground from 2008 with almost every conceivable segment of the white electorate. With several key groups of whites, he recorded the weakest national performance for any Democratic nominee since the Republican landslides of the 1980s.
In 2012, Obama won a smaller share of white Catholics than any Democrat since Jimmy Carter in 1980; lost groups ranging from white seniors to white women to white married and blue-collar men by the widest margin of any Democrat since Ronald Reagan routed Walter Mondale in 1984; and even lost among Democratic-leaning college-educated women by the widest margin since Michael Dukakis in 1988, according to the latest National Journal analysis of the trends that shape the allegiances of American voters.
And yet, behind rousing support from minorities everywhere, and often much more competitive showings among whites in both Democratic-leaning and battleground states, Obama not only won reelection but won fairly comfortably.
You see, sir, I’m not part of a war against whites. What I said is indisputably, if uncomfortably, true. Unless a broader swath of the GOP community learns to accept and adapt to the fact that the United States will soon be a majority-minority nation, the Republican Party is doomed not to lead it. Finally, sir, bury the straw men: Blanket amnesty and wide-open borders aren’t the price for political relevancy. For starters, let’s try compassion, wide-open minds, and compromise.