Howell Raines, the controversial former editor of the New York Times and self-described "liberal to radical," notorious for using his perch to crusade against the all-male policies of Augusta National Golf Club and Fox News, is back with some helpful advice for the "punitive" political party he loathes in a guest column for the paper's Sunday Review, "The Dream World of the Southern Republicans."
Raines, whose June 2003 downfall was instigated by his heavy-handed management style and the virulent plagiarism of Jayson Blair, rogue reporter and Raines protégé, gave "ultraconservative" Alabama governor Robert J. Bentley faint praise for taking down the Confederate flag. But not before saying that, as a former doctor, Gov. Bentley's refusal to take federal funds for Medicaid expansion displayed a "stunning indifference to the Hippocratic oath."
Raines' liberal snobbery is particularly unbecoming from an Alabama native:
It was not the first time Mr. Bentley, a two-term ultraconservative with a broad base among Sheetrock hangers and country-club grandees, has bowed to the zeitgeist. He has done so while assuring his white supporters that not much will change in Alabama except the industrial boom represented by Mercedes, Hyundai and Airbus factories....
Raines claimed "Even more dramatic changes in voter attitudes will shift the region’s party balance, to the detriment of the Republicans," because of "new voters in the burgeoning Hispanic and Asian communities, who will join the black minority."
Only pompous Raines can foresee these changes:
For the time being, however, a traveler through the South can’t help but notice that its affluent, suburban whites remain myopic about the obvious signs, like the multiracial families to be seen among Walmart shoppers on any given day in any shopping mall.
Judging from the laws they are passing, Southern Republicans seem untroubled by Mitt Romney’s 17 percent of the minority vote in the last presidential election. It seems an overstatement to say that Southern Republicans are in outright denial about the fact that whites will be a minority in America around 2043. It does seem fair to say that the national Republican Party is underreacting, and Southern Republicans seem to be especially resistant to appealing to their minority neighbors.
Raines does not accuse Republicans of flat-out racism, which is progress. Still, he accuses the GOP of somehow thumbing their nose at the non-white vote by actually sticking to their ideological principles.
Like their counterparts in the national G.O.P. and the current crop of about 15 me-too Republican presidential candidates, Southern legislators seem unwilling to make any change on social welfare, retirement, health care or women’s and gay rights that would attract Southerners not voting Republican at present.
A survey of demographic and polling data in what the Brookings Institution demographer William H. Frey calls a New Sunbelt, stretching across the Southern Rim from Miami to Los Angeles, makes an ironclad case for this huge recalibration in political and cultural attitudes. Yet, for example, in the Florida Panhandle the same whites who cheer the new Hispanic stars at high school soccer matches deliver a bloc vote for the most conservative-sounding candidates at local, state and national levels. Anecdotal evidence indicates that affluent Southern Republicans continue to believe that minority voters can be attracted with punitive polices based on the Paul Ryan model.
To prove it, Raines dragged demographic studies into the mix, which for decades have been used by liberal professors to assure their fellow Democrats that a grand Democratic realignment is just around the corner. Meanwhile, in the real world, Democrats hold only 18 of 50 governorships, Republicans hold two-thirds of state legislative chambers, and Texas is a securely red state.
In presidential politics, the transition will most likely be seen first in red states like Texas, Georgia and North Carolina, all states that could be in play next year and could become purple, if not yet blue, as early as 2020.
Lastly, Raines insultingly compared today's Southern Republicans to the racists of old:
It is a quintessential Southern pattern. The region’s most affluent citizens always resist the obvious at first....In the ’60s Birmingham’s business leaders allowed George Wallace to run amok in their town. It will take awhile for Southern and national Republicans to understand that, as Mr. Frey put it, “Demographics is destiny.” The longer they take to get it, the greater the odds that multiethnic Democrats will finally break the Republican lock on the solidly red South.