This will probably be the last presidential election in which Republicans can afford to ignore issues of paramount importance to Blacks and Latinos and expect to have a remote chance of winning the White House. Obama v. Romney is the political equivalent of Brown v. Board of Education. A separate and unequal approach to national politics is in its final days.
The U.S. is becoming increasingly diverse. The numbers tell the story. People of color, about one-third of the population, are expected to become a majority of the population in 2042 and 54 percent of the population by 2050, according to the Census Bureau. Latinos are expected to make up the largest share of that growth, tripling from one in six residents to one in three.
Meanwhile, Blacks and Asians are expected to grow at a rate of 60 percent by 2050. The Black share of the U.S. population will increase from 14 percent to 15 percent and Asians are projected to grow from 5 percent to 9 percent. By contrast, the non-Hispanic White segment will fall from 66 percent of the population to 46 percent.
Appealing to Whites
As the country grows increasingly diverse, the Republican Party has made a narrow appeal to Whites and is viewed as hostile to the interests of Blacks and Latinos.
According to a recent ABC News poll, Romney has a 65-32 percent lead over Obama among White men. That gap is twice as large as John McCain’s 57-41 percent margin over Obama among White men in the 2008 exit poll.
Obama outpolled McCain among White women by 13 points. He is leading Romney among that group by 15 percent, according to the ABC News poll. Still, that’s enough to give Romney 59 percent of the White vote.
Romney has gone after Obama on food stamps. Romney said, “Forty-seven million now on food stamps. When he came to office there were 32 million. He’s added 15 million people.”
Greatest under Bush
Obama countered by saying the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, saw its greatest expansion under George W. Bush. Given the state of the economy, Obama said it is only natural that more people would need to rely on food stamps.
Of course, talk about welfare and food stamps is a subtle and supposedly respectable way to make an appeal based on race. We’ll see on Tuesday whether it works in this election.
Whether it works or not, Republicans will have to find a different song in 2016.
George E. Curry is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA).