It’s the Demographics, Stupid (Updated)
Although titled, “The GOP is no party for blacks, Latinos and gays,” Jonathan Capehart’s piece in today’s Washington Post discusses how the GOP can fix this by spending less time “figuring out what went wrong and more time figuring out how to talk to these voters in a way that broadens its appeal rather than insults potential supporters.” Good read.
Commenting on an article that lamented the GOP loss of the presidential election and claimed that “if we don’t reach out and bring in the ‘Hispanic’ community into the Republican party, we will never win the White House again,” I asked, “If the GOP had won the election in a landslide — without the Latino vote — would your party be undergoing this deep, introspective ‘soul searching’ about Latinos?”
Thus far, that question has not been answered — and it may never be.
It could be because it may be a loaded question, similar to the (in)famous question, “Have you stopped beating your wife?”
But setting the merits of the question aside, I do find it interesting that even before the clock struck midnight on Election Day, even before Karl Rove conceded that his party had lost Ohio, even before the election outcome was decided in Florida, the pundits, the analysts and the politicians were focusing on and blaming the “demographics” and many GOP leaders suddenly decided that the party needed to “make nice” to Latinos/Hispanics in order to have a shot at the next election.
We started hearing about Obama’s “demographic edge,” the GOP’s “demographic dilemma,” and even of a “demographic time bomb…that blew up in GOP faces.”
Why this sudden Republican interest in “demographics”?
Could it be because President Obama got 93% of the African-American vote, 71 % of the Latino vote, 73 % of the Asian vote, 60% of voters of ages between 18 and 29, and probably a whopping 90+ percent of the gay vote — I have not seen any official statistics on the latter (See Note). Obama also won the votes of women — they make up 53% of the electorate — by a margin of 55 to 44 percent.
Could it be because, even though 89% of all votes for Romney came from whites, it is a vote they are already maximizing because the white vote as a total of the overall vote has continued to decline in every election since 1992, dropped to 72% this election and will drop another couple of points come 2016 and become a vote that the Republican Party “can no longer rely on…to win national elections anymore, especially in presidential cycles”?
Could it be because the America of today is no longer the America it was 50 years ago, but Republicans still are?
Ross Douthat suggests, “Reliable Republican constituencies — whites, married couples and churchgoers — are shrinking as a share of the electorate. Democratic-leaning constituencies — minorities, recent immigrants, the unmarried and unchurched — are growing, and voting in larger numbers than in the past.”
We saw how Latinos voted overwhelmingly for Obama and we saw how 60% of voters of ages between 18 and 29 went for Obama. Now here is an eye-opener: Every month, 50,000 Latinos turn 18 years old.
It is not as if there were no warning signs. Already back in August, as GOP dignitaries were delivering rousing speeches to overwhelmingly white Republican conventioneers, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham was cautioning, “The demographics race we’re losing badly…We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”
And, less than a month before the elections, Renée Loth presciently wrote in the Boston Globe, “If demographics is destiny, the Republican Party has a rendezvous with irrelevance — unless its policies change.”
Loth suggested ways through which the Republican Party could appeal to the new demographic, but also recognized that the party “could double down on its harsh approach to immigration, affirmative action, and other wedge issues and hope — as more than a few have noted — that restrictive new voter ID laws will suppress turnout among minorities.” Loth asked, “Is it any surprise that of the 34 states introducing voter ID bills last year, 33 had Republican-majority legislatures?” She concluded, “Republicans are facing a serious quandary of electoral math. They should be working to broaden their party’s appeal and build a true majority of voters, not treating America like it is one nation, divisible.”
How right she was, and is.
Even with all these warning signals, some incorrigible, tone-deaf-to-everything-but-dog-whistles Conservatives will never admit that there is a real, irreversible, unstoppable change occurring in the American demographic and moral landscape. For the likes of blowhard Rush Limbaugh, doubling down on insulting and denigrating minorities is the appropriate response. Other high-profile Republicans believe that raising token immigration reform proposals up the angry-white-male GOP flagpole and recruiting and parading a few popular Latino and other minority personalities will ameliorate their party’s “demographic problem” just enough to squeak by in 2016.
Of course, Senator Graham’s warning signal and Loth’s suggestions came way too late for the ponderous, angry-white-men-overladen GOP ship of state to even attempt to change course by Election Day. It may be even too late for such a course change — a “recalibration” — by 2016, unless the party can manage to cast overboard some if not all of its most loathsome, divisive characters, some if not all of its most ideological, extreme policies and all of its discriminatory, prejudiced and denigrating attitudes towards minorities — attitudes that are entirely based on race, ethnicity, religion (or lack of it), sexual orientation, national origin, etc.
Perhaps, instead of trying to “win the hearts and minds” of the folks in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, Republicans should start doing so here at home, with all Americans.
And wouldn’t it be nice if Republicans, in their genuine quest to
get more votes become more inclusive, would discover that gays and lesbians are normal people voters, too.
As to the original question that started all this, there is an answer that need not be made public but that will determine how the GOP proceeds — and whether it grows or withers.