Grand Old White Party

Posted by Tyler Reny

I was rather excited when the Republican Pledge to America was released. Finally, I would glean some insight into the modern Republican Party. The Party of No was about to become the party of ideas. Their great orange leader, Rep. Boehner, was going to pull us out of this economic mess. And how will he do it? Well, I still don't know.

The pledge doesn't propose any solutions. All I can glean from the text is that the GOP is going to magically reduce the deficit through modest reductions in discretionary spending and tax cuts. The document neglects the elephant in the room, defense or entitlement spending, which together eat up the majority of the budget. Only Rep. Paul Ryan has the political cojones to suggest reductions in these political third rails. Even Boehner refused to offer specifics. He instead clarified that the document is not meant to "get to the potential solutions" but to "make sure Americans understand how big the problem is."

Even scarier than Boehner's ridiculous comments are the photographs. The Pledge is 45 pages long and interspersed with lovely color snapshots of hard working Americans: old white people voicing their opinions in a town hall, old white people in cowboy hats, older white people at business meetings, old white people selling red meat and old white people, well, just being old.

It's official; the Republican Party has managed to, through legislation and poisonous rhetoric, repel most minorities from their party. The Grand Old Party can now safely change its name to the Grand Old White Party.

In the past, the GOP has actually tried to project an image of diversity. Remember when Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steel offered "fried chicken and potato salad" as incentives to draw more diversity into the GOP? His gaffes make Joe Biden look like the Dalai Lama.

But the country is changing rapidly. Hispanics now constitute about 15 percent of the population and are on track to be about 30 percent by 2050. Their electoral turnout has increased from 8 percent of the total population in 2006 to 10 percent in 2008. The African-American vote has grown as well, thanks to President Barack Obama's candidacy, and always trends heavily democratic.

Our last Amigo in Chief, George Bush, actually fought to capture the growing Hispanic vote and managed to increase the Republican share of Hispanic voters from 21 percent in 2004 to 40 percent by 2006.

Bush's stance was illustrative of past trends. The Republican Party used to be split internally over immigration. Pro-market conservatives, like Bush, supported expansive reform and border hawks, like Tom Tancredo, rallied for harsher restrictions. This may be changing as moderates shift toward the border hawk category.

The few remaining pro-immigration Republicans are embracing Hispanics as their new political punching bag. John McCain cosponsored an immigration bill in 2007 and now says he wouldn't vote for it if it were to be introduced again.

The GOP is in trouble if it continues to turn against minority voters. Hispanics ensured victory for Obama in a few South Western states and offer a key electoral advantage in some closely divided regions. Also, old white people are going to die soon and dead people have historically had very low voter turnout.

The GOP might be smart in the short run. There is evidence from numerous studies published in leading political science journals to suggest that as the Hispanic community grows and spreads throughout the U.S., white resentment, anxiety and fear will grow along with it.

The Republicans have been very successful in the past at harvesting and promoting racial fear in return for electoral gains. Nixon and Bush Sr. did it successfully. Newt Gingrich and Tom Tancredo are trying it now. But Gov. Pete Wilson also tried it in California in 1994 and he and his party got pummeled.

The potential for a backlash exists. Then again, California has a massive minority population and the nation still doesn't. But when it does, the Hispanics will not forget the old white men who demonized them. Neither will the African-Americans, gays nor Muslims.

Tyler Reny is a senior government major who enjoys good food, politics and jazz.

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