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Republicans Need Working Class Votes, White or Not

Days after the 2012 election, conservative talk-show host and hair-enthusiast Sean Hannity announced to his talk-radio audience that he had “evolved” on issue of immigration reform because “We’ve got to get rid of the immigration issue altogether.” He recognized that after Mitt Romney only collected, fittingly, 47% of the vote, and the “Hispanic vote went 70 percent Democrat,” something would have to be done to right the Right’s electoral woes.

Rather than take the time to soul-search, and come to terms with the disaster that the Romney campaign specifically, and the GOP generally, had become in the eyes of voters looking to improve the status of their communities and their country, Hannity went right for the first issue he could find that would not threaten the Republican establishment’s priorities in serving the “donorists,” as Ross Douthat puts it, who “tend to like the G.O.P.’s near-obsessive focus on the top marginal tax rate just fine.”

He and his have been rallying to immigration as the answer to minority outreach ever since, promising that once the issue was off the table the real Republican message would be able to get through. As Ross put it recently, “much of the energy in the immigration fight comes from factions within the Republican tent that regard the Rubio-Schumer bill as a brilliant-and-easy way to avoid any kind of broader rethinking on economics.”

All the while, however, there have been rumors of an electoral bloc that might save Republicans without having to win minorities: the missing white vote. Britt Hume has been beating the drum over at Fox News in particular in pushing back against the “baloney” of necessary minority outreach.

Sean Trende has been doing the statistical yeoman’s work of describing this population, and came to the (correct) conclusion:

Republicans should pay attention to the concerns of the millions of alienated working-class voters who sat out the 2012 election because the GOP needs them — not at the exclusion of minority voters, many of whom are also working class, but in addition to them — to form a winning coalition in the future.

What Republican commentators need to get clear on, however, before they do themselves a lot of unnecessary additional harm, is that appealing to working-class voters does not mean pivoting away from minority voters; in fact they should go hand in hand. As Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry put it in his excellent “Reform Conservative Manifesto,”

the best way for Republicans to win a lot of Latinos is to win lower-middle voters generally, a lot of whom happen to be Latinos. Unless, that is, people of certain groups think that Republicans are prejudiced against them.

The always on-point Pete Spiliakos reminds us of Artur Davis’s explanation that even middle- and upper-class minority voters share church pews with those still struggling, and will vote the pocketbook of their neighbor as well as their own. If Republicans want those missing white votes, they can get minority votes too, if they speak to the voters who are hurting because the economy is so bad that they’ll put up with breathing neurotoxins just to keep food on the table.

As anyone who has worked in a factory will be able to tell you, the assembly lines are a rainbow coalition all to themselves.

about the author

Jonathan Coppage is a TAC associate editor. He received a BA in Political Science from North Carolina State University, and previously attended the University of Chicago, where he studied in the Fundamentals: Issues and Texts great books concentration. Jonathan also worked at The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society. Jon can be followed on Twitter @JonCoppage, or reached by e-mail at jcoppage@theamericanconservative.com.

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