Last week several political strategists predicted to me that every racial button is going to get pushed hard in this fall’s presidential campaign. Their forecast is based on racial fears that are already being exposed. White Republican men form the strongest block of opposition to reelection of a black president—who, in turn, has near-unanimous support from blacks, and overwhelming backing from Hispanics and Asians.
Their predictions come against the backdrop of two white male political writers, Pat Buchanan and John Derbyshire, losing their jobs at MSNBC and National Review, respectively, after writing racially charged pieces. Buchanan lamented in a book that immigration and high Hispanic birthrates were leading to the “end of white America.” Derbyshire, writing in a small magazine, advised his children to avoid “concentrations of blacks,” and to not settle in any place run by black politicians.
The 2012 election comes at a time when the country is in the middle of a seismic shift in its demographics. Racial attitudes are also changing, for better or worse, with rising numbers of minorities and immigrants now more than 30 percent of the population. But in political terms, the GOP has failed to bring any substantial part of that growing population into its ranks. The heart of the party remains senior white voters who are resisting the loss of the America they grew up in 50 years ago.
A whole catalogue of racial fears was revealed during the Aspen Institute Symposium on Race in America, attended last week by a number of prominent experts and televised on C-SPAN:
—White fear of the increasing voting power of Hispanics, Asians and blacks. In the GOP primaries, the nation’s first black president was labeled as the “food stamp president.” He was charged with being a “socialist” and wanting to lead the country to become an “entitlement society.” This racially provocative language suggested hard-working white people being ripped off by lazy minorities. The experts see it a warning sign of the approaching racial storm.
Charles Blow, the New York Times columnist, sees a racial clash already emerging in the fight over voter identification laws being pushed by Republicans.
At the symposium, Blow said the racial powder keg is being ignited right now by GOP efforts to “shave off” 10 percent of the minority vote with what he called “voter disenfranchisement” laws.
Karen Narasaki, the immediate past-president of the Asian American Justice Center, told the symposium that Asian Americans are also feeling the sting of white racial profiling and anger at immigrants.
She predicts the Asian vote will make a difference this year for Democrats even in critical southern states, such as Virginia, where Asians now constitute 6 percent of the population.