Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Voting Rights Act and Future Political Coalitions

Josh Marshall's looks at the return of voter ID laws as an attempt to suppress the non-white vote, but I think that's slightly overstating the case. Rather than doubling down on being the white party, the lesson the Republican party seems learned is that they should become the non-black party.

The long answer goes something like this: The GOP now considers the black vote to be completely and irreparably lost. For Republicans to get their support among African-Americans back to Gerald Ford-era levels of 17% would take a herculean act of political & policy concessions. What's more, black voters are concentrated in states that are either safely Republican (the Deep South) or safely Democratic (New York, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey). Over the next decade or two, the benefit of increased black support would be limited to Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Now, those are four of the five most important swing states (Colorado is the fifth), but those are also the states where Republicans were the most aggressive and successful in pursuing voter ID and other suppression tactics. The well has already been poisoned in the places where it matters the most. Last but not least, the current Republican Governors of three of these four states are extremely unpopular. I think cockroaches are more popular than Rick Scott in Florida.

Contrast this situation the state of play among Latino voters. The Hispanic electorate does not have the same long-term ill will towards Republicans. As recently as 2004, Republicans earned 40-45% of the vote among Hispanic voters Hispanic population growth is concentrated in states that are growing, while Ohio and Pennsylvania are flatlining or declining in population. Better support among Latinos also does more to shake up the electoral map. Florida and Virginia might move into the lean-red column, while Colorado and Nevada would move to within Republican reach. Republicans also currently have extremely popular Hispanic Republican governors in the state houses of both Nevada and New Mexico. There's a much deeper political infrastructure to recruit and campaign for conservative Hispanic candidates. All in all, there's far, far, more opportunity for Republicans here than among black voters.

Historically, as immigrant groups assimilate into American culture, they become white in the eyes of mainstream America. At various times, Irish, "Slavs", Italians, Spaniards, and other non-Anglo Saxon people we now think of as white have been considered to be something other than white. Over time, if Latino identity drifts towards the mainstream white identity, their force as a left-leaning political bloc may dissipiate.
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