Lesson 1 From the Election – Shifting Demographics

(By Mark Bridger, cross-posted at ThatMansScope)

It’s been an exciting election. It probably would have been more relaxing if I had just believed everything Nate Silver has been saying all along. Then I would have “known” that Obama would win (at) least 303 electoral votes, and that the Democrats would increase their Senate majority to 53+ seats (and probably 55 with independents Angus King and Bernie Sanders). Ah well, nothing like extra excitement.

Anyway, here is the first of several thoughts inspired by this election.

Demographics and the Republicans

The change in the makeup of the American electorate has been noted by many different observers for some time now. By midcentury Whites will be a minority group, with Hispanics, Blacks and Asians adding up to more than 50% of the voting population. Given that these last groups tend to vote Democratic, and that Whites are fairly split by party, this, together with the emerging “gender gap”, suggests a real strengthening of progressive forces — all other things remaining equal. The Democrats have realized this for decades. In 1968 a commission chaired by (the recently deceased) senator George McGovern started work on a set of rules for assuring that women and minorities would be assured fair representation in the party. The commission’s rules were adopted just in time for McGovern’s disastrous loss to Nixon in 1972. However, these rules and subsequent additions have enabled the Democrats to take advantage of the demographic changes that have now become quite apparent.

I think it is fair to say that the Democratic Party’s concern about women and minorities had more to do with the party’s interest in fairness than its interest in winning elections. Whatever else liberals may be, they are certainly idealistic.

On the other hand, the PTR (Party of The Rich, formerly the GOP) has never claimed the mantle of idealism. After the “Dixiecrat” split during the 1948 election, the southern segregationist faction of the Democratic party was wooed by the Republicans. This became a more formal policy with Nixon’s “Southern Strategy”, and the pursuit of the White, southern voter has become a hallmark of the PTR. Even a cursory glance at the electoral map shows where most of the “red” states lie: outside the north central and northern coasts. Confederate flag country is PTR country. For an update on the “Southern Strategy, click HERE and also look at Tom Edsall’s Times Op-Ed on Romney’s version. (Note also the gradual increase in political influence of Hispanics in southwestern states such a Nevada, Arizona and even Texas.)

So, the post-election journalists are now crawling all over themselves speculating on how or when the Republicans will adapt to the changing electoral dynamics. It’s an odd question. The Republicans have created a party based on the White Male Viewpoint. Even a cursory look at Republican conventions shows hardly a non-White complexion or viewpoint. By creating this sort of party, and forcing out “deviants”, the Republicans have made it nearly impossible for own their party to change: there simply are almost no “changers” left. By purging the PTR of dissenting voices they have purged the sort of leaders that might move the party to a more realistic view of the world.

I, for one, think this is fine. There is very little that the Republican party has to offer of value that isn’t already represented in the various factions of the Democratic party. Furthermore, most of what the Republicans stand for is simply wrong: unfettered capitalism, undermining government, tax breaks for the wealthy and other elements of “trickle-down” economics, climate-change denial and other anti-science attitudes, fundamentalism and religiosity, and militarism and American “exceptionalism”.  My great hope is that they never realize the error of their ways but, rather, become over the years a shrinking and increasingly marginalized living fossil. Couldn’t happen to a nicer party…

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