With 90 percent of black voters and 65 percent of Hispanics supporting Vice President Al Gore in the 2000 election, Mr. Gore’s successor as the Democratic presidential candidate has to understand that he can’t possibly win this year without similar support from both groups. Indeed, John Kerry, as recent polls suggest, will win just such support, but that doesn’t mean black and Hispanic leaders are not badgering him for not paying them more attention.
Late last month the Washington Post reported that “African Americans … experienced in getting out the vote say the candidate has done little to energize a constituency that could ensure [Mr. Kerry’s] election.” [Kerry Urged to Do More to Get Black Votes By Darryl Fears, June 29, 2004]
The experienced black vote-getter-outers included the Rev. Joseph Lowery, formerly of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who told the Post “he is ready to get off the bench and into the game for Kerry, but no one is asking.”When was the last time Mr. Jackson felt that someone paid him too much attention?
Hispanic leaders have rumbled similar noises, whimpering that Mr. Kerry just hasn’t courted them enough. For his part, Mr. Kerry was quick to make up for his insufficiencies in pandering.
Only 24 hours after the Post story appeared, he popped up at the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition convention in Chicago, where he vowed to do more for blacks. Just before that, he spoke at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, where the chief such official complained that neither presidential candidate has courted them enough. Finally (at least for midsummer) Mr. Kerry traveled to the national conference of the Hispanic racist organization, the National Conference of La Raza (The Race), where he prostrated himself yet more shamelessly.
The point of rehearsing all these tales of Mr. Kerry’s epic efforts to court the non-white blocs that are the mainstay of the Democratic Party is to emphasize that this election will change nothing. Back in the fall, when the now-forgotten Howard Dean was muttering about the need for Democrats to appeal to white “guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks” and was thoroughly denounced by his comrades for even suggesting such a thing, it sort of looked like some Democrats might possibly take or maybe just think hard about Mr. Dean’s advice. It is now clear that nothing of the kind happened or will happen.
Indeed, it can’t happen because the Democrats have created their own constituency through decades of delivering on their pandering to the very kind of organizations to which Mr. Kerry spoke earlier this month. At the La Raza rally, for instance, he virtually promised a full amnesty for illegal immigrants, a position he had long endorsed but which he found expedient to repeat again.
Having constructed for the last 40 years or more a party that serves up civil rights laws, affirmative action, liberal judges who enforce and create more civil rights laws and more affirmative action, hate crimes laws, welfare of all descriptions, and more immigration and more “rights” for immigrants and other minorities, the Democrats have built their party around an agenda that caters to blacks and Hispanics and the ever-dwindling number of whites willing to support that agenda. It would be astonishing, similar to the moon leaving its orbit and circling around the Sun, for Democrats not to appeal to such interests or for those to whom they appeal to support a rival candidate or party.
Nevertheless, that is precisely what the Republicans seem to expect both blacks and Hispanics to do. Hence, every year (and this year is no exception), Republicans boast of how much black and Hispanic support they’re getting and how they’re finally going to break through and start winning majorities. This year they’re especially excited because Arnold Schwarzenegger in California won all of some 30 percent or more of the state Hispanic vote last year, a marginal improvement over what previous GOP candidates had won. Therefore, the Republicans have convinced themselves, Mr. Bush will win even more this year nationally.
But Mr. Bush is no Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the rest of the nation is not California (yet). And even if the Republicans really wanted to win non-white votes, they simply don’t have the track record of pandering to them to match, let alone beat, the Democrats.
They don’t have such a track record and cannot create one for the simple reason that the Republicans’ base is middle class white people who intensely dislike the Democrats’ agenda and the interests to which it appeals. There is no way for the GOP to imitate that agenda and attract the non-white votes Democrats attract without alienating and perhaps losing its own white base. Nevertheless (again), if the Republicans keep pandering, alienating their base is exactly what they might accomplish—even as Mr. Kerry solidifies his own.