Ron Brownstein’s new cover story for National Journal, “Bad Bet: Why Republicans Can’t Win With Whites Alone” is a must-read, presenting a compelling case that the Republican Party must diversify its appeal to the new American electorate to win future national elections. For House Republican leaders cross-pressured regarding how and whether to move immigration reform forward, the new analysis is the latest reminder that the Party’s future competitiveness is in their hands.
After summarizing that President Obama’s re-election was largely due to “rousing support from minorities everywhere” and despite losing “white voters by a larger margin than any winning presidential candidate in U.S. history,” Brownstein writes:
Few decisions may carry greater consequences for the Republican Party in 2016 than how it interprets these facts. The key question facing the GOP is whether Obama’s 2012 performance represents a structural Democratic decline among whites that could deepen even further in the years ahead—or a floor from which the next Democratic nominee is likely to improve.
In recent months, a chorus of conservative analysts has bet on the first option. They insist that Republicans, by improving both turnout and already-gaping margins among whites, can recapture the White House in 2016 without reformulating their agenda to attract more minority voters—most prominently by passing immigration-reform legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for those here illegally. On the other side is an array of Republican strategists who view minority outreach and immigration reform as critical to restoring the party’s competitiveness—and consider it suicidal for the GOP to bet its future on the prospect that it can squeeze even larger advantages out of the diminishing pool of white voters.”
After dispassionately presenting the competing arguments, Brownstein notes:
Weighing all these factors, most political professionals in both parties who have expressed an opinion are somewhere between dubious and scornful of the notion that Republicans can rely almost entirely on further gains with whites to recapture the presidency without meaningfully improving among minorities.
As the Republican pollster Whit Ayres tells Brownstein, the “whites-first argument” is “not getting much penetration among people who are serious about winning presidential elections. It is getting traction among people who are trying to justify voting against immigration reform or making any of the other changes that are necessary to be nationally competitive in the 21st century.”