Has the GOP given up on winning the Presidency? Carson, Trump on Muslims, Latinos

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Ben Carson’s and Donald Trump’s comments about Muslims over the weekend again showed the GOP as the party of exclusion, not inclusion (though to be fair Sen. Lindsey Graham and Gov. Chris Christie had the intestinal fortitude to denounce those comments, unlike the rest of the GOP field). Muslim-Americans only come to a few million voters, though in swing states such as Ohio, Michigan and Florida they are a large enough community such that they could be the margin of victory. They used to be divided, probably voting Republican slightly more than Democratic, but after George W. Bush’s ‘War on Terror’, they migrated in droves to the Democratic Party.

Still, they are not that consequential in and of themselves. It is rather the message the GOP is sending out to Americans that matters. And that message looks discriminatory and full of Christian rage.

Trump was all over the place, saying Saturday night that he’d consider putting a Muslim on his cabinet and saying Muslims are “great people.” Then on Sunday, challenged on his silence in the face of a questioner’s attack on President Obama, alleging that he is not an American but is a Muslim, he broke the silence by supporting these crackpot notions.

As for Carson, he said, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

NBC reports,

‘Asked if a candidate’s faith should matter to voters, Carson said, “I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter.” Asked if he thought Islam is consistent with the Constitution, Carson, “No, I do not.” ‘

That an African-American should be so tone deaf to discrimination is particularly abject. The US Constitution itself forbids religion to be taken into account in elective office, and Thomas Jefferson slapped down the “even a Muslim?” rhetoric of his own time when debating religious liberty.

Then there was that Trump characterization of Mexican immigrants and refugees as rapists and thieves.

You have to at least consider the possibility that the Republicans think holding the House of Representatives is what is important, and they have written off the presidency. That is, their anti-minority, anti-women, anti-gay, anti-Labour, anti-student policies are designed to appeal to straight white conventional families in, e.g., Texas, allowing them to control the House (with the help of some GOP state-level gerrymandering).

The Barack Obama coalition, which brought him the White House twice, is likely not tied to him but to the Democratic Party. It is not a coalition into which any of the Republican Party frontrunners can likely make inroads. Obama won heavily among minorities, and would have gained his victory over Romney even if their turn-out had been less enthusiastic. Demographics just favor the Dems. The proportion of whites in the electorate declined from 2002 to 2012 from 75 percent to about 71 percent, and it is going on down from there.

Democratic presidential candidates do better with women, Latinos, gays, and Millennial youth.

In order to make a dent in the natural Democratic advantage in presidential races, the Republicans would have to steal some of these now-Democratic constituencies– they need more gays, Latinos, other minorities, women and youth to vote for them. Instead, they are wedded to the identity politics of the angry white man (and one Black man), even more of a minority today than in 2008 or 2012.

With 2008, the Republicans may have entered another period like that from 1932 through 1952, twenty years in which they just could not win the presidency. In both cases, the period of Republican presidential drought was kicked off by a deep economic crisis. In both instances, the Democrats put together a winning coalition (ironically in the 1930s through early 1950s it included urban religious minorities allied with white Southerners).

If the GOP gave up its championing of the angry white man, it might lose congressional races. Its leaders had a choice to make, and they have decided that the presidency isn’t that important to them. They’d rather have the House.

And that is all they will have if they don’t start being nicer to key demographic groups. But this is a zero-sum game, where being nice to minorities will anger the angry white men. You can only have one of these groups. And you can’t win with only the latter.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

CNN: ” Ben Carson: U.S. shouldn’t elect a Muslim president ”

12 Responses

  1. Important fact here, which Cole is right to bring to the fore: the GOP doesn’t need the presidency to achieve its goals. It has both houses of congress, the supreme court, and much of the rest of the federal judiciary. Just as significant is its stranglehold on the states: from a WaPo article of May 4, 2015 (Cillizza), one learns that they currently control both houses in 30 states and have split control in 8 others, a startling figure and a major increase since 2008 (doubling the amount of double control). This means that their current strategy is paying off handsomely and that there is little substantive pressure to change it.

    What’s astonishing is the success, and the continuing success, of the rightwing penetration of the US polity, and the complementary diminution of nonrightwing presence. The brute facts of who holds the political power should always be right in front of us when we set out to talk about the US.

    • I don’t think the Republicans understand how much power a President has if he decides to use it. They got lucky in that Obama is a wimp.

  2. Having met Ben Carson in his brain surgeon days I am shocked. The man I thought I knew was kind and gentle, unassuming and nonjudgmental etc. He has undergone a transformation in the interim two or so decades: is it the political machine that destroys the very essence of what we need in our future leaders? Or was he faking his personage all along?

  3. Why does the “GOP” ramble on about impossible situations? What could possibly happen to make a Muslim POTUS??

  4. Unfortunately given that the ballot machines are in the hands of private companies and there is no assurance whatsoever that they will not be programmed to elect a Republican (there is a great deal of evidence this kind of thing happened at least in 2004) they may not have to worry about excluding those “un-American” folks they don’t like.

  5. With elections almost a year away, most of the corporate-controlled media Republican Summer Distractions will be long forgotten by then. Trump and Carson and the other primary candidates will be gone but Jeb Bush will remain to oppose either Mrs. Clinton, the Vice President or the somewhat unlikely Senadate Sanders.

    There is an interesting money battle emerging in the current GOP between big money NEOCONS versus the evangelical extreme right.

    If current funding trends continue as they undoubtedly will, the NEOCON candidate, Jeb Bush will far and away have the most ridiculously large war chest to work with. As of mid-September 2015, Bush leads all primary GOP candidates by a very wide and record amount of $114.5 MILLION. Trump boasts his fictional “$100 million” and Senadate Cruz has pandered to the evangelicals for a paltry total, so far, of $46 million.

    There is a reasonably factual “hit-piece” in the leading NEOCON media butt-trumpet which cites by example who is giving Cruz his campaign money. The article is both interesting and a bit scary, illuminating evangelical “Texas Crazy” Jesus and gas&oil land-grabbing nouveau riche in well-researched detail. It is worth the read, nevertheless.

    link to reuters.com

    The Republicans have not given up. However, they cannot win even by outspending the Democratic ticket. How the odious powers behind Jeb Bush will attempt to win is disturbing conjecture at this point but locally-controlled voting appliances may be involved? Events originating from outside our borders may be brought into action?

    Please remember, TWO BUSH – THREE WARS! Another war is needed to bring down our country, once and forever.

    This is far from over.

    • Right on! Sample IQ question for voters: 2 Bush=3 wars=7 Trillion dollar debt, 3Bush=? wars= ?debt.

  6. Among the perversities of the human condition are: (1) people with exceptional intelligence in one sphere exhibiting low intelligence in another, and (2) people who are victims of racial, ethnic or other forms of abuse having no problem abusing others.

  7. This is not new, just a little less disguised. It’s the Southern Strategy launched by Nixon after Lyndon Johnson “betrayed” White Southerners. Tied to rural areas elsewhere and exploitative big money, and working within our peculiar federal system, the Southern states provide more than enough power to assure effective control of most if not all of the political institutions. Short of ending gerrymandering, the best solution is to recognize that after 150 years the Civil War gap isn’t healed and it’s time for divorce. The revanchist tail should not be wagging the dog. We should find a way to expel the most defiant and benighted of the old Confederate states from the Union. To hear some of their spokespeople, that would be what they want anyway.

  8. What is missed here is that the Republican strategists are not interested in expanding their coalition. Their goal is to limit the voters to their base. It worked great in 2010. That was also a Census year which allowed them to further gerrymander the districts in their favor. And lots of those states also passed voter suppression laws. So there is no need to include Latinos, Blacks, Muslims, and single women in your coalition if you can assure that older white men dominate the part of the electorate who vote and whose votes count.

  9. I think you’re giving the GOP way too much credit for having any kind of plan at all. They correctly identified their demographic issues after 2012, but while it’s in their collective interest to address those issues, it’s not in any individual’s interest to do so, so no one does. Same at the Congressional level — it’s in each individual Representative’s interest to play to the existing right-wing base. That’s what saves their job even if it hurts the party nationally. It’s the down side of gerrymandering. The GOP is like a car with a steering wheel that only turns one way. And they can’t even recognize the problem, because they’ve been driving that car so long, there is no longer even any institutional memory of a steering wheel that turns any other way.

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