Death Knell for the Silent Majority?

by Patrick J. Buchanan – December 4, 1998

Richard Nixon is condemned for many things, but one achievement can never be taken away. Nixon was the architect and builder of the greatest political coalition since FDR.

Taking command of his party after the Goldwater defeat of 1964, in which the GOP won only 39 percent of the vote, Nixon built a 49-state, 61 percent New Majority by 1972. Ronald Reagan’s triumphs were won by reuniting, not creating, the great Nixon coalition.

To keep their coalition together, Nixon and Reagan used the same formula: Unite the GOP, and then hammer on the themes of anti-communism, patriotism and social conservatism to attract millions of Northern ethnic Catholics and Southern white Protestants whose kinfolk had been proud to call themselves “yellow dog” Democrats.

A hard look, however, at a New York Times breakout of the 1998 returns into 115 demographic groups reveals that the Nixon-Reagan New Majority coalition may be literally dying out. While congressional Republicans swept white America, 57-43, and white Protestants, our largest religious minority, 65-35, they lost Asians, 44-56, Hispanics, 37-63, and black Americans, 11-89.

As Asians, Hispanics and Africans constitute 90 percent of our new immigrants and naturalized citizens, have larger families and are, on average, younger than whites, demography may have passed a death sentence on the Republican coalition.

As Republicans awaken to the meaning of these numbers, they are being admonished to drop their opposition to mass immigration. This is the counsel of political suicide. For GOP opposition to open borders is not the problem. In 1988, before immigration was an issue, the congressional GOP did worse among Hispanics, 24-76, than in 1998. Something else must explain what is happening.

It does. The GOP problem lies in the growing solidarity and militancy among ethnic groups (a worldwide phenomenon from Russia to Scotland to Canada) and their perception of self-interest. Nor is this unusual. Historically, immigrants have been poor and have united against the outside, and from the Irish who came after the potato famine to the Poles, Italians, Jews and Slavs who came before 1920, they have generated to the Democratic Party.

Why? Because Democrats were the party of government, and the immigrants saw government as a benefactor. And they continue to do so today, for it is still the poor and working class that get the most from social welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, affirmative action, a $5 minimum wage, job programs, free schools, school lunches, Pell grants and so on.

When these folks hear Republican calls for “less government and lower taxes,” they are unmoved. Not only do they look on government as an ally, but their wages do not reach a level high enough for federal income taxes — and few have any capital gains to declare.

Thus, while it may have been illegal for Bill Clinton’s agents to naturalize almost a million new citizens on the eve of the 1996 elections, it made perfect sense politically. The Clintonites probably created four new Democrats for every new GOP voter.

LBJ may not have intended it, but his Immigration Act of 1965 has drawn into the United States from Asia, Africa and Latin America 30 million people who are reviving a Democratic Party that was dying, as older minorities — Scots-Irish, Irish, Germans, Italians, Poles, Slavs — were leaving en masse for the party of Nixon and Reagan.

Is the GOP then finished, destined to lose the White House in almost every election, as it did from 1932 to 1968, unless saved by war, scandal or a national icon like Dwight D. Eisenhower? No, if it will only act on the historically proven proposition that as minorities move up economically, they move over politically into the GOP.

If the GOP wishes to begin to build a new majority, it must bite the bullet, write an end to racial preferences that come at the expense of its base and impose a moratorium on immigration.

While the media would howl, this would energize a party base that is 90 percent behind both propositions. A time-out on immigration would also tighten the labor market, forcing wages to rise. Add a new trade policy to stop the Clintonite-corporate betrayal of America’s working men and women through the export of their best jobs and a new tax policy to unburden the middle class and free small business to create manufacturing jobs here — and you have a program to appeal to Democratic and Republican minorities both.

In the last two presidential elections, the GOP tried to mollify the Big Media and pander to the people who most dislike them.

Nixon and Reagan triumphed by doing the opposite.