White House

You’re Wrong, Congressman: I’m Not Waging a War on Whites

Republican Rep. Mo Brooks twists immigration analysis into race card.

National Journal
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Ron Fournier
Aug. 5, 2014, 5:10 a.m.

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.


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