Steve Benen is a smart guy, but he suffers from a common tendency among liberals to misunderstand conservatives. He has entered the discussion that I wrote about earlier this week, Sean Trende’s belief that the Republican Party can continue to win elections by pandering only to white voters. Benen has the usual very reasonable objections: Republicans will have a hard time getting white voter turnout ever higher and making whites vote in ever higher numbers for Republicans. Alas, Mr. Benen is so thinking like a Democrat!
The Republicans can’t come right out and say it. But we’ve been dealing with them for a long time, so we should all know. Republicans are experts at subtext. There are two ways that they can increase the percentage of white voters. They can increase the number of whites who vote. This is what people like Benen logically, but incorrectly, think proponents of the “white party” strategy are suggesting. But they aren’t. They are suggesting the other way that the white voter percentage can increase: decrease the number of non-white voters.
This isn’t rocket science. Hell, this isn’t even paint by the numbers! The one thing that Republicans have really been working on the last two years is voter-ID. Now, I understand that the rank and file Republicans really do think that Democrats steal elections because every Monday before an election, the party buses in millions of Mexicans to vote illegally. They know this because everyone they know is a Republican. Just look at Fox News: people would have to be America hating latte sipping communists to vote Democratic. Just ask Kathleen O’Brien Wilhelm. But the elites know what they’re doing. They know that there is no voter fraud; voter-ID is about one thing only: limiting non-conservative voters.
But I am again left to ask the obvious question that liberals don’t seem to have an answer for: what else are the Republicans to do? They really are trapped. And trapped by the Democratic Party. The Republicans cannot move even a little bit toward the center without effectively becoming Democrats. The only solution is for the Democrats to start fulfilling their traditional role as a liberal party. Understand: I am a Democrat. But the Democratic Party is the villain in this story. It is common to note that the Republican Party doesn’t really seem to stand for anything. I make that argument myself all the time. But over the last 35 years, the problem has been that the Democratic Party didn’t stand for anything. It was more than willing to co-opted any and every conservative idea. And thus, the liberal party became the conservative party. And the conservative party just went insane.
The Republicans can abandon their base, which will almost certainly spawn a third party. If they liberalized on economic issues, they would be the same as the Democratic Party and this would likely lose them their big money economic conservative base who more agree with the Democrats on social issues anyway. If they liberalized on social issues, their voting base would disintegrate. They really don’t have any good options but the continuation of the Southern Strategy. The Democratic Party is already Republican Lite. The political landscape cannot support the Republicans becoming Democratic Heavy.
There is one option that I think might give the Republicans some breathing room. They could become a libertarian party. They wouldn’t stay that way. The truth is that libertarianism is not very popular. So it would degenerate into old fashioned conservatism. But it would provide the Democrats some time to liberalize their ideology and eventual create a space for a traditional conservative party that the Republicans could occupy.