No, Dennis, Tricking the Scary Others Is Not A Feasible Electoral Strategy

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, November 14, 2012 10:00 EDT
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Via Jill Filipovic, it appears that Dennis Prager has weighed in on the demographic issues plaguing the Republicans. His conclusion—and I’m not exaggerating—is that white men are better than the rest of the country, and the key is getting women and racial minorities to recognize that inherent superiority. It’s truly a marvel of self-delusion, so let’s dig in a little.

The Democratic party and the Left generally have done a magnificent job in identifying conservative values as white-male values. One reason for their success is that they dominate virtually every lever of influence: the high schools and universities, television, newspapers, movies, pop culture, and everything else except talk radio.

White men clearly continue to own most of the media and in some places, are way overrepresented, such as in TV and movies, with the latter often painting a picture of the world that would have you believe that women are only about 5% of the population. Presumably, his hedge would be that the white men that control the media are all members of The Left, and thus they hate white men and want to unfairly stereotype them. Why they would want to do that to themselves is unexplained.

Indeed, Prager sort of gets that this is a problem for his argument.

This identification seems to be working. But it’s intellectually dishonest. Aging white males are as important to the Left as they are to the Right.

In a recent issue of The New York Review of Books, liberal Harvard professor Benjamin M. Friedman strongly criticized the Tea Party. After citing “surveys showing that Tea Party members are ‘predominantly white, male, older, more college-educated, and better off economically than typical Americans,’” he noted parenthetically, “they sound like, say, readers of The New York Review of Books.”

Come to think of it, these people who make up the Tea Party also sound like the people who attend classical-music concerts and endow concert halls, museums, hospitals, and universities, and fund left-wing causes (George Soros, for example).

Yep, a minority of white people aren’t so bad. I don’t think any liberals would deny that. But statistically, a majority of white people—especially men—strongly disagree with the rest of the country about what direction to take this country. This isn’t something that you can just bullshit away, as much as Prager wishes to try. But Prager is pretty bad with numbers generally:

I suspect not. And if not, the Left may come to regret its contempt for this particular group. Without aging white males, I doubt the New York Times would survive. How many young people, females, Hispanics, and blacks subscribe to the New York Times?

As Jill points out, there’s a way to answer at least part of this question. Turns out that Prager’s haughty disdain for the silly idea that “females” bother to read newspapers is, uh, really stupid. In fact, there are more female subscribers to the New York Times than male subscribers. The median age of a reader is 46, which suggests that they’re not nearly as old as Prager imagines. And again, all this is attacking a straw man. Obama got the majority of white voters in New York state.

No one is claiming that white people can’t be liberals. Prager’s trying to confuse “almost all Republicans are white” with “almost all white people are Republicans”, but these two claims are not the same ones by any means. If you’re confused, think about it this way: If I said, “Almost all the people in line at the grocery store live in Brooklyn,” no one takes that to mean that I’m saying that all people who live in Brooklyn are in line at grocery store.

The issue here is that the Republicans have built a coalition whose purpose is protecting white male privilege. It’s not “The Left”‘s fault that this is true. Republicans have cultivated that image:

And that’s fine. They’re allowed to form a political party to protect one group’s interest above all others, and it’s a good thing that they are representing that vision accurately. But other people are not required to sign on, and whining about that is just silly.

For conservatives, the issue is that for generations now, they have failed to make the case for their values. They haven’t even conveyed conservative values to many of their children. And when they have, the university has often succeeded in undoing what they’ve taught.

The only answer to the “demographic” problem, therefore, is to bring women (single women, to be precise), young people, Hispanics, and blacks to conservative values.

But since those values are to value white, aging men above all other people, I’m skeptical that this project can be done. And that’s the problem with all these conservatives claiming they can fix their demographic problem without changing their beliefs: It’s predicated on the assumption that women and people of color are stupid. It’s clear that Prager thinks this, which is why he denied that they do something as basic as read newspapers. The whole conservative fix for the Republican Party is, “We believe white men are better than everyone else, and it’s just a matter of tricking all those other people into agreeing.” And so far, the strategy has been  basically trying to bully those groups by telling them they’re imbeciles for not seeing the obvious superiority of conservative white male judgment over their own. It’s a strategy that suggests that they’re too quick to assume the idiots in this equation are Everyone Else.

It’s fascinating how much Republicans simply cannot abide by the idea that they actually have to change their views in order to attract new voters. It makes sense; the Republican brand is basically “angry white men and their wives” and that’s that. They don’t have any other way to build an identity. Democrats have been able to survive years when liberalism was waning because they had their technocratic side to fall back on, but Republicans don’t have anything else. That’s why all their efforts were put first on voter suppression, and now that is diminishing as a way to win, they’re telling each other that it’s time to trick the rest of us, who they assume are stupid, into voting for them. Quite literally anything but actually shift their views to accommodate a changing country is on the table. If it weren’t so funny, it would be sad. It’s also kind of strange, because in the past the white male coalition has been able to survive demographic shifts by expanding the definition of “white”: It used to mean Anglo Protestants, but then they absorbed Germans, Italians, and Irish to maintain the coalition. Why that strategy isn’t working now is complex, and it’s clear that a few tweaks, like putting a handful of Latino and Asian politicians in front of their crowds, simply isn’t going to cut it.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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