Why the GOP presidential candidates talk race (in code)

Earl Ofari Hutchinson | 1/24/2012, 3:56 p.m.

This ignores three political facts. Elections are usually won by candidates with a solid and impassioned core of bloc voters. White males, particularly older white males, vote consistently and faithfully. And they voted in a far greater percentage than Hispanics and blacks.

The 2010 midterm elections were political textbook proof of that. The GOP snatched back the House with a deft play on the long favored racial code themes of tax and spend Democrats, wasteful big government, run-away deficit spending on entitlement programs, and their full blown assaults on so-called Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security programs and labor unions.

The major recipients of these programs are and have always been white seniors, retirees, women and children, and white workers. But these programs have been artfully sold to many Americans as handouts to lazy, undeserving blacks, Hispanics and minorities.

Then there are the always thorny social issues. They slid off the nation’s radar scope the past few years mostly because the laser preoccupation and worry of most Americans has been over jobs and the economy. But they didn’t completely disappear as potentially inflammatory issues. GOP leaders have long known that blue collar white male voters can be easily aroused to vote and shout loudly on the emotional wedge issues: abortion, family values, anti-gay marriage and prayer. Santorum and Michele Bachmann, before her failed candidacy fell apart, did everything they could to play the family values card to fire up ultra-conservatives and Christian evangelicals.

The GOP’s traditional path to the White House has been to stoke the fears of whites over big government and minority encroachment. It failed in 2008 only because of the rage and disgust of legions of white voters at Bush’s horribly failed and flawed domestic and war policies, and the GOP’s sorry record of scandals and ineptness. This was not a radical and permanent sea change in overall white voter sentiment about the GOP as the 2010 midterm elections showed.

The ultimate end game of the GOP presidential contenders is to make Obama a one-term president. If they have to speak in racial code terms to do it, they’ll do it. It worked too well in the past for them not to.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.