Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sam's Clubbing

Reihan surveys the state of the election and likes what he sees. I don't quite buy it.

In this election, Reihan is right-- Republicans have reason for hope, though I think Reihan is missing one major factor among the blue collar voters he identifies: the Democratic presidential candidate is black, and there remains a shriveled but beating heart of racism in this country whose every pump damages Obama's campaign. I'm not a big supporter of the "he should be winning by more" meme; it seems like a classic example of the media looking for anyway to spin electoral politics as bad for the Democrats. But I do think that a case can be made that the Obama campaign has not taken enough advantage of some favorable conditions. And whatever else is true, the McCain camp receives treatment from the campaign media that money can't buy.

In the main, though, if I was a Republican I think I'd be depressed by the continued dominance the Democrats enjoy over Hispanic voters. For all his backtracking and shameless pandering to his base on the immigration issue (like not voting for his own bill), McCain is about as palatable from an immigration standpoint as a Republican is going to be. I keep hearing about how Hispanic voters (and Mexican immigrants in particular) are "natural parts of the conservative block" and that, as they become a more affluent demographic, they'll start to vote Republican more often. That could still certainly happen, though I would hope to see better numbers even now-- I mean, look at this (via Yglesias and several others). Those are ugly numbers. I also wonder, too, about the consequences of these competing narratives for conservatism. Can conservatives rely on an ideological influx from rising affluence and still court the Sam's club voters? I'm not sure if they can, or at least if they undertake the project of Grand New Party in good faith, as Reihan and Ross certainly do.

I think the larger thing for me, though, is that "grand narrative" style political analysis only has limited salience for me. I mean when people talk about an era of conservative dominance stretching from 1994 to 2006 or from 1980 to 2006 or continuing to the present or whatever, or the "60s revolution" or whatever-- I understand the appeal in doing that, and I'm not denying that such things exist. But to me they just have little meaning in the specific context of an individual time. I'm much more interested in talking about this issue, this bill that's coming up, this latest immoral military adventure, this election, this Supreme court case. The wider tableau is interesting but largely uninformative.

I also find that such discussions tend to simply be an opportunity for either side to declare victory. Conservatives tend to say that the reason their ideological cupboard is bare is because they won-- immigration reform, crime, the cold war! Victory all around! And there has always been a triumphalist edge to liberalism, the notion that in the long term we win, and you can't fight change, etc.

I tend to think that the best way to confront that is to let people declare victory. Because who cares? Congratulations, conservatives! Atta boy. Now on the to the issues at hand.

1 comment:

Steve Sailer said...

Right. Hispanics have been, on the whole, old-fashioned tax-and-spend Democrats since 1960. Occasionally, a Republican, like Reagan or Bush II, who understands and can appeal to their sense of machismo, appeals mildly to them, but Latinos generally vote their economic interests, just as Thomas Frank would tell them to.

There are just a lot fewer Hispanic voters than the media routinely assumes -- only 5.8% of the electorate in 2006 according to the Census Bureau.