Every now and then a member of the conservative establishment unknowingly shares the truth about their worldview.
Today, The Corner linked to a conversation with Jonah Goldberg and John O’Sullivan on “the problem of demographics for the Republican coalition.” The pull-quote in the link explained that if the GOP is to win over asian-american and latino voters, it must “persuade them to think of themselves primarily as Americans.” I can’t understand why they’re having trouble, given this keen understanding of the voters they’re trying to reach.
The full quote is at the link, but it basically says the same thing, just more words. Most liberals jumped on this as two top conservative pundits once again being clueless, patronizing and racist toward ethnic voters. And yes, assuming Asian Americans and Latinos don’t think of themselves as “American” is clueless, patronizing and racist.
But let’s flip this argument over. Jonah Goldberg, John O’Sullivan and the editors of The Corner are saying that any group which views itself as American must by default be Republican. It is inconceivable to them that any person who views him or herself as American could be a liberal. Let that one sink in for a minute.
This is what happens after a generation of political warfare, of convincing yourself and everyone else that you own the flag, you own patriotism, you own soldiers home from war, and babies, and Christmas, and success, and Mom and apple pie — in short, everything the culture ever identified as part of being “American.”
And of course we’ve heard hints of this before, from the likes of Glenn Beck, Michele Bachmann, Allen West, Ann Coulter and the rest of those folks in the crazypants corner of the GOP. It is, in fact, what’s behind all of that birther nonsense. But usually the GOP establishment swoops in to do damage control, either disavowing the statement or wresting a retraction from the poor GOPer who forgot he or she was supposed to speak in dog whistles. Rarely is it put so bluntly by a member of the conservative elite.
The Republican Party will never open its tent in any meaningful way as long as the nut of their worldview is that they own being American. Until they start seeing those citizens who think (and vote) differently from them as also being American, they will not be a viable alternative to anyone outside the 27%.
In February 2012, conservative author Bruce Walker wrote this:
The data is consistent, overwhelming, and clear. Conservatives are the Real America. Leftists are colonial governors, small in number, controlling through fear and intimidation from heavily guarded forts at the chokepoints of society, unable to persuade more than a slim minority of Americans to follow them, and protected from the destruction of their own administration. Our campaign against the left is nothing more or less than a national liberation movement. We, not they, are America.
Walker is a nutjob, who writes, lives and breathes on conservatism’s radical fringe — but, sadly, that fringe has been allowed to permeate conservatism’s epicenter. Walker’s “we are the real Americans” perspective is clearly part of the conservative DNA. And guess what: Walker was convinced that Republicans would win big in November, because his unskewed polls told him America is a conservative nation (BTW, I link to Walker’s columns because they are truly hilarious. Go over and read a few, have a good laugh.)
And therein lies the problem. Republicans don’t just need to expand their political tent; they need to expand their concept of what it means to be an American. I’m just not sure they can do it. They’re going to continue to believe their dog whistles speak to everyone, when they just speak to the 27%; they’re going to continue to slip up and oopsies say something boneheaded like, “Latinos need to think of themselves as American before Republicans can reach out to them.” And crackpots like Bruce Walker are going to continue to write laughably out of touch articles proving how hermetically sealed the conservative bubble truly is.
It may take an entire generation to fix what ails the GOP.