Wissot: Republicans are only opposed to minorities who don’t vote for them
If you owned a business, would you give out rewards points to customers who shopped elsewhere? Of course, you wouldn’t. Republicans feel the same way, which is why they have introduced 361 “election integrity” bills in 47 state legislatures to let minority voters who vote for Democrats know that disloyalty can be costly. Punishing minority voters who steadfastly refuse to vote Republican is the motivation behind the enactment of voter suppression laws.
Republicans are not very good at marketing their product to communities of color. Beyond giving tax breaks to the wealthiest of Americans and exploiting the racial fears of the poorest of white Americans, their only interest is in cutting the funding for social programs that benefit minorities. People in our inner cities are interested in gaining access to good health care, among many other social needs, as we have clearly seen during the pandemic. Lowering the top tax bracket and not raising the capital gains rate won’t win you any votes in economically-strapped urban households.
Some ethnic groups do appreciate the Republican messaging. Cubans and Venezuelans living in South Florida helped Trump and the party’s down ballot candidates do well in 2020. The same was true for Mexican-Americans in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. So even though Florida and Texas doubled down on their voter restriction laws, those three groups of loyal party supporters can expect to be picked up in Uber limousines and driven to the polls come 2022.
It is inaccurate to label Republicans as the anti-minority party. Republicans are only opposed to minorities who don’t vote for them. When a member of a minority community votes Republican, the party will have their back. When they don’t, well, there are other things that can happen to your back.
The pseudo protection of “election integrity” has a long history in this country. A reference to the “purity of the ballot box” is enshrined in the Texas constitution enacted in 1876. Those words symbolized the Jim Crow laws of that era which were passed to disenfranchise newly franchised black voters.
Democrats, not Republicans, are the ones who have historically prevented Blacks from voting. They set up barriers to voting which make today’s voter restriction laws seem tame by comparison. From 1900-1965, Blacks in the South never even made it into the voting booth. The measures used were much more suppressive than the failure to bring your mule driver’s license with you to the polling place.
Intimidation, proof of property ownership, poll taxes and literacy tests were all used to disenfranchise Black voters. The literacy tests were especially unjust. Whites were exempted if they could prove that they voted before 1867 when the 15th Amendment giving Blacks the right to vote was passed. It was like claiming that Bubba and Gomer and Goober were well versed in the state constitution and didn’t need to be tested while ignorant Blacks did.
The GOP, the party of Lincoln, was responsible for ending the Civil War and reuniting the union. It had a long legacy of being on the side of civil rights for minorities. It deviated sharply from that proud history in 1964 after Lyndon Baines Johnson sold out the South by championing legislation that ended lawful segregation.
Barry Goldwater won Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Mississippi in the 1964 presidential election. South Carolina and Mississippi had not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since Reconstruction.
The Republican Party’s decision to invite on board all the racist Southern politicians and their constituents that the Democratic Party had offered safe haven to since before the Civil War was a strategic marketing move on their part.
It was what smart businesses do: attract new customers and reward them for their loyalty.
Racists, after all vote, too. Don’t they deserve to be represented by somebody? Republicans certainly think they did. If the Democrats were willing to sacrifice these voters on the altar of civil rights, Republicans were more than happy to exploit white fright and white flight by making racism respectable; by following a race baiting president down the rabbit hole of xenophobic fear mongering; by abandoning a crucible of conscience in refusing to disassociate the party from violent extremist groups like the Proud Boys.
Lincoln said “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” His words apply to a political party as well as a nation. Republicans believe, according to Lindsay Graham, that they can’t “grow“ without Donald Trump.
I contend that they can’t grow over the long term with his brand of divisive politics. Republicans have calculated that their future as a viable party lies with placating a dwindling white majority electorate and suppressing the voting power of newly registered blocs of African-American, Mexican-American and Asian-American voters.
The demographic time bomb of 2045 in which whites are projected to become a majority minority population proves the math won’t support that calculation. Democrats are delighted to see the Republican Party play Russian roulette with their future. Betting on the “Big Bang” promise of shifting demographic change is a good bet for Democrats to make.
Jay Wissot is a resident of Denver and Vail. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.