The Republican Party’s obliteration in the cities and its diminished standing in the suburbs is the expression of its partial alienation of young people and college-educated whites, women in particular. Republicans can win elections all day without the support of black voters — but without the support of well-off white suburbanites, they are more or less hosed. There just aren’t enough Oklahoma hog farmers to get it done. And at least some of those alienated white people are uncomfortable in the GOP because of Republicans’ reputation on race.
Of course, the Democrats and their media allies are eager to see spectral evidence of racism everywhere, for obvious reasons. Is it reasonable to detect a racial dynamic when a white Republican president criticizes a nonwhite Democratic member of Congress? It depends: Did he also argue that a federal judge should be disqualified from a case because “he is a Mexican”? (The judge in question was born in Indiana and is of Salvadoran background, but, never mind.) Paul Ryan, who endorsed Donald Trump, was right to call that a “textbook definition” of racism. The bigoted comments about the parents of the late Army captain Humayun Khan, the housing-discrimination settlement from his New York real-estate business, the crazy birther stuff? “The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!” Enough small impressions eventually make a big mark.
A little bit of racism has a whole lot of stink on it — enough to rub off on everybody around you, fairly or unfairly. The GOP has some stink on it, and Senator Harris’s purpose on the 2020 ticket is not to convince more black voters to support Democrats but to convince more white voters that they should not support Republicans.