Watching television coverage of the Republican caucuses in Iowa, I noticed that nearly everybody was white: white people smiling over coffee, white people applauding at candidate forums, white people singing praise songs at church. True, Iowa has so few blacks that it would probably take a hawk’s eye to spot one. But the GOP caucuses could have been held in any state, and the crowd would look the same.
Which made me wonder: In a country as large and diverse as ours, how is it that one of the two major political parties has become, in essence, a white people’s party?
Polls frequently note the overwhelming whiteness of the GOP, but they never quite explain it.
Why is a local columnist writing about the Iowa caucuses? I believe that racial demographics will play a crucial role in the presidential election and that the issue knows no geographical bounds. Read on.
The Pew Research Center did a poll last year that found: “While Republican gains inleaned party identification span nearly all subgroups of whites, they are particularly pronounced among the young and poor.” Another poll found that non-college-educated whites are flocking to the GOP.
But a Gallup poll found that Americans are more likely to blame Republicans than Democrats for the economic crisis, with its high unemployment and rising poverty. It makes no sense to me that the young and poor and working-class would “lean” toward the Republican Party, let along become a member of it. So what is it about being “white” that makes somebody do it?
Looks to me like those who call themselves Republicans have coalesced around nothing more than their whiteness. What else could it be? Certainly not economic self-interest.
Thomas Edsall, a journalism professor at Columbia University, observes that Republican strategists are trying to unify white voters by creating an “us vs. them” racial conflict.
“While the subject of race and of the overwhelmingly white Republican primary electorate are never explicitly discussed by Republican candidates, the issue is subsumed in blatant anti-immigration rhetoric,” Edsall wrote in the New York Times in November.
And, of course, there is that black guy in the White House to blame.
In addition, a recent Public Religion Research Institute poll found that 56 percent of Republicans, 57 percent of white evangelicals and 61 percent of those who identified with the tea party believe that discrimination against whites is as much of a problem as bigotry against blacks.
So while Wall Street rips off Main Street, Republicans are going around blaming African Americans and Hispanics (especially undocumented immigrants) for the pain and suffering of whites.