Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Welfare Stereotypes Come Creeping Back Into Play

Welfare Stereotypes Come Creeping Back Into Play

The Republican Party is facing extinction, doomed by demographics to an ever-smaller slice of the electorate. It is increasingly a faction of aging whites, particularly those who tend to discomfort with racial diversity.

GOP leaders ought to be about the business of trying to expand their appeal beyond Joe the Plumber and Agnes the Retired Nurse. Indeed, a handful of well-known Republicans have said so pointedly, expressing dismay over the party’s suicidal tendencies. Jeb Bush and Mel Martinez, for example, have pleaded with party mandarins to stop bashing Latinos. Even former vice president Dan Quayle is pessimistic about the party’s prospects in the not-too-distant future.

“The Republican Party needs to re-establish its philosophy of the big tent with principles. The philosophy you hear from time to time, which is unfortunate, is one of exclusion rather than inclusion. You have to be expanding the base, expanding the party, because compared to the Democratic Party, the Republican Party is a minority party,” Quayle recently told The New York Times.

Instead, Mitt Romney has enthusiastically revived the discredited Southern strategy, which Republicans have relied on increasingly since Richard Nixon won a “law and order” campaign in 1972. The strategy is misnamed, however. The GOP has used it successfully to court racially resentful whites from Alabama to Arizona, from Mississippi to Michigan, from South Carolina to South Dakota.

In the latest iteration of that unfortunate strategy, Mitt Romney is running ads claiming President Obama is gutting welfare reform. The ads are vile and malevolent on many levels, starting with their premise: It’s a whopping lie. As numerous fact-checkers have pointed out, Obama has not made a single change that exempts welfare recipients from the requirement to work.

The president has said he would grant waivers from federal requirements to governors who want to pursue innovative ways to get more welfare recipients into jobs. Two of the governors who expressed interest in getting those waivers are Republicans, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. (Romney requested a similar waiver when he was governor of Massachusetts.)