“We’re Not Generating Enough Angry White Guys”

In the midst of the 2012 Republican Convention, here’s what Sen. Lindsay Graham said:

The demographics race we’re losing badly. We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.

Proving Graham to be prophetic at least this one time, President Obama went on to defeat Mitt Romney in that election.

Immediately following that loss, the Republican National Committee published their now-infamous “autopsy” saying that the Party needed to reach out to women and people of color – particularly via passage of comprehensive immigration reform. Not only did the Republican-controlled House reject that advice, as Kyle Cheney reports today, Donald Trump killed the autopsy.

Where does that leave Republicans? David Bernstein reports that it means that – if Donald Trump is their nominee – he’ll need the vote of 7 of 10 white guys in order to win.

If Trump wins the GOP nomination, he will be testing the limits of a strategy that has long haunted the Republican Party. Since the civil rights era, the Republicans have relied heavily upon white male voters in order to overcome a disadvantage among minorities and some subsets of women. Mathematically, that was an easier strategy a half-century ago, when white men dominated the electorate. But as the GOP failed to broaden its coalition and the demographics of America have shifted dramatically, an ever-greater percentage of white men has been required to secure a GOP victory.

And if, as it appears, Trump’s opponent in the general election is Hillary Clinton, his lane becomes even narrower. If things continue the way they’ve been going, just how much of the non-Hispanic white-guy vote would he need to win?

The math suggests Trump would need a whopping 70% of white men to vote for him. That’s more than Republicans have ever won before – more than the GOP won in the landslide victories of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and far more than they won even during the racially polarized elections of Barack Obama.

I can’t vouch for the math. But overall it lines up pretty well with what even Republicans have been worrying about for the last four years. And I doubt the math changes that much if Rubio or Cruz is the nominee.

A lot of Democrats are suggesting that the Party needs to be taking the nonsense currently engulfing the Republicans very, very seriously. And believe me…it is important to take any march towards authoritarian fascism seriously. But let’s also keep a few things other things in mind:

1. As I pointed out the other day, the context of the warning about taking Trump seriously is to get Democrats focused on winning over angry white guys…the very ones who even Lindsay Graham said are not enough to secure a victory for Republicans. It is important to hear these voters concerns, but not to the exclusion of everyone else.

2. No matter who the two nominees are, the media will find it necessary to portray this presidential contest as close. They need that in order to generate the eyeballs and clicks necessary to make money. That’s why CEO of CBS Les Moonves recently said this about Donald Trump’s candidacy: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”

3. Democrats should stay focused on building their own coalition. As Dana Milbank documented recently, the anger isn’t as ubiquitous as we’ve been led to believe.

It is an article of faith this year that voters are angry. But this shorthand misleads. Certainly, there is real economic anxiety in the United States, but Americans are, overall, quite content: 87 percent of Democrats and 87 percent of Republicans alike said in a Gallup poll in January that they are satisfied in their personal lives. The anger that’s out there is directed at the malfunctioning government in Washington — and this anger is mostly on the Republican side.

Americans overall have a dim view of where the country is headed: 36 percent think we’re on the right track, and 60 percent say we’re headed in the wrong direction, in the January Washington Post-ABC News poll. But break that down further and you find that 89 percent of Republicans think we’re on the wrong track. With Democrats, it’s reversed: Only 34 percent say we’re heading the wrong way.

My sense is that the entire political zeitgeist has moved from an addiction to Trumpmania to real anxiety about the fact that he actually might be the Republican nominee. Let’s keep in mind that, even if that happens, he faces yuuuuge obstacles to actually winning in November.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.