NOW with Alex Wagner | February 18, 2013
>> republican party 's reliance on southern white voters once a successful electoral strategy has become a straight jacket for which the gop is desperately trying to escape. it wasn't always this way. "when the select wal authors of the modern right created its doctrines in the 1950s they drew on 19th century political thought borrowing explicitly from the great apologists for slavery. above all, the intellectually fierce south carolinan john c. calhoun . this is not to say the conservatives today share calhoun's ideas about race. it is to say, instead, that the calhoun revival based on his complex theories of constitutional democracy became the justification for conservative politicians to resist, ignore, or even overturn the will of the electoral majority. this politics of mull fiction can be seen today in republicans push for voter id laws, excessive use of the filibuster, blanket condemnation of any and all government services and the approach to social issues. president obama won hispanics by 44 points. african- americans by 87 points. gay and lesbian voters by 54 points, and young voters by 23 points. with that in mind robert draper asks in the "new york times" magazine can the republicans be saved from obselecence. the anecdotal evidence is not pretty. watching a gop voting group, draper saw the republican party described as old, middle-aged white men, marrow-minded, rigid, stuck in their ways." one gop digital specialist lamented the difficulty in recruiting younger republicans saying they don't want to be part of an organization that puts them squarely on the wrong side of history. sam has his article, which graced the cover of "the new republic." it's the republicans , the party of white people . sam , it is a great, great story. it really gives people, i think, a history of sort of where the party has come from, which is to say the party that was really champions of civil rights , the votinging rights act, and how far they have gone in the intervening years.
>> it's partly a story about the road built taken. in the 1950s dwight jiz enhaur was not the most fer vent activist of -- he appointed earl warren to the supreme court . we got the brown v. board historic decision. the first civil rights act passed since reconstruction was put through by the eisenhower administration without a single republican voting against it. then when there was a shocking stand-off many little rock , arkansas, when the little rock nine, young people , were not allowed to enter a public high school , eisenhower sent in the 101st airborne . at that moment the republican party was leading the nation from civil rights , and then they made a different term. they decided the south and states rights , which were the votes were to be had. s barely goldwater said you hunt where the ducks are. 1964 . we can grab the solid south . from 1968 to 1988 that more or less worked. they found an alienated white majority that was willing to accept a kind of cultural warfare. that's where the whole idea of cultural politics came in and the cultural wars, and what happened is the republicans never abandoned that, and they didn't see a huge demographic shift was happening in the country, and it's not just about african- americans and latinos . as you pointed out, the beginning of the segment, it's gay americans . it's women.
>> it's asians.
>> it's asian- americans . if you are the party of self-reliance and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and 75% of asian- americans don't vote for you, you've got a problem.
>> you've got a problem.
>> and what -- you talked about this a lot ol this show, but it is an ongoing saga. i mean, as sam points out, that legacy of calhounism has given rise to the tea party , and the republican party has not made peace with that by a long shot. you were talking about rand paul who is giving the rebuttal to the rebuttal. marco rubio , who is a self-described tea partier, and the question is how do you jockey the two positions, which is trying to move the gop forward, how to, you know, have brown people in your party, when you have such a resistant conservative base that really seemingly does not want to move forward into the future.
>> i think you saw that tension in rubio's reaction or rebuttal to obama 's state of the union . on the one hand he sounded exactly like mitt romney , if you closed your eyes and listened what he was saying, but then he had this sort of grassroots appeal where he talked about his parents' struggles, and then he made a pretty strong argument for government intervention in terms of student loans and medicare.
>> he talked about his family.
>> getting lifted up by their bootstraps largely with assistance of government programs.
>> i think one of the lessons -- you know, the gop this last campaign was very much win one for the gipper . it was about this demographic that reagan was able to win on. what they didn't learn was the lessons that bush should have taught them from 2004 . it wasn't just about latinos . she got 44% of the latino vote. he also did very well among african- americans in key states. ohio, virginia, florida. if you talked to republicans now, they sort of see that african- americans are a lost cause in terms of republicans . they do talk about latinos , but i do think it's more of a combination in some of the key states of african-american voters.
>> i saw rubio's address a little differently. i thought that the emphasis on medicare and his family and his student loans felt a lot more like a defensive credentialing. sort of like if you tell someone, oh, i think you're being rude to women, and they say how can i hate women? my mom is one.
>> or some of my best friends are black. what are you talking about? yes. makes sense.
>> it doesn't take you very far in conversation or politics. that was the defensive part. to go back to sam 's story, the larger problem for the tea party is what i would call the constitutionalization of political differences that you can debate the size and the role of government in the health care market, but when you spend a tremendous amount of energy and i would argue vitreal with what most people at the time thought was a very far-fetched view of the constitution, that it would somehow preclude the government from entering and regulating the health care market even though the government already is obviously in that market with direct health care services , right, they spent a lot of time and energy on that, and we're seeing that again in the voting rights case that's coming up where things that have been considered settled law for a long time are now part of a larger political movement that wants to really graft a limited constitutional view through not only the yushl branch but through the political branches, and i would say so far they're not very successful at it.
>> that's the sort of " tyranny of the minority ." the party of mull fiction. not surprisingly, some of those acceptance of those policies finds order in parts of the country where the republicans have a stronghold/stranglehold, largely areas of the oel confederacy. to an unprecedented degree, today's republican majority in the house is centered in the states of the old confed are as where i. the gop enjoys a 57-seat advantage across the 11-state region that stretches from texas to virginia. outside of the south, democrats hold a 24-seat majority.
>> even rand paul, i believe, said the republicans are in danger of no longer being a national party .
>> part of the problem is i did some number crunching too, and i have it in the story. if republicans can't hold on to texas , which apparently is something that they're worried about now, they may not be able to win a single state with 20 electoral votes .
>> which is shocking.
>> if there were a kind of rand atlas, world atlas electoral majority, the republicans do great because they get all those areas where nobody lives. right? all those states, you know. if you did the geographical presidency, they're terrific, or the square mile presidents. once you get into populous areas, the suburbs of denver aren't so different from westchester county where i live.
>> also, i mean, david plouff points out, obama won the cuban vote in florida. i mean, this was sort of supposed to be romney 's -- this is part of the latino population that he had maybe on lock, and obama won it.
>> i think sam 's piece really helps explain why immigration, of all of the issues -- i did a piece last week. of all the issues the president talked about his address last week, immigration has the best chance, and that is such a shift from a year ago, from five years ago, six years ago when it was just a radioactive issue. the fact that immigration is at the front of the legislative priorities on the republican party helps explain, you know, his piece helps explain why that is, which is that immigration is sort of an issue where like julian castro says it's a piece where hispanic voters decide sort of who is with us and who is not, and it really is -- it really gives you a good sense of why this is such a priority right now.
>> well, i mean, especially given -- the republican party -- george w. bush had a much more progressive view on immigration than today's republican party does. he was unafraid really to talk about amnesty in a way that is almost apart from the current gop .
>> karl rove was going to build his permanent republican majority on the backs of that. that's one reason he started in this other group. whatever you think of karl rove , he is a pretty good number cruncher, and there's no way if you are a republican strategist that you see the numbers they've got now and see anything but real trouble.
>> you got quietly privately republicans move this. privately they liked what rick perry was saying, and they felt like he was at something of a disvac. you saw romney , of course, go to the right in terms of immigration.
>> you also didn't see romney make any real effort to court african- americans or to court latinos . i mean, i traveled with him. he went to texas , and he had an event there where he was trying to reach out to hispanic-americans . there weren't any hispanic-americans m audience, and he had one line approximate his speech about the high unemployment rate among hispanic-americans , but there was no real effort to go out there and gin up support among those groups.
>> as with so many things romney there was no there there. coming up more details are emerging in the bob menendez donor mess. we will look at the complicated relationship between donors and ethics when larry noble , with americans from campaign reform joins us ahead