If there was ever any doubt, the hatred of the Republican Party towards the "Browning of America" is now etched indelibly in stone through 2016 and beyond. As last night's crushing defeat of the Republican House Majority Leader--who dared to even breathe the words "immigration reform"-- shows, the Republican Party cannot and will not stomach the idea of Latino and Hispanic immigrants threatening their "birthright" as real Americans. One prominent Republican House member says it best:
They weren't all brought in by their parents. For every one who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds -- and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they've been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.But whatever grotesque caricatures the GOP can conjure up to insult Latino and Hispanic families can't compare with the calculated understatement they employ in "civil discourse:"
"Millions in this country feel like strangers in this land," he says. "An older America is passing away. A newer America is rising to take its place. We recoil from that culture. It’s foreign to us. It’s offensive to us."These are the words of Chris McDaniel, the likely Republican nominee for Senator in Mississippi. As The Atlantic carefully translates:
This is a remarkably frank declaration of the vision of the Tea Party embraced by liberal social scientists: an expression, above all, of old white people's anxieties at the prospect of an urbanizing, liberalizing, diversifying America.In other words, it is a remarkably frank declaration of racism. Not just directed towards undocumented immigrants--but all people of color.
Cantor's defeat last night --whatever its root cause-- feeds the narrative that Representative King and likely-Senator McDaniel are simply articulating the views of the party at its core. What could be more indicative of this than upending their own Majority Leader for his perceived heresy on immigration? Even if Cantor's upset was assisted by "crossover" Democrats mischievously working the system or due to latent Anti-Semitism manifesting itself in the GOP base (both appealing if not particularly demonstrable theories), and even if the numbers in Cantor's own District suggest otherwise, the lesson Republicans will take away from last night is that talk of immigration "reform" is pure poison to the Republican base, and pure electoral suicide for Republican politicians. Consequently, as long as the GOP retains control of the House there will be no impetus for reform. Nate Cohn of the New York Times, writing this morning, says the issue is effectively dead:
Regardless of the exact reason for Mr. Cantor’s defeat, the news media’s focus on immigration is likely to deter Republicans from supporting comprehensive immigration reform. It could even discourage Republican presidential candidates in 2016, when the party will need to broaden its appeal to Hispanic voters in states like Florida.Michael Tomasky, writing for the Daily Beast, is even more blunt:
Immigration reform is D-E-A-D. There is no chance the House will touch it. That means it’s dead for this Congress, which means that next Congress, the Senate would have to take the lead in passing it again. (The Senate’s passage of the current bill expires when this Congress ends.) And the Senate isn’t going to touch it in the next Congress, even if the Democrats hold on to the majority. Those handful of Republicans who backed reform last year will be terrified to do so. And it’s difficult to say when immigration reform might have another shot. Maybe the first two years of President Clinton’s second term. Maybe.How badly does the Republican base hate the idea of providing a path to citizenship for undocumented Latino and Hispanic immigrants? So badly that they are willing to latch onto any theory--no matter how counterintuitive- -that seems to justify their beliefs. As Thomas Edsall's New York Times column (linked above) reported a few weeks ago, there is qualified support for their position in the halls of Academia:
Three unlikely sources are providing qualified encouragement to Republicans who are either openly or covertly committed to a campaign strategy that focuses on white turnout, as opposed to seeking votes from Hispanics and African-Americans.Edsall describes the three theories driving the Republicans off the cliff:
The first source of this qualified encouragement is an academic study — “More Diverse Yet Less Tolerant?” — that explores what happens to racial and ethnic attitudes when you present white voters with census findings that show that whites will be in the minority in the United States by 2042.The papers described above are here, here, and here. The first two are authored by a Doctoral candidate and Professor of Psychology at Northwestern University. Significantly, none of these sources was written or conducted for the purpose of instigating policy, and, as Edsall notes, all implicate significant risks if adopted as strategy. But that is how they are being interpreted by the GOP.
The second source is a related study by the same authors — “On the Precipice of a ‘Majority-Minority’ America” — that explores how the “salience of such racial demographic shifts affects White Americans’ political-party leanings and expressed political ideology.”
The third source is a survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit think tank. The survey measured the percentage of whites who are “bothered” by the “idea of” an “America where most of the people are not white.”
Boiled down to their essence, the thesis of all of these studies is that the more whites feel marginalized by Brown-skinned folks who they perceive as supplanting their rightful role in American society, the more their fear and hatred of them will increase. And as the fear and hatred grows, more and more whites will join in the Republican cause. Thus, the theory goes, a Republican majority of hateful white people alarmed by the prospect of more and more brown (and Black...and Asian) people in their midst will sustain and build upon itself, in a veritable self-perpetuating, endlessly rejuvenating cycle of fear and hatred.
That's their theory, and they're running with it. As Thomas Edsall notes:
Some members of the Republican establishment may disagree [with the thesis], but in practical terms his views have the support of many, if not most, House Republicans, and the tacit backing of Republican primary voters. Both groups, for example, have shown little or no willingness to moderate anti-immigration positions.And they won't moderate. Because, just as climate deniers cherry-pick a few peripheral studies to justify their Denialist positions, the Republican Party is eager to embrace any research which legitimizes its own innate, born-and-bred racism:
For many on the right, the various elements of the contemporary conservative belief system – from abortion to gun rights, taxes to immigration, welfare to same-sex marriage – now form a coherent, interlocking whole. The trick for Republicans in their quest to maintain white majoritarian hegemony is to allow this fusion of issues to do its mobilizing work at a subliminal level, without triggering widespread resistance to explicit manifestations of bias and race prejudice.The Koch brothers and their front organizations have known from the beginning that energizing the Republican base is a matter of "pushing the right buttons." Last night's primary results simply reinforced a conclusion they'd already reached. Republicans have convinced themselves that they don't need to change their demographics or their attitudes, even if the button being pushed is embossed with big red letters that read "Self-Destruct."
Republican primary voters make up the most conservative bloc in the party. Focus group sessions conducted with white evangelical and Tea Party Republicans last summer by Quinlan Greenberg Rosner Research for the liberal advocacy group Democracy Corps found that participants “staunchly reject immigration reform. The whole notion is anathema.”
As Edsall points out, this is the inherent flaw of taking the "Southern Strategy" to its logical conclusion:
Republican prospects of reversing negative trends among minority voters are not good. The party’s nominees have received a steadily declining share of the nonwhite electorate over the past three elections, just as the proportion of nonwhite voters in general elections has grown steadily. But it is going to take much more than Karl Rove’s columns and white papers issued by the Republican National Committee for the party to abandon a 50-year-old strategy that depends on tapping racial resentment in all of its forms, particularly when there is new research to suggest that this strategy is not entirely obsolete — precisely because the world is changing as quickly as it is.