If you are watching the news, you would think that the Republican Party is about to enjoy a huge victory in November. Seemingly, the backlash against Obama’s policies will be so powerful that American liberalism will die for a generation.
In reality, that prospect is absurd and unrealistic. Yes, the Republican Party is likely to do better than in 2008; history shows that the minority party usually gains in midterm elections, except under extremely unusual circumstances. But its long-term future is bleak. And the reason why is simple: Demographics are against them.
First of all, the GOP is almost universally white, with very little nonwhite support. Although it receives support among some ethnic groups, like Cuban- and Vietnamese-Americans, it is not known for that for all national purposes, the GOP is a white party. If you wonder why the GOP is so white, go on the Internet and read its rhetoric. You’ll figure it out quickly. And if you don’t, try reading about the 1964 presidential election.
While Democrats in 2008 won nearly the entire black vote, two-thirds of the Hispanic vote and two-thirds of the Asian vote, the GOP has done nothing in the last two years to give any indication of outreach. As Obama won with only 43 percent of the white vote, his election shows the fading power of white voters. The Census Bureau predicts that non-Hispanic whites will only be 47 percent of the population by 2040. If the Republican Party cannot break out of its white shell, it will die. Some Republicans say that they can easily win the nonwhite vote, because many are economically conservative and believe in ‘family values.” Well, they may, but while the GOP has adopted the same platform for decades, it has never managed to win the nonwhite vote. There’s something missing.
Second of all, the youth vote is solidly Democratic. Democrats won them by a two-to-one margin in 2008. This support is based on beliefs, not on nave hero worship of Obama as some conservatives ignorantly say to explain their inability to connect with young voters.
Although a recent poll shows them slipping away from Democrats, the same poll showed that their liberal beliefs have not changed. With some campaigning, the improvement of the economy and less scrutiny of the ugliness of politics (the health care debate turned off everyone), most are sure to come back into the fold. American youth is more diverse and less religious than older Americans, which is a recipe for a GOP disaster.
But even when controlling for these differences, there are huge generational gaps, even among some of the least Democratic groups. Obama won only 41 percent of white men, but he won 52 percent of young white men and 54 percent of white youth overall. He won 38 percent of working-class white men, but 50 percent of the young within this group. Even the young voters in traditional nonwhite Republican groups, like Cuban- and Vietnamese-Americans, are shifting toward the Democrats.
This is mostly because these groups were attracted to the GOP because the party ardently opposed the communism from which they escaped. But the Cold War ended decades ago, and their descendents never experienced it. So even if the GOP’s best demographic groups weren’t shrinking right now, the younger cohorts of these groups are already drifting away.
Also, the GOP relies too much on rural voters, a constituency that has been shrinking since the 1910s. Democratic dominance is obscured by electoral maps showing large swaths of red states and counties across the country. But the 10 biggest states in the Union contain over 50 percent of all Americans, the 20 biggest states comprise almost 75 percent and the 30 biggest states have almost 90 percent. Those red counties don’t have enough people, but that’s the GOP base.
All large urban counties, with the exception of Orange County, Ca. and Maricopa County, Ariz., voted for Obama. Even so, Obama would have likely won Maricopa County, and Arizona itself, had it not been McCain’s home state. In addition, Obama won 47 percent of the vote in Orange County, the closest any Democrat has come to winning the county since FDR won it in 1936. With Palin’s small town, ‘Real America” image dominating the GOP message, the Republican Party shows no sign of reaching out to urbanites any time soon.
Most Republicans know they have a demographic problem, but they seem unable to address it. Some of them fully acknowledge the problem and know how to fix it, but they have no leverage to change anything. According to a poll, 60 percent of Republicans are older than 45, while approximately 40 percent of Democrats are under 45. The Grand Old Party should take out the ‘Grand.”
Some Republicans say that liberalism is a youthful mentality, because young people haven’t experienced the world for what it is, and will become conservative. However, this view is not supported by evidence: Most people keep the same basic beliefs throughout their lives. This age gap may have enormous political implications. Seniors are more likely to vote than younger people, especially in midterms like the upcoming one, but Democrats can take solace in the knowledge they are the future majority, not the GOP.
Dawidowicz is a member of
the class of 2012.