David Brooks and Paul Krugman don't agree on much, but they agree that Republicans are naive if they hope to regain the White House in 2016 by inspiring more working-class whites to vote. Brooks writes:
The final conservative point of opposition [to the immigration bill] is a political one. Republicans should not try to win back lower-middle-class voters with immigration reform; they should do it with a working-class agenda.Krugman says:
This argument would be slightly plausible if Republicans had even a hint of such an agenda, but they don't.
... if you look at what the modern Republican Party actually stands for in practice, it's clearly inimical to the interests of those downscale whites the party can supposedly win back. Neither a flat tax nor a return to the gold standard are actually on the table; but cuts in unemployment benefits, food stamps and Medicaid are. (To the extent that there was any substance to the Ryan plan, it mainly involved savage cuts in aid to the poor.) And while many nonwhite Americans depend on these safety-net programs, so do many less-well-off whites -- the very voters libertarian populism is supposed to reach.But as Atrios regularly notes, white people in this country are generally persuaded that non-whites receive a package of enhanced government benefits far in excess of what white people get. So working-class whites actually like it when Republicans talk about benefit cuts (as long as they think Medicare and Social Security aren't involved) because they assume the cuts are intended for, y'know, those people.
Clearly, the GOP plan is not to offer the members of the white working class anything tangible, but just to get them pumping their fists, in a way that Mitt Romney failed to do because he was never seen as a rousing leader of the tribe. That's why the 2016 field looks as if it's going to be all Fox News rabble rousers -- no Jon Huntsmans this time around! -- with the possible exception of Marco Rubio (and even Rubio is trying to rally the base with talk about a national abortion ban after 20 weeks). This could be seen as the method behind the madness of repealing Obamacare in the House three dozen times and curtailing abortion rights in every state Republicans control: the GOP wants to be seen, going into 2014 and 2016, as what working-class whites would consider badass. Rally the tribe and the tribe will turn out to vote.
Even opposing background checks fits in here -- yes, it defies what even white people say they want, but it's an awesome display of angry-white tribal solidarity.
And if this alone doesn't work because of changing demographics, Republicans can just suppress the non-white vote wherever they can, monkey with the Electoral College, and figure out how to use Citizens United cash to make more effective ads than in 2012.
And if that fails, maybe they'll just try to get Hillary Clinton to stand in drafts.
In a new Quinnipiac poll, Hillary beats Rand Paul for president handily, 50%-38%; she beats Chris Christie, but by a much smaller margin (46%-40%). But Joe Biden gets clocked by Christie, 46%-35%, while he ties Rand Paul, 42%-42%.
Even with Hillary in the race, whites go GOP -- whites pick Christie over Hillary 46%-37% and Paul over Hillary 46%-43%. When we get to Biden, it's a rout among whites: Christie 54%, Biden 27%, and Paul 50%, Biden 33%.
And please note, when looking at those Rand Paul numbers, that only 37% of whites have a favorable opinion of him; 36% haven't heard enough to form an opinion. It doesn't matter -- he's the Republican, which means he's the guy from the white-people party. So that's all these voters need to know.
Yeah, I know: white voters always go GOP, even in elections the Democrats win. But shouldn't that be abating somewhat, as angry old Fox watchers die off and are replaced by a generation in which even whites are socially progressive and happily multi-culti? If so, I'm not seeing it in the polls.