(c) 2016, The Washington Post.
Since the 1960s, Republicans have had to battle against liberal elites' accusations that the GOP is exclusionary, anti-immigrant, uninterested in the fate of minorities and downright racist because the party rejected top-down welfare state programs, opposed race-based quotas and did not have a lot of national nonwhite leaders. That changed somewhat under President George W. Bush, who championed education and immigration reform. He got 44 percent of the Hispanic vote and 43 percent of the Asian vote in 2004.
In the Obama years, the GOP has had mixed results at best. The 2013 "autopsy" report scolded the party:
"If Hispanic Americans perceive that a GOP nominee or candidate does not want them in the United States (i.e. self-deportation), they will not pay attention to our next sentence. It does not matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies. In the last election, Governor Romney received just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote. Other minority communities, including Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, also view the Party as unwelcoming. President Bush got 44 percent of the Asian vote in 2004; our presidential nominee received only 26 percent in 2012. . . .
"Among the steps Republicans take in the Hispanic community and beyond, we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our Party's appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only. We also believe that comprehensive immigration reform is consistent with Republican economic policies that promote job growth and opportunity for all."
Although a bevy of nonwhite and/or female Republican leaders have stepped up in recent years (e.g., Nikki Haley, Marco Rubio), Republicans undid whatever progress they might have made with nonwhite voters when the House killed immigration reform and the party then nominated Donald Trump, who figuratively built his campaign on his wall, rounding up and expelling 11 million or 12 million people and banning Muslim immigration. His recent remarks about Judge Gonzalo Curiel are simply icing on the cake for Democrats, who have long claimed Republicans simply don't like minorities.
Republicans may protest and condemn Trump's comments all they like, but for every denunciation, a Republican surrogate offers up some contorted defense. And Republicans keep Trump as their nominee. Trump's racist and misogynistic rhetoric makes him toxic to women and minorities, and it risks tarring the party for years.
Meanwhile, polling suggests that voters overall aren't buying the Trump excuses. "The latest research from YouGov shows that only 20 percent of Americans think that Donald Trump was right to complain that Judge Gonzalo had a 'conflict of interest' because of his Mexican ancestry. Most Americans (57 percent) think Trump was wrong in his complaint. Even Republicans are divided on whether Trump's complaint was right or wrong, with 43 percent saying it was right but 39 percent saying that it was wrong." Even more stunning: "What a large majority of Republicans do agree on, however, is that Donald Trump's comments weren't racist. Only 22 percent of Republicans say that the comments were racist. In comparison 81 percent of Democrats and 44 percent of independents say that the comments were racist. " Viewed from the vantage point of skeptical minorities, the conclusion here is likely to be that Trump is a racist and a majority of Republicans (who won't acknowledge the "textbook case of racism") are nearly as bad.
In short, a bad rap (Republicans' opposition to the liberal agenda makes them racists) has been turned into an accurate, deadly analysis. (Too many Republicans harbor bigoted views of minorities and/or do not recognize racism when it's in front of them.) Not all Republicans can be labeled as such, but far too many. The solution only comes with repudiation of Trump, success of diverse candidates and an empathetic agenda that demonstrates Republicans care about all Americans, not just rich, white males.
It is that problem that now hangs over the GOP. It's why the GOP is likely to lose the presidential race and perhaps one or more houses of Congress. It is why many will conclude it is better to scrap the party and start anew. Ironically, they may have to kill off the party of Lincoln to save the spirit of Lincoln.
Keywords: republicans racism, republicans and trump, trump racism