Monday, January 19, 2009

GOP losing streak Part II: The browning of America

In my last post, I discussed how the Republican Party is being crippled by a wave of retirements among its incumbents, a crisis of leadership and an increasing tendency to attempt to appeal only to white Christian conservatives living in rural America.

As if it didn't have enough problems, there is another spectre that the GOP needs to fear: America's changing population demographics. If you have a few minutes, I recommend you watch two short clips from Fox News and read the accompanying articles here and here. The first clip is an editorial by Fox's John Gibson from last May, the second a follow-up from a few days later.

Gibson urges viewers to have more children. By growing the native population, he claims, we can reduce pressure to allow more immigrants into the county. We wouldn't want to become like Europe where, "they are inviting in more and more immigrants every year to take care of things and those immigrants are having way more babies than the native population, hence Eurabia." What does Gibson mean by "Eurabia?" He clarifies this in the second clip, "I'd rather live with the Christians here than live ... under Sharia law in Europe."

Gibson claims that he is not racist. He simply believes that more immigration into the U.S. represents by definition a threat to our way of life. I am unclear as to how this is not racist. Here's my point in discussing this controversy: Gibson is correct about one thing. Changing population demographics in the U.S. do represent a threat to Christian conservatives and their ability to continue to elect Republican majorities who will attempt to force their twisted values on the rest of us.

The idea that time is not on the side of the Republican Party was argued beautifully in 2002 by John Judis and Ruy Teixeira in The Emerging Democratic Majority. Publisher's Weekly summarizes the book well: "In 1969 a prescient Kevin Phillips published The Emerging Republican Majority, predicting the rise of the conservative Republican movement. Now (Judis and Teixeira) argue that, if current demographic and political trends continue, a new realignment of political power is inevitable, this time sweeping Democrats to power. In support of their thesis they argue that the electorate is becoming increasingly diverse, with growing Asian, Hispanic and African-American populations-all groups that tend to vote Democratic. On the other hand, the number of white Americans, the voting population most likely to favor Republicans, remains static. Further, according to the authors, America's transition from an industrial to a postindustrial economy is also producing voters who trend strongly Democratic...They also argue that other changes, specifically the growing educated professional class and the continuing "gender gap," will benefit Democrats, whose political ideology is more consonant with the needs and beliefs of women and professionals. Judis and Teixeira predict that all these elements will converge by 2008, at the latest, when a new Democratic majority will emerge. Wisely, they warn that their predictions are just that, and that events might overtake the trends. But their warning will bring little comfort to Republicans, who will find their well-supported thesis disturbing."

The first couple of elections following the release of TEDM were not particularly kind to Judis' and Teixeira's predictions. After the 2002 and 2004 campaigns, it looked like the Republicans might be able to continue to scare the populace into keeping them in office indefinitely, not the mention the fact that the Democrats looked like they might never get their act together no matter how favorable the environment might become to a possible resurgence of Democratic fortunes. In addition, the Bush team displayed quite a knack from the late 90's to the mid 2000's for building support among the fast-growing community of Hispanic voters. While in 1999 Hispanic voters showed a preference for the Democratic Party over Republicans by a margin of 58% to 25%, after the 2004 election that 33-point gap had shrunk to a 21-point, 49% to 28% advantage for Democrats. (Since then, dissatisfaction with the Bush regime has caused Hispanic support for Republicans to fall off the table. In the recent Presidential election, they preferred Obama over McCain 67% to 31% despite the fact that McCain hails from a the state with one of the highest percentages of Hispanic Americans.)

Last November's election vindicated TEDM's predictions. In a recent article in The National Journal entitled Demography and Destiny, Ronald Brownstein gives a great analysis of the 2008 vote:
"Start by considering the electorate's six broadest demographic groups -- white voters with at least a four-year college degree; white voters without a college degree; African-Americans; Hispanics; Asians; and other minorities.

Now posit that each of those groups voted for Barack Obama or John McCain in exactly the same proportions as it actually did. Then imagine that each group represented the share of the electorate that it did in 1992. If each of these groups voted as it did in 2008 but constituted the same share of the electorate as in 1992, McCain would have won. Comfortably.

That's because Obama's best groups are much larger today than in 1992. From 1992 to 2008, the share of the vote cast by African-Americans jumped from 8 percent to 13 percent. For Hispanics the share soared from 2 percent to 9 percent; for Asians and other minorities combined, from 2 percent to 5 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of the vote cast by well-educated whites remained unchanged at 35 percent. The big losers were blue-collar whites -- those without college degrees -- whose share plummeted from 53 percent in 1992 to just 39 percent now.

That's a threat to the GOP because those culturally conservative, working-class whites are today its most reliable voters. McCain won 58 percent of them, and Obama just 40 percent. Obama, by contrast, won 95 percent of African-Americans, 67 percent of Hispanics, 66 percent of other minorities, 62 percent of Asians, and 47 percent of college-educated whites. Apply those results to the 1992 share of the vote for all six groups, and McCain beats Obama, 50.2 percent to 47.9 percent."

To summarize, yes, people are tired of voting for Republicans because of Bush. And yes, people voted for Obama because he is awesome and because the Democratic party is better organized than it used to be. But one of the biggest reasons why the Democrats now hold all the cards is because in 2009 your neighbor is less likely to be a high school graduate named Tom, Dick or Harry and more likely to be a graduate school student named Sanjay, Laticia, Roberto or Yasunari. And with today's Republican Party increasingly emphasizing anti-immigrant policies and pandering to rural whites, they may be out of power for a long, long time. Ahhh!

1 comment:

Stephen A. Nuño said...

I wouldn't say they were "vindicated" anymore than I would have said in 2000 and 2004 that they were wrong. The future is not linear. The attacks of 9/11 was a critical juncture that changed the GOPs move towards a more neoliberal relationship with immigration. There are no guarantees that something similar might not happen to the Democrats. Latinos have shown a tendency to respond to proactive attempts to recruit them. Should the GOP decide to (doubtful for now), and should the Democrats run into problems governing (likely), there is no telling what might happen.