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The Endless Chase

Frankly, basing the future of the Republican Party’s outreach to blacks and Hispanics on gay marriage is not, as Mr. Johnson suggested, “the future.” ~Zac Morgan [1]

While I suspect that I am coming at this from a different angle than Morgan, he is quite correct. Even on those issues where you can identify strong support among minority voters for a socially conservative position, to say nothing of willingness to support specific ballot or legislative measures, there is simply no potential there for turning reliable Democratic voters into Republican voters. My guess [2] is that Michael Steele is very much in agreement with Wayne Johnson’s proposal, which is another strike against it. Regardless, “gay marriage” is an issue that has been yielding diminishing returns for the GOP for several years now, which is more a function of the GOP’s lack of any other compelling message and a result of successful state ballot initiatives than it is evidence of national fatigue with the issue.

Even though Prop. 8 passed in California, there was no dent in traditional Democratic constituencies in the rest of the voting. This is an important lesson Republicans will have to learn: the relative unpopularity of “gay marriage” does not necessarily translate into Republican votes, because it is even less obvious today than it has been over the last thirty years that voting Republican is the natural thing for socially conservative people to do. Indeed, the concentration of Prop. 8 supporters among some core Democratic constituencies is proof that far more people would sooner oppose “gay marriage” in a state where homosexuality probably has more cultural acceptance than almost anywhere else in country than they would vote for Republicans to govern anything. If opposition to “gay marriage” is considerably lower in the rising generation, support for the GOP is lower still, and this is the effect of demographic and cultural changes that the GOP cannot pander its way out of without abandoning almost everything it purports to represent. The new generation is made up of considerably more singles and late-marrying couples, more secular people and more non-whites than previous generations, and the GOP simply does not represent their interests, because it has been and continues to be the party of white, married and religious voters.

Morgan also trots out the tired pro-immigration case for pandering to Hispanic voters, but this is not much more persuasive than the argument he is attacking. The pursuit of minority voters with these single-issue panders is futile. It’s not as if second-generation Mexican-Americans in L.A. are yearning to have capital gains tax cuts and foreign wars, but are discouraged from voting like white evangelicals because the Republican Party is allegedly too opposed to immigration*. Likewise, Jack Kemp and friends have been chasing after the other elusive “natural Republicans” in the black community for the better part of 25 years, and despite that and constant “outreach” the Republican share of the black vote is at historic lows. It is probably true that in their local and state politics these voters see Republicans as advocates for all of the policies that they regard as detrimental to their interests, and it seems likely that what the national party does or doesn’t do is irrelevant, which makes chasing after their votes even more pointless than it already was.

* I say allegedly, because the last time any Republican nominee or national leader spoke out against illegal immigration and insisted that it be stopped was…oh, that’s right, it has never happened. It’s a bit like saying voters were driven away from the Democratic Party because it has been too protectionist for the last decade, when the party has largely been moving in the opposite direction, much to the annoyance of some of its most reliable constituencies.

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2 Comments To "The Endless Chase"

#1 Comment By Freddie On March 2, 2009 @ 5:00 pm

This is important also as a matter of correctly understanding what did and didn’t happen when it came to Prop 8. It’s been a little too comforting for many supporters of gay marriage (and I am such a supporter) to say “black Christians defeated it.” The simple fact is that, while black Democrats voted against Prop 8 in far higher percentages than most other Democratic constituencies, even if you removed all black votes, Prop 8 squeaks by. I think part of what’s going on here is that so many white California Democrats look around them, think that there is unanimity among white Californian liberals in supporting gay marriage, and so have to assume that there’s some other group out there hurting Prop 8. But the fact of the matter is that a pretty healthy minority of white Democrats voted in favor of Prop 8 in California. Which leads me to suspect that a lot of them are quietly opposed to gay marriage but feel socially pressured into silence. That speaks, I think, to a certain overly optimistic strain among the members of our coalition, and to the amount of work those of us who favor same sex marriage still need to do.

Anyway– your larger point is perfectly correct. No, recent immigrants from Mexico and middle class blacks don’t largely support gay marriage. But they (correctly) interpret that single, almost entirely symbolic issue as being not nearly as important as their own economic best interest.

#2 Comment By kevinjjones On March 3, 2009 @ 2:04 pm

It’s noteworthy, but expected, that these stories are about Republicans asking how they can turn social conservative Democrats into their partisans.

If social conservatives were competent at politics, they’d be asking how they can turn similarly-minded Democrats into an effective beachhead within their home party. Partisanship may win some elections, but bipartisanship wins a more permanent political state.

(Certainly politics is secondary to culture, but that doesn’t excuse obvious ineffectiveness in the former.)