Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Both parties have a huge race problem

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
October 26, 2012 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LZ Granderson: Sarah Palin's remarks about President Obama highlight GOP race issue
  • Granderson says Republicans are getting little support from minorities
  • Democrats also have a problem since Obama may get less than 40% of white vote, he says
  • Neither party appeals across racial lines, and that's a problem in a changing America, he says

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs

(CNN) -- I would call Sarah Palin's use of "shuck and jive" in a Facebook post criticizing President Barack Obama another one of those dog whistle messages to racists, but it's far too obvious to be covert. The woman who claimed to be an LL Cool J fan in her first book knew exactly what she was doing.

Why she did it is anyone's guess.

Maybe she's still mad Bristol didn't win "Dancing With the Stars," maybe she thought Donald Trump was hogging the dunce cap, or maybe she's so completely tone-deaf she thought she was helping the country.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

But she's not. Anything that encourages the decades-long trend of racial division along party lines is not good for the country.

Mitt Romney may very well become the next president. But the polls suggest if he does, he will have little minority support. In a country that is growing browner by the decade, Republicans relying solely on white people to win elections is not a sustainable strategy.

Opinion: Cool Obama vs. square Romney

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



And it's not a strategy that's reflective of the party's long history -- from President Abraham Lincoln to a Republican-led Congress passing the Ku Klux Klan Act in an attempt to dismantle the group.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 may have been signed by a Democratic president, but Republicans were the ones who provided the push in Congress necessary to get it to his desk. Remember in those days, Democrats didn't turn a blind eye to racism; they were oftentimes the racists, especially in the South, whose Democratic lawmakers led a 57-day filibuster trying to stop the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

When President Lyndon Johnson signed the act into law, he reportedly said he was handing the South over to Republicans for many years to come. And with that came segregation of a different sort.

Is Ohio must-win for Romney?
Could Lincoln be elected today?
Best moments from final debate
DNC chair: We're confident in North Carolina

Today, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana all have white Republicans and black Democrats representing them in the House, and Georgia is likely to follow. The Peach State's last white Democrat in the House, Rep. John Barrow, finds himself in a tough race in part because his district has been redrawn to include more Republicans and -- get this -- more white people.

Minority Dems vs White Repubs -- so much for a post-racial society.

In 2008, Obama's share of the white vote was 43%, which Ron Brownstein reported tied Bill Clinton's 1996 vote as "the party's best performance among whites since 1980."

In 2010, House Democrats received only 37% of the white vote.

Obama is said to be polling at 38% of the white vote this year. If that number holds, he's going to need more than 80% of the minority vote to get re-elected, a threshold well within his reach because Romney is failing to gain any traction with blacks and has no clue what it means to be Latino in this country.

If he had, I doubt he would've joked in the infamous 47% video that his road to the White House would be easier if he were one.

All of which points us to this: Both parties have a huge race problem.

Democrats have been hemorrhaging white voters for decades and cannot continue to rely solely on large minority turnout to make up the difference. They need to adjust their messaging so white straight males feel there is still room for them under the tent.

Recent history has shown minorities were behind the Republican Party once so it would be foolish to think it can't happen again. The president was right when he told the editorial board of The Des Moines Register that the growing Latino community is key to political success. But Obama is in a tight race because the Democrats' message has lost its appeal to a lot of whites.

And conversely, Republicans are really in trouble because they've all but ignored the black community, are losing the Latino community and in coming decades, whites will be in the minority. Romney may be able to win the White House in 2012 with little support from minorities, which may be good for him but bad for the party considering in 2011 the majority of infants under 1 were brown.

In two states that have gone red since the Civil Rights Act's passage -- Mississippi and Georgia -- at least 50% of the new babies born were minorities. In Texas, it's at least 60%. Just how long can Republicans ignore minorities and think they can maintain power? How many Facebook posts by Republican figureheads such as Palin can the party leaders allow to go unchecked?

Both parties are facing a crisis because neither has figured out a message that speaks across racial lines, and until one does, political discourse is only going to get nastier.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 0102 GMT (0902 HKT)
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1851 GMT (0251 HKT)
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2207 GMT (0607 HKT)
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1329 GMT (2129 HKT)
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 0336 GMT (1136 HKT)
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1223 GMT (2023 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 0221 GMT (1021 HKT)
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1300 GMT (2100 HKT)
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 2033 GMT (0433 HKT)
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 0442 GMT (1242 HKT)
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 2043 GMT (0443 HKT)
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 0858 GMT (1658 HKT)
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 0407 GMT (1207 HKT)
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1653 GMT (0053 HKT)
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 2245 GMT (0645 HKT)
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1700 GMT (0100 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 2301 GMT (0701 HKT)
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1744 GMT (0144 HKT)
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1335 GMT (2135 HKT)
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 0208 GMT (1008 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT)
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 2004 GMT (0404 HKT)
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1307 GMT (2107 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 2250 GMT (0650 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
October 11, 2014 -- Updated 1543 GMT (2343 HKT)
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT