So much of my work has focused on exposing subversive Republican tactics and Jim Crow-style politics: educating potential voters about America’s long, dark history and how racially divisive strategies still work with key demographics — namely some white voters. My fear was that Mitt Romney and those committed to “taking back our country” would successfully steal the presidential election — by suppressing votes, exploiting racial animus and, perhaps, even rigging voter machines and discarding legitimate ballots.
But my fears appear to have been overrated and overindulged. It was difficult to hear and see through the smoke screens of the Republican Party’s race-based war on Barack Obama. I, too, had become convinced of the enemy behind the imaginary Maginot Line: not the anti-colonialist, radical-socialist invention of Dinesh D’Souza and Newt Gingrich, but the angry white man who worships at the altar of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.
Thankfully, it was all a mirage, and the rainbow coalition did not discriminate: Obama’s showing among blue-collar whites in the Rust Belt was strong, despite Romney’s lead among white voters nationally. And 56 percent of all Obama voters were white.
This is key, and has real consequences for how we should now see our body politic. No longer can politicians, pundits or partisan operatives lazily assume that the American electorate is so black and white. Beige and brown have become the order of the day, and even white voters can see through the dated race-baiting intended to manipulate them.
Of course, Obama’s success required hard work and strategy as well. The president’s Chicago team brilliantly employed a well-organized ground game of volunteers alongside a sophisticated system of analytics. It allowed them to micro-target everyone from blue-collar whites in Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa; African Americans and independents from Denver to Portland, Ore.; and young Cuban Americans and Puerto Ricans in Miami-Dade, Fla. This reflects the new face of an increasingly diverse electorate.
In the wake of defeat, Republicans are now touting a need to adjust their outreach and messaging — especially to Latino voters — but what is actually needed is a full repudiation of the racist, xenophobic elements within the GOP. It has been tolerated for far too long, and window-dressing the problem with a Herman Cain or Marco Rubio won’t solve the problem.
If Asians, Latinos and African Americans continue to find common ground — both in social policy and in social identity — the Republican Party may well find itself marginalized and beholden to a dying demographic. And as Arizona and Texas, with their wealth of electoral votes, become increasingly diverse, that fate seems all but certain.
Edward Wyckoff Williams is a contributing editor at The Root. He is a columnist and political analyst, appearing on Al-Jazeera, MSNBC, CBS Washington and national syndicated radio. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.