Grover Norquist Thinks Pistol-Packing Frackers Who Home-School Their Kids Will Elect a Republican President in 2016

"I'm starting with the man in the mirror/I'm asking him to change his ways..."

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror/I’m asking him to change his ways…”

Everybody knows Republicans are suffering from demographic troubles in presidential elections. Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012 highlighted the fact that you can’t win the Oval Office with just the straight white vote. Even Republicans know that they mathematically need the LGBT and minority vote to win the White House. But rather than going about the difficult work of reforming the party, Republicans instead doubled down on restrictive voter ID laws to keep those people away from the ballot box. We’ll find out this fall whether these laws are successful or not.

But in the meantime, Republican strategists are struggling to find ways for the party to achieve a demographic win without actually welcoming any non-white, non-straight voters to their side. The preeminent Republican mathemagician, Grover Norquist, has devised six subgroups that he believes are going to be the “soccer moms” of the 2016 election, swinging the demographics back to the Republican side. Nancy LeTourneau at Political Animal sums up his categories like this:

1. Home schoolers
2. Charter school supporters
3. Concealed-carry permit holders
4. Fracking workers
5. Users of e-cigarettes and vapor products
6. Uber drivers

Uh, okay. The immediate problem with Norquist’s Six Great Republican Demographic Saviors is that I see a whole lot of overlap with the sole remaining Republican demographic of straight white people.  Homeschoolers? Yeah, the vast majority of homeschoolers are white. Whites make up 90 percent of all active concealed carry permit holders in Illinois. Whites only make up 37% of Uber drivers, but almost 90 percent of all Uber drivers are male. Norquist is not calling out many diverse groups, here. In fact, what he’s doing is taking the one piece of the pie that the Republican Party can lay claim to, dividing it into many smaller slices, and arguing that because there are more slices, Republicans somehow have a larger share of the pie.

Of course, I don’t really expect political genius from Grover Norquist; he’s the schmuck who had the big idea to shame Republicans into signing his anti-tax pledge. The pledge scored Norquist visibility as a kingmaker, and it resonated with Tea Party voters, but it effectively foiled Republican lawmakers from getting anything done in terms of raising revenue. Norquist’s pledge was something akin to requiring that chefs promise to keep their right hands tied behind their backs when they go in the kitchen. It’s one of the most marvelously short-sighted political maneuvers of the 21st century.

And as the Republican presidential campaign continues to drag on, it turns out that Republicans have even more demographic problems than the one they faced with Mitt Romney at the top of the ticket. Only 44 percent of Republican women want Donald Trump to win his party’s nomination, and, according to the Washington Post, that percentage is “higher than the percentage of women who prefer [Ted] Cruz or Ohio Gov. John Kasich.” When candidates say things like this…

…you can understand women for not being very enthusiastic about voting for them.

And so this is what strategists like Norquist are left with: trying to discover some never-before-seen demographic—homeschooling Uber moms who vape—who can swoop in like a fairy godmother and save the 2016 election for them. You know what would work better? Dropping the gimmicky pledges and the attempt to dissect the already-narrowing demographics of Republican voters into smaller categories and working to open the party up to more voters. This would not just benefit the Republican Party; if the GOP became more inclusive, Democrats would have to adopt even more inclusive strategies in order to stay relevant, and American politics would improve on a fundamental level—politicians would be more accountable, more people would get involved with the democratic process, and the dialogue would be a two-way street. That should be the goal for everyone.
 

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.