By Alan Bean
As things presently stand, Mitt Romney can count on 60% of the white vote, 33% of the Latino vote and 0% of the African American vote.
Not 5% . . . 0%. There may be a few thousand black Republicans nationwide willing to pull the lever for the white guy, but there aren’t enough of them to constitute a single percentage point.
I would have thought that a small but measurable contingent of black voters would be with the Republican candidate. He is the pro-life, anti-gay rights candidate, after all, and black evangelicals have a reputation for being pro-life and anti-gay rights.
And what about the small sliver of the black electorate wealthy enough to be helped by Republican fiscal policy? What’s with those guys?
According to the Washington Post, Republican candidates like George W. Bush and Bob Dole captured just over 10% of the black vote. Hardly a stellar performance, but an improvement on an absolute electoral vacuum.
The lack of Latino enthusiasm for Mitt Romney is understandable. A harsh anti-immigrant stance lay at the heart of Romney’s primary season strategy and the new Republican Party platform shifts to the right of their standard bearer.
Romney made a point of attending the NAACP conference in July where he claimed to be the candidate who would do the most for African Americans.
No one was fooled.
When the Republican candidate used his NAACP address to flay “Obamacare” it was obvious that the folks assembled before him weren’t his real audience. Romney’s cynical handlers were hoping that the sight of their man being booed and heckled, however politely, by a room of black opinion leaders would help his standing with the white electorate.
And we’re not talking about the conservative white voters who wouldn’t vote for Obama if you held a gun to their heads. The message was aimed at white swing voters; the folks on the fence.
This level of cynicism has characterized Republican political algebra since the notorious Southern Strategy was cobbled together in the late 1960s. Racial resentment runs so deep in America that a solid majority of white voters can be manipulated by a thinly-veiled racial pitch.
You can’t be too gross about it, of course, no one outside a few counties in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia wants to be accused of overt, “I love the Nigra, in his place” bigotry. But whenever Romney contrasts Obama’s entitlement nation with the personal responsibility America dear to the hearts of Republicans he’s fishing in the slough of racial resentment.
When white voters think welfare, they think black, and Romney’s handlers know it. The bogus complaint that Obama has scaled back work requirements in the welfare-to-work system doesn’t have to be true. To most white swing voters, sending out checks no-questions-asked is just the sort of thing a black president would do for his kind.
This is called “dog whistle” politics, the theory being that only conservative whites can hear the high-pitched whine of racial resentment. Although, from a Republican perspective, it hardly matters, the ears of African Americans have become highly attuned to dog whistle politics over the years, and for good reason. If you’re black, that ear-splitting siren always spells trouble.
This year the squeal is so loud and persistent that zero percent of African American voters fail to hear it. It’s white moderates, the kind who generally vote for Democrats, who remain deaf to the whistle, and so long as that’s true the Southern Strategy marches on.