Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

The depth of the GOP's self-delusion is astonishing

If you want to know how deep the Republican Party has sunk into its own self-destructive delusions, consider this:

Most members of the Republican National Committee contacted by Politico this week responded by saying that yes, they believe that the 2016 election is being rigged against them. These people are not the base;  they are party leaders with at least some degree of political sophistication. And they have bought wholeheartedly into utter nonsense:

“I do believe that there are elements that will try to rig the election on varying degrees of scale and this will certainly affect the outcome in varying degrees,” said Peter Goldberg, an RNC committeeman from Alaska.

“Should Hillary get ‘elected’ she is immediately delegitimized,” said California RNC Committeeman Shawn Steel in an email. “The 1% of Wall Street Bankers, Clinton Machine and [mainstream media] including your employer, Politico, is part of a massive Left Wing Conspiracy to rig this election.”

As an American, I find that deeply discouraging, even dangerous. This will be the sixth time in seven presidential cycles in which the GOP lost the popular vote.  The polls suggest that Donald Trump is losing by a double-digit margin, with growing signs of a landslide in the making. And the reaction of top GOP officials around the country is to seek a psychological "safe harbor" in the idea that they are losing because it is rigged?

I understand the appeal of that explanation. As long as they can think that it's rigged, they can also believe that they're not doing anything wrong, that they don't have to change their rhetoric or policies and that they still live in an America in which they are the real majority somehow being cheated out of the authority they deserve.

But frankly, that is delusional, all of it.

Republicans, you are not losing because you are being cheated. You are not losing because the system is rigged against you, because the media are unfair, because the debate commission is fixed, because black churches are busing in people to vote multiple times or because illegal immigrants are being shipped across the border to be registered immediately. In today's world of leaks and hacks, it would be absolutely inconceivable to carry out a conspiracy of that magnitude without exposure. A moment's honest contemplation ought to tell you that.

But if you aren't losing because you're being cheated, then things get a little more difficult, don't they? You then have to start considering that you are losing because you have become badly out of touch with the rest of the country.  You might have to ponder the possibility that you have enveloped yourself in a fantasy world that has no future, and that if you have any hope of regaining influence over the future of this country that we all love, you better re-engage with reality before you have lost an entire generation.

Please, look at the crosstabs of the new Bloomberg poll, which has Trump down by nine points.

Look first at the racial demographics in the column on the far right. We all know that the majority of new voters coming into the system each year are non-white, and the majority will be non-white next year and the next presidential cycle and for as long as this country exists.

And your candidate is losing the non-white vote by 53 percentage points.

Fifty-three points.

You somehow think that is sustainable? Go ahead and try to deny it, excuse it, explain it away with some far-fetched but self-serving conspiracy theory, but that reality will still be there. That is the future, your party's future, and that future is grim.

But instead of recognizing and responding to that future, you have chosen a man who rode the racist birther meme to your party's nomination, who by rhetoric and attitude has significantly and perhaps permanently compounded the Republican Party's problem with every single non-white population group, making the Republican brand poison.

Your problems with black voters are longstanding, of course, but the insincerity of your sporadic "outreach" efforts fools no one but yourselves. Some 90 to 95 percent of black voters want nothing to do with the GOP, and rather than ponder what you might do to change that, you explain it away to each other with snickering claims that black voters like to be taken care of on the Democratic plantation.

Like the rigging fantasy, that explanation makes you feel better. You like it because it turns your problems into somebody else's fault, because it says that black Americans are too stupid to know what's really good for them, and because it confirms your stereotype of black voters as lazy people with their hands out. But know this:  Every time you make that racially tinged, tone-deaf argument, you drive another nail into your own political coffin, not just with black voters but with voters of every non-white group who recognize that rhetoric for what it is, even if it's not directed at them.

Again, look at the numbers. In Georgia alone, more than 26,000 new Latino voters have registered in the past year, more than any other ethnic group. They are not rushing out to register so they can vote for Donald Trump. Look also at what has happened with Asian Americans, another fast-growing group. As recently as 1996, Asian-American voters tended to be more Republican than Democratic. Just 16 years later, in the 2012 election, you lost them by 47 percentage points, and this time around the gap will grow even larger.

What's your explanation for that one? It's not as if the Democrats have proposed some miraculous new policies that have suddenly made them hugely appealing to Asian Americans. What you see above makes sense only as a mass reaction against the bigotry that those voters see coming from the GOP.

Now, look again at the Bloomberg demographics (and sorry, every national poll tells this same story).

Among voters younger than 35, Trump is losing by 16 percentage points; he's losing by 17 points among those 35 to 54. The only groups in which he is even competitive are with those 55 and older. Again, does that sound like a party with a future, a party that can keep doing what it has done and remain relevant? In his races against John McCain and Mitt Romney, Barack Obama enjoyed similar margins. At no point in the history of polling has one party had an advantage that large and sustained for that many years among younger voters.

Look also at the college-graduate numbers. In 2008, Obama won that group by eight percentage points. This year Hillary Clinton, a far less popular candidate, is winning that group by 22 points. Is that a number that is trying to tell you something, or is that too a product of rigging? Are the Democrats shipping busloads of college graduates to the polls to vote? Are they shipping them across the Mexican border to register illegally?

I know this sounds harsh. I understand that it might be hard to swallow, because it's not what you want to hear and it's not what they tell you on Fox News. But when you watch Fox, note what's being advertised. Prescription drugs, wheelchairs, walkers, Medicare supplements, gold. That's because the average age of the Fox News viewer is 69 years old. Fox is the cable TV equivalent of a nursing home, with everybody in that nursing home isolated from what's really going in the outside world, and it is to their financial benefit to keep you that way.

Because we Americans have increasingly "self-sorted" ourselves into ideologically like-minded communities, because technology now allows us to see and hear only those things we want to see and hear, because the media industry has found it profitable to carve us into niche markets and then cater to the whims and bias of each niche, it has become possible to build an entirely false mental picture of the nation in which we live, a place where we feel safe and reassured and in the majority.

But the numbers say otherwise, so I guess you face a choice.

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.