As leaders of the Republican Party debate whether their party can remain viable without expanding its appeal among black and Latino voters, the white nationalist group that first outlined a GOP “whites-only” strategy for presidential victories wants credit for its idea.
In November of 2000, as George W. Bush and Al Gore were still wrangling over a handful of hanging chads in Florida, Steve Sailer, an unabashedly racist columnist for the white nationalist site VDARE, wrote a column outlining a potential strategy for the GOP to remain strong in the face of changing demographics. In his column, titled “GOP Future Depends on Winning Larger Share of the White Vote,” Sailer crunched exit poll numbers and outlined a strategy by which the Republican Party could lose “every single nonwhite vote” and still win the presidency by working to increase its share of working class white voters. Sailer and VDARE continued to promote this strategy for over a decade, arguing that Republican attempts to reach out to people of color were not only bad politics, but also a losing strategy.
In the wake of President Obama’s reelection – which relied in a large part on the GOP’s alienation of black and Latino voters – the “Sailer Strategy” has seen a popular resurgence among the Right. While some GOP leaders, like RNC chairman Reince Priebus, have trumpeted the need for the party to expand its base in the face of changing demographics, others – including Phyllis Schlafly, Pat Buchanan, leaders in the anti-immigrant movement, and the editors of The National Review and The Weekly Standard– have argued that the GOP can instead build a lasting strategy by increasing its share of the white vote. These leaders argue that any effort to build a more inclusive Republican Party – and especially any effort to update the country’s immigration policy – would in the long term be futile because, as Schlafly indelicately put it, Latino voters don’t “have any Republican inclinations at all.”
The mostly implicit, but sometimes explicit, subtext in the push for this strategy is that it would be partly achieved by stirring up racial resentments among white voters against the country’s growing Latino population. Buchanan put it most clearly when he called for a renewal of the Southern Strategy – which fundamentally realigned the Republican Party by digging up and egging on Southern white racism against African Americans – only this time with Latinos as the target. (Not coincidentally, Buchanan and Schlafly have both cited Sailer's writings on race in their own work.)
In a fascinating National Journal cover story this week, Ronald Brownstein examines the numbers behind the increasingly popular GOP “whites-only” strategy, concluding that the combination of an expanding non-white population, growing Democratic trends among white voters and the geographical distribution of swing states, make it unlikely to succeed.
Republican strategist White Ayres put it more bluntly in an interview with Brownstein. The strategy, he said, “is not getting much penetration among people who are serious about winning presidential elections. It is getting traction among people who are trying to justify voting against immigration reform or making any of the other changes that are necessary to be nationally competitive in the 21st century."
Which, of course, was the whole point of the idea from its very first airing in Steve Sailer’s column.
Among those unhappy with Brownstein’s rigorously reported story were, predictably, the white nationalists at VDARE, who are not only still on board with the “whites-only” strategy, but are upset that now that the theory has taken off, Sailer is no longer getting credit for it. John Derbyshire, the VDARE columnist fired by The National Review after he wrote one too many racist screed, comes to the defense of Sailer and his strategy against Brownstein’s logic:
The wonkery here is, as you can see, very deep. For VDARE.com readers it is also deeply frustrating.
The central point of discussion here, the desirability of the GOP increasing its appeal to white voters, is the Sailer Strategy, which we have been airing, with full supporting numerical analyses, since the 2000 election.
We know that a prophet is without honor in his own country. But surely an occasional linked reference wouldn’t hurt?
Derbyshire then laments that the Sailer Strategy would be easier to implement if whites were not “too intensely engaged in their Cold Civil War—too much wrapped up in the pleasures of hating other whites—to unite as a tribe.” But he echoes other commentators in suggesting that it could be done if Republicans embraced a message of economic populism:
Note that, contra Ronald Brownstein’s title, there are some conceivable circumstances in which Republicans could win with whites alone.
Whites were 72 percent of the electorate in 2012. On current demographic trends, that number will decline at roughly two percent per 4-year cycle. That gives us ten or a dozen cycles in which whites are a majority of the electorate—well past mid-century.
If whites were to vote for white GOP presidential candidates as tribally as blacks vote for a black Democrat, with no additional votes from minorities at all, the presidency would be decided by the white vote alone in all but the last of those cycles.
Even if whites nationwide just voted as tribally as white Mississippians did last November (89 percent for Romney), all but the last three of those cycles would be a lock.
Well, conceivable, perhaps, but neither thing will happen. Whites are too intensely engaged in their Cold Civil War—too much wrapped up in the pleasures of hating other whites—to unite as a tribe.
What could happen, what we should wish to happen, is a turn on the part of the GOP to economic populism, as recommended by Sean Trende, and more recently by my VDARE.com colleague James Kirkpatrick in his article on Colorado:
Rather than serving as corporate lobbyists for the ultra-rich, the GOP should wage war on big money in politics and embrace a populist strategy against bankers, cheap labor, and offshoring.
A well-pitched populist appeal from an attractive candidate could reach parts that the current corporatist, big-donor-whipped GOP is not reaching. The fundamental issues are not hard to get across.
We don't agree with John Derbyshire on a lot, but we do agree with him on one thing: Republican proponents of the Sailer Strategy should give credit where credit's due.