Damn the Demographics- Full Speed Ahead
The Republican loss in the national election was due to a combination of hubris and a disregard of demographics. While the party won the overall white vote by a substantial margin, they lost the black, Latino, and Asian-American vote by an even greater margin. And the youth vote, which Republican pundits had predicted would be down this cycle, was actually higher than in 2008. Voters 18-29 constituted 19% of the electorate, compared to 18% four years ago and 60% of them supported President Obama. Gay voters, who probably make up 3%-4% of the population, likely voted overwhelmingly for Obama.
Of course, the GOP can counter with the fact that they again won the House, and that their control in that body should be pretty much the same. However, their Congressional victories were helped by redistricting done by Republican governors and legislatures in many states that gave Republican candidates the advantage. They lost most of the swing districts they had won 2010, including all of New England and some in New York.
The fact of the matter is that the demographic make-up of the United States is changing and the Republican Party is not adapting to that change. Though the party is favored by older white voters, particularly men and the rural population, the country is becoming more multi-colored and concentrated in metropolitan areas. If the Republicans are going to remain viable as a party, they are going to have to change their policies and appeal to blacks, Latinos, Asians, young people, women and gays. And they will have to develop initiatives that benefit urban citizens.
Realistic immigration reform, with a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have lived in this country for awhile, is absolutely necessary, and even more comprehensive than the Dream Act. Deportation of 12 million people is logistically and economically not feasible and “illegals” must not be demonized. Strict monitoring of our borders can still be a priority.
With young people being more socially liberal, more tolerant, and with less church affiliation than their parents, Republicans have to stop focusing on abortion and same-sex marriage, concentrating on the issues that directly impact the younger generation. These include the national debt, unemployment, and the economy in general. But a strong safety net also has to be provided for them including unemployment insurance for a reasonable period and health insurance coverage at a reasonable cost.
Both women and young people also want to keep government out of people’s bedrooms, allowing unfettered access to contraception and with less resistance for women’s right to choose. And funding for Planned Parenthood clinics should be continued for women’s health and contraception, though the federal government does not have to pay for any abortions that are performed.
Young people are also more concerned with global warming than those who are older, as they will have to live with the consequences. The GOP needs to become more environmentally friendly and consider ways to deal with climate change if they want to be seen in a positive way by the young.
For urban dwellers, well-functioning mass transit is important, and this needs to be addressed by the Republicans. This includes inter-city rail such as Amtrak as well as intra-city transportation. In fact, virtually every facet of the nation’s infrastructure has to be modernized to keep America competitive, as well as providing jobs.
The last issue Republicans have to consider is changing their stand on guns. Though this is the true third rail of American politics and was not even mentioned in this election cycle, reducing gun violence is important to urban residents. There is no reason why gun usage for self-protection and hunting is incompatible with reasonable gun laws, such as bans on assault weapons and hollow-point bullets.
Large demographic groups in America favor programs that are antithetical to current Republican policies. The question is whether the Republican Party will be willing to change its policies to attract people to its banner from these groups, or continue to lose future elections by larger and larger margins.
A VietNam vet and a Columbia history major who became a medical doctor, Bob Levine has watched the evolution of American politics over the past 40 years with increasing alarm. He knows he’s not alone. Partisan grid-lock, massive cash contributions and even more massive expenditures on lobbyists have undermined real democracy, and there is more than just a whiff of corruption emanating from Washington. If the nation is to overcome lockstep partisanship, restore growth to the economy and bring its debt under control, Levine argues that it will require a strong centrist third party to bring about the necessary reforms. Levine’s previous book, Shock Therapy For the American Health Care System took a realist approach to health care from a physician’s informed point of view; Resurrecting Democracy takes a similar pragmatic approach, putting aside ideology and taking a hard look at facts on the ground. In his latest book, Levine shines a light that cuts through the miasma of party propaganda and reactionary thinking, and reveals a new path for American politics. This post is cross posted from his blog.