Among the many things Yogi Berra is reputed to have said, there’s this gem: “It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future.” Having said that, I’m going to make one about the 2016 election.
Barring any surprises, Marco Rubio will be on the 2016 Republican ticket as either the presidential or the vice presidential candidate. If he does well enough in the primaries he will be the presidential candidate (plan A), and if not he will be the vice presidential candidate (plan B). The other half of the prediction is that top-level Republican strategists will push for plan A. I admit that I’ve included a pretty elastic hedge. By “surprises” I mean anything that would ordinarily sink somebody’s political career but that sometimes happens anyway, e.g. being discovered having an affair, making disparaging comments about Jews into a live mic, being outed as gay by somebody else, or something similar. I do not mean a strong showing by another potential candidate, a controversial vote on an influential piece of legislation, or anything along those lines. It might be hard to tell whether the second part of the prediction comes true, but I will try to do so objectively.
Continuing the theme from an earlier post about the 2012 election, Republicans have a Hispanic problem. That is, an influential subset of an influential subset of the Republican Party does not want to reach out to them as potential Republican voters. Their neglect of this voting bloc in the 2012 election was commission, not omission. I have no doubt in my mind that even as I write this, Republican strategists are trying to hem this wing of the party in. Why? Whatever their beliefs may be in their heart of hearts, they want to win elections, and it’s becoming more and more of a truism that you won’t win a national election without at least some support from Hispanics.
Which leads to the next stage of reasoning. “Hispanic” is a very broad category, and it is not monolithic. It’s so broad, in fact, that as a Census category it’s almost absurd. Aside from differences of socioeconomic status, religion, and the like, it includes a large ethnic range; there are genetic and cultural inputs from Europe, Africa, the pre-Columbian Americas, and other places, and though mixed to a large degree there are millions of individuals for whom one region contributed a majority. Thus, Hispanics may view themselves and each other very differently, as well as be viewed differently by non-Hispanics. (I apologize for this review if it seems elementary. For many, it is not.)
Likewise, “white” is a broad category in the United States. Before the American Revolution, German immigrants were often not included in it.* One hundred years ago, Italian immigrants were not included in it. Nowadays nobody excludes either of these groups from the “white” category. Combining this with the previous two paragraphs, there is room for outreach to some Hispanic subgroups that will not be immediately unacceptable to the Republican subset I mentioned earlier and will reap large electoral benefits to the Republican Party. As long as “Hispanic” is still an operational category in peoples’ minds, this will win votes, and as long as the candidate is not so far from “white” it will do this without alienating an equal or larger number.
As a Cuban-American, Marco Rubio fits this profile perfectly, and he has the conservative bona fides to back it up. Not only this, but after the historic election of Barack Obama, this would be a very strategic Republican response.
I have no personal stake in this prediction other than hoping it demonstrates that I have properly understood some facets of politics and race in the United States. I am not a Republican and do not intend to vote for him or anybody else, nor to encourage anybody else to. I encourage people to think critically about politics, race, and everything else, and to test their understanding with predictions where applicable.
* I laughed reading passages in Albion’s Seed where Benjamin Franklin was quoted expressing his antipathy to them, and didn’t take it personally despite the fact that some of them may have been my own ancestors through my Pennsylvania Dutch grandmother. Despite his relative enlightenment for his time, his comments were backwards and offensive by our standards on a number of measures and, mutatis mutandis, could easily have been made during any other period of mass immigration or sweeping social change by any number of ignorant people.