Honky Chateau

Nicely coinciding with CPAC, in which conservatives are devoting equal time to alleged “outreach” to hostile voting groups and cries for additional holy war against the president and liberals, Charlie Cook offers some fresh numbers at National Journal for the extent to which House Republicans have reduced the opportunity for “outreach” in their own districts:

Fresh 2010 census data by congressional district, compiled by The Cook Political Report’s House editor, David Wasserman, provides some numerical food for thought. Between 2000 and 2010, the non-Hispanic white share of the population fell from 69 percent to 64 percent, closely tracking the 5-point drop in the white share of the electorate measured by exit polls between 2004 and 2012. But after the post-census redistricting and the 2012 elections, the non-Hispanic white share of the average Republican House district jumped from 73 percent to 75 percent, and the average Democratic House district declined from 52 percent white to 51 percent white. In other words, while the country continues to grow more racially diverse, the average Republican district continues to get even whiter….

What do all these numbers boil down to? House Republicans have done a remarkable job of “sequestering” Democrats into the minority, but in the process they’ve also reduced their own incentive to reach out to groups their party badly needs if it wants to stay relevant beyond the Southern confines of the Capitol. Sure, Republicans have plenty of incentive to don those aprons at local Rotary and Kiwanis barbecues. But if half of politics is simply showing up, how many fewer GOP legislators have strong reasons to shake hands or kiss babies at Puerto Rican Day parades, Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemorations, or Asian food festivals?

It’s pretty simple, really: if you want to succeed politically in a diverse country, you’d best get a little more diverse your own selves, and barring that, find ways to show constituents your party isn’t just some comfortable honky chateau.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.