Demographics Are Dooming The Republicans To Extinction And They Know It
America’s changing demographics is the greatest force in the nation’s politics today and Republicans know they are on the wrong side of the numbers. And the party has been aware of this for many years.
In 2013, after losing the popular vote for president five out of the previous six elections, the GOP published an autopsy of Mitt Romney’s failed campaign to unseat Barack Obama.
The report, called The Growth and Opportunity Project, touched on the most critical challenge facing the party in the section called “America Looks Different,” a bold recognition that changing demographics were dooming the GOP to minority party status, unlikely to win the presidency again in the foreseeable future.
“Public perception of the paty is at record lows. Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the party represents and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country. When someone rolls their eyes at us, they are not likely to open their ears to us.
The Republican party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly, we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to those who do not agree with us on every issue.”
The response to the report, of course, was to nominate and elect as president Donald Trump, a divisive, low-information reality TV star whose fame was built upon arrogance and hubris, not talent, and whose presidency, marked with racist dog whistles and scapegoating of immigrants and minorities – led to a dramatic shift in party affiliation, leaving Republicans with a six-point deficit versus Democrats among voters in the most recent Gallup political preference poll.
Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan appealed primarily to people who waxed nostalgic for the past when thinking about the country’s best days.
The slogan was correctly seen by Trump’s supporters as signifying that their candidate viewed America as a nation in decline, one “invaded” by brown-skinned immigrants, losing good-paying blue collar manufacturing jobs, not to robots and innovation, but to the Chinese, one treated “unfairly” by foreign allies who, despite being much weaker and poorer were, somehow able to take advantage of America in military and trade alliances.
The answer, according to Trump, was to return America to the days when the nation was supreme in the world, where international cooperation was unnecessary because America emerged whole from the end of World War Two, its manufacturing base unscathed by the destruction of the worst war in human history, its economy the envy of the world, a world recovering thanks to the largess of the American Marshall Plan.
In his nostalgic vision of the past, Trump sees a time when men like his father could build fortunes through sheer force of will, when they weren’t held back by environmental regulations or social issues that constrained their behavior. It was a time when steel, coal and aluminum were more strategically important than cyber capability, international supply lines and technological innovation.
This nostalgia has Trump looking backwards for answers while America’s most fearsome adversaries, China and Russia are looking forwards. While Trump is cheerleading for America’s fossil fuel industry, China has become the world’s leader in renewable energy.
While Trump is investing in more ships for a navy already dominating the seas, Russia, China, Iran and even North Korea have an alarming tactical advantage over America in cyber warfare, one they are using to sow division among Americans on social media and to hack into our systems to steal valuable technology, like the engineering plans of our new F-35 and F-22 fighter aircraft, technology they are now using in their J-20 stealth aircraft.
Despite being a self-proclaimed business genius (hundreds of millions in debt and multiple bankruptcies aside), Trump is alarmingly ignorant about the role that global trade plays in growing the American economy and keeping the U.S. at the top of the world’s economic powers.
As the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said,
“America cannot have a growing economy or lift the wages and incomes of our citizens unless we continue to reach beyond our borders and sell products, produce, and services to the 95% of the world’s population that lives outside the United States,” adding that inexpensive imports increase the average American family’s buying power by $18,000 annually, money spent on higher profit American services and investments.
Trump is missing these opportunities to advance America’s interests because he doesn’t see the value in these things. After all, they didn’t exist in the 1950s, the era where his politics, vision and morality originate.
America Looks Different
Not only is Trump missing the changes in the global economy and how America, prior to his presidency, was uniquely positioned to take advantage of those changes, he’s missing the changing demographics that threaten to make him the last Republican president, at least the last that thinks and acts like him.
Increasingly, the GOP is shedding the support of young, female, non-religious and minority voters. And this is happening at a time when gaining support of those voters is growing in importance. The Republican’s own 2013 election autopsy identified this:
America is changing demographically, and unless Republicans are able to grow our appeal the way GOP governors have done, the changes tilt the playing field even more in the Democratic direction.
In 1980, exit polls tell us that the electorate was 88 percent white. In 2012, it was 72 percent white.
Hispanics made up 7 percent of the electorate in 2000, 8 percent in 2004, 9 percent in 2008 and
10 percent in 2012. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, in 2050, whites will be 47 percent
of the country while Hispanics will grow to 29 percent and Asians to 9 percent.
If we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them and show
And, in 2016, the GOP had a chance to show it took this report seriously when two Cuban-Americans, senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, were later frontrunners in a primary race that included five Generation X candidates, African-American Ben Carson, Indian-American Bobby Jindal and Carly Fiorina,
While the majority of the 16 candidates were white, male, over 50 and very conservative, the GOP slate was the most diverse in the party’s history.
But, instead of taking heed of the party’s 2013 post mortem and nominating a candidate who offered voters a different face of the GOP, Republican primary voters chose the candidate who personified the exact opposite of what the 100-page report recommended.
Trump Sets GOP Progress Back
And, of course, Trump ran a negative, often ugly campaign bereft of ideas and vision, that relied largely on denigrating and humiliating his opponents, in and outside of the party, and won by appealing, not to the intellect of voters, but to their emotions.
He tapped into voter anger and feelings of disenfranchisement, particularly among white. male, middle- and lower-income, non-college-educated Americans who felt threatened by social progress and the mainstreaming of things like gay marriage, growing immigrant populations, the appearance of more minorities in formerly mostly white communities, and the rise of women to positions of power and prominence.
Recognizing the opportunity to capitalize on the fears and concerns of this demographic often ignored by both parties, Trump branded himself as…well…himself, a man known to his voters as a throwback to simpler days, ones more easily navigated and understood, ones where the complexities of an integrated and global economy weren’t yet felt by the average American, where social progress didn’t hold people accountable for biases and prejudices.
But nostalgia, as romantic and compelling as it can be, is not a means by which one can effectively address the challenges of the present and those of the future. Looking backwards can help one correct the mistakes of the past, but traveling back down the road already traversed doesn’t move one forward towards one’s destination.
And going backwards is what the GOP did when it elected Donald Trump. Even if he is re-elected in 2020, Trump’s presidency marks the end of his brand of politics.
The days when conservative politicians can hope to win national elections with campaigns designed to appeal to the shrinking base of white, religious, moral traditionalists opposed to social progress and uncomfortable with the increasing public prominence of homosexuals, minorities and women are rapidly coming to an end.
No matter how many walls Trump builds, no matter how many immigrants he deports, no matter how many foreigners he frightens away from coming to America, the country’s demographics will turn America into a much more racially diverse nation in less than two decades.
In fact, whites will no longer be more than 50% of the American population by 2045, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Even sooner, because of the aging of the population and declining birth rates among Americans, immigration will overtake natural increase (the difference between births and deaths) as the leading cause of population increase in the country by 2030. This means the percentage of citizens not born in this country will increase dramatically in just a decade.
Considering that minorities and immigrants vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, the GOP’s perceived hostility to these groups will lead to catastrophic losses in political clout and, perhaps, even make it nearly impossible for them to win the presidency starting with the 2032 election.
During that race, states like Texas (38 electoral votes), Arizona (11 electoral votes), New Mexico (5 electoral votes) and Nevada (6 electoral votes) will be majority Hispanic states. Florida won’t be far behind. (29 electoral votes) Without those states, the path to the White House for a Republican is very narrow, if not completely gone, altogether.
Things will get worse for the GOP in the years that follow. The population of non-Hispanic whites is actually projected to shrink from 199 million in 2020 to 179 million in 2060, despite the fact the overall American population is set to grow by 79 million people, passing the 400 million mark. These changes were already presaged by population and demographic changes from 2010 to 2019.
For example, four states saw general population decreases over that time, while the population of Hispanics actually increased. Illinois, Connecticut, West Virginia and Vermont.
In 21 states, Hispanic population increases accounted for more than 50% of the states growth in population. Six of those states – New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Mississippi – amounted to more than the overall state’s population increase because the white population in those states decreased. Texas, Florida and California had the largest increases in Hispanic populations (2 million, 1.4 million and 1.5 million, respectively).
By 2060, white population in America is expected to shrink by nearly 19 million people. At the same time, the number of African-Americans will increase by nearly 18 million, Hispanics by nearly 54 million, and Asians by more than 18 million.
Those groups identify strongly with Democrats, In 2019, 83% of blacks were Democrats or independents leaning towards the Democrats; 63% of Hispanics did the same, as did 72% of Asians, up from only 53% in 1994. At the same time, only 53% of whites identified with the GOP.
To make things worse, among Millenials, 54% are Democrats or lean that way, while only 38% call themselves Republicans or voters sympathetic to the GOP.
“The Way Forward”
Even though the future looks grim for the Republican Party, there is a way forward. But, as the saying goes, the first step to recovery is to admit there is a problem. And, with Donald Trump in control of the GOP, that isn’t going to happen.
But, if Trump is soundly defeated in November, the GOP has an outline for what they must do if they want to begin reversing the damage done to their brand during the Trump years. In 2013, the party wrote this in their post mortem:
Demographics may change America, but American history shows that it is the power of ideas
that changes us the most. Republicans should never look at one group of Americans and assume we can’t reach them. Good ideas reach everyone.
Ronald Reagan proved this to be true in 1980 when he pulled the party out of the hole dug by Richard Nixon’s presidency. While that hole was not as deep as the one the GOP is stuck in today, the lessons of the Reagan Administration can inform today’s GOP how to rebuild for a future that is less white and more diverse than today.
In his farewell address to the nation, President Reagan said,
I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind, it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind swept, God blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace – a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.
That’s how I saw it, and see it still. How Stands the City?
And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that: after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm.
And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the Pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.
If the GOP wants to “Make The Republican Party Great Again,” it can look to its past to see a path to the future. Reagan may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but his inclusive comments welcoming immigrants to this country is a blueprint the Republicans can follow to bring people into their party.
The first step is to reject the politics of division that have gotten them where they are today. Shun the destructive negativity of Donald Trump and his enablers and the Quislings in the party that stood by and did nothing to stop his irresponsible malpractice as president and party leader.
The next step is to bring back the positive message of Reagan, to reach out to the groups the party has foregone and ask for another chance.
The Party of Lincoln should not be so soundly rejected by black Americans whose ancestors were freed from the evil of slavery by a Republican president who gave his life to the cause.
The party of Eisenhower, the president who signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, who created the Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice, who sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce school desegregation, should do better with black Americans than just 10% of their vote.
The party that outlawed the KKK, that founded Howard University, that seated the first black U.S. senator, Kriam Revels, the first Latino senator, Octaviano Larrazollo, the first Asian-American senator, Hiram Fong, and that appointed the first black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and the first black and female National Security Adviser and Secretary of State, Condolezza Rice, shouldn’t give up trying to win back the support of minorities and women.
But, the first thing they have to do is accept they have a serious problem and never again allow a man like Donald Trump back in the party. And that will take courage.