You, unsuspecting citizen, probably take the view that the Republican Party is too White. It’s the conventional wisdom, after all, and last year’s election results would seem to have proven the point resoundingly. But you’re obviously not up with the newest thinking in some conservative quarters, which is that the party isn’t White enough, and that the true and only path to victory in the future is to get Whiter still. Some disagree, which gives us the makings of a highly entertaining intra-GOP race war playing out as we head into 2016. But given this mad party’s recent history, which side would you bet on winning?
The situation is this. The immigration reform bill passed the Senate yesterday. It will now go to the House. A few weeks ago, as I read things, there were occasional and tepid signals that the House would not take up the Senate bill. Now, by contrast, those signals are frequent and full-throated. For example, yesterday Peter Roskam, a deputy GOP whip in the House, said this: “It is a pipe dream to think that [the Senate] bill is going to go to the floor and be voted on. The House is going to move through in a more deliberative process.”
“Deliberative process” probably means, in this case, killing the legislation. House conservatives, National Journal reports, are increasingly bullish on the idea that they may be able to persuade John Boehner to drop the whole thing.
Last December, such an outcome was supposed to mean disaster for the Republicans. But now, some say the opposite. Phyllis Schlafly and talk-radio opponents of the bill like Laura Ingraham have been saying for a while now that the party doesn’t need Latino votes, it just needs to build up the White vote. And now, they have the social science to prove it, or the “social science” to “prove” it.
Sean Trende, the conservative movement’s heavily asterisked answer to Nate Silver (that is to say, Silver got everything right, and Trende got everything wrong), came out with an analysis this week, headlined “Does GOP Have to Pass Immigration Reform?,” showing that by golly no, it doesn’t. You can jump over there yourself and study all his charts and graphs, but the long and short of it is something like this. Black turnout and Democratic support have both been unusually high in the last two elections, which is true; Democrats have been steadily losing White voters, which is also true; if you move Black turnout back down to 2004-ish levels and bump up GOP margins among Whites (by what strikes me as a wildly optimistic amount), you reach White Valhalla. Somehow or another, under Trende’s “racial polarization scenario,” it’ll be 2044 before the Democrats again capture 270 electoral votes. Thus is the heat of Schlafly’s rhetoric cooled and given fresh substance via the dispassionate tools of statistics.