It all began with the Southern Strategy.
Starting in the 1960s, the Republican Party made a conscious effort to win votes in the South by appealing to racists.
As Kevin Phillips, a political strategist for Richard Nixon, explained in 1970: “The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.”
The cynical strategy has, sadly, often paid off. However, by appealing to the lowest common denominator, Republicans have become the party of white identity politics. Donald Trump has taken that to the next level.
But a shift in demographics is quickly making this strategy ineffective, if not downright counterproductive — as we’re seeing with Donald Trump.
After the GOP’s struggles in 2012, the GOP released a 100-page autopsy report about what went wrong and how to fix it. It emphasized reaching out to women, minorities and gay voters. The report said the party is “continually marginalizing itself, and unless changes are made it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win another presidential election in the near future.”
It goes on, “Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the Party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country.”
Unless the GOP becomes more inclusive and welcoming on social issues, the report says, “we will limit our ability to attract young people and others, including many women, who agree with us on some but not all issues.”
So how’s that new strategy gone for them?
Regarding those youngsters “rolling their eyes,” Trump, in a recent McClatchy poll, had just 9 percent of the votes of Americans younger than 30, which is lower than Clinton’s 41 percent and also Gary Johnson’s 23 percent and Jill Stein’s 16 percent.
While the report acknowledged that the GOP needs to get up to date on social issues, the party hasn’t done so. The GOP put together one of the most anti-LGBTQ platforms in history.
The GOP knew it struggled with female voters after Mitt Romney lost that demographic by 12 points in 2012. So now the party has nominated Trump, a sexist who’s 23 points behind Clinton with women.
In 2012, Romney won 5 percent of the African-American vote, which the GOP knew was bad. Now, Trump, who has the support of former KKK leader David Duke, is making it even worse. In some states, he is literally getting 0 percent of the black vote. Zero percent.
When Romney won only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, the GOP knew that was an issue, too. In their report, tea party leader Dick Armey explained: “You can’t call someone ugly and expect them to go to the prom with you. We’ve chased the Hispanic voter out of his natural home.”
The party admitted that before nominating a man who has characterized immigrants as “criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.”
Rather than expanding the tent, Trump has exposed the deep intolerance of many voters.
Trump will likely be crushed in November, with even GOP strongholds like Texas possibly coming into play. But his shenanigans will also take a serious toll on the Republican Party that nominated him, across the board.
But this isn’t about the next four years. It’s about the next four decades.
As it stands, the GOP is literally dying off.
The growth of America’s white population is already slowing; in a decade or so, it will begin to decline. On the other hand, non-Anglo populations already account for over 90 percent of population growth. By 2043, non-Hispanic whites will no longer be a majority of America’s population.
Rather than recognizing these demographic changes and adjusting their message accordingly, the GOP has instead worked to make it harder for people to vote. These voter ID laws are finally - and rightfully - being called out for what they are: racist.
The Grand Old Party hasn’t been so grand in a while, but it has definitely been old, and only getting older.
The party has been lingering on its deathbed, and Trump has speeded up the process by setting fire to the whole Republican log cabin. Rather than splashing water on the flames, it’s time for the GOP to come to terms with reality and wait for the party to burn to the ground.
Only then, when the smoke of bigotry clears, can supporters of small government and personal freedom rise from the ashes to provide a fresh new vision for all Americans.
Mac McCann is an intern with the editorial board of the Dallas Morning News.