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
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 0127 GMT (0927 HKT)
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
December 25, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT