I have heard the statement a lot lately that, “the Republican Party has become the party of old white men,” and of course that is a bit of an exaggeration. There are women and young people who claim to be Republicans. However it is certainly not totally without merit. Over the last fifty years or so very large numbers of extremely conservative Southern voters, disenchanted with the Democratic Party’s support of civil rights causes and what they regard as the “trampling” of state’s rights, have transferred their allegiances to the Republican Party. In the process they have helped to move that party’s center of mass much further to the right. They have also changed the makeup of the party by alienating Republicans with more moderate views. Republican “liberals” like the Rockefellers are an extinct breed and Republican moderates are a dying breed.
In order to win the Republican nomination for President, Republican candidates have lately had to cater to the party’s far right base which means adopting very conservative positions on women’s issues such as abortion and contraceptives, immigration issues, and civil rights and gay rights issues. The Republican base also favors a more muscular role for the U.S. military in world affairs, a stance which is no longer in favor among the majority of the country’s population, especially among younger voters, following recent wars in the Middle East.
However, after winning the Republican nomination by catering to the party’s far right base, the winning Republican candidate has traditionally “pivoted’ to take softer stances on these issues in order to win the general election. This “flip flopping’ on issues has the tendency to turn off the far right voters who previously helped secure the nomination and may appear to more moderate voters as disingenuous. It certainly gives the Democratic Party nominee a lot o ammunition to fire.
The Republican candidate must then contend with the so called “Blue Wall”. This is a group eighteen states including highly populated New York, Michigan and California which have voted reliably for Democratic Presidential candidates in the last six Presidential elections providing those candidates with a minimum of 242 electoral votes out of the 270 electoral votes required to win. The Republican’s have their own “Red Wall”, but the 21 reliably Republican states provide only 170 electoral votes. This means that the Democratic candidate needs to pick up only enough of the remaining eleven ‘swing” states to obtain the additional 28 electoral votes needed to win while the Republican candidate must win a large majority of the eleven swing states to secure the one hundred additional electoral votes necessary to secure victory. This is already a daunting task in most Presidential election races.
In the last election President Obama won those 18 states plus 8 of the swing states and the District of Columbia accumulating 332 electoral votes compared to Romney’s 206. Obama also took the popular vote by almost five million ballots accounting to 51.1% of the total vote to Romney’s 47.2% with the remaining 1.7% obviously going to third party candidates.
However, the task of winning the Presidency is going to grow ever more difficult for Republican Presidential nominees with each new election cycle due to the nation’s changing demographics. Looking back at the coalition which reelected President Obama in 2012 provides a good example of how the country’s changing demographics will make it increasingly difficult for Republican Presidential candidates in the future.
One of the major components of the Obama majority was single women. With women waiting longer to marry and to more likely to be involved in a divorce, single women are an ever growing segment of the electorate and they vote for Democratic Presidential candidates 54% of the time. In 2012 they made up 23% of the electorate, almost a quarter of the total vote. Single women are much more likely to be concerned about issues like abortion and contraception than married women who are more likely to vote Republican.
Meanwhile, while a majority older Americans usually vote for Republican Presidential candidates, young people have been voting for Democratic Presidential candidates by large margins. Obama won 66% of the youth vote (ages 18 to 29) in 2008 and 67% in 2012 and that proved to be the difference in the important swing states of Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. These are the voters of the future.
Republicans on the other hand have relied on older voters who normally vote in high percentages in any given election. In contrast to the youth vote, only 42% of voters 65 years or older supported Obama in 2008 and only 44% in 2012. Unfortunately for the Republican Party in five, ten or twenty years from now far fewer of these people will still be voting. In addition, as the baby boomer generation continues to move into retirement, they are not likely to support Republican efforts to cut their Social Security benefits after paying into the system all of their lives.
The most reliable segment of Republican voters, white males, has been shrinking. In 2012, Mitt Romney won 62 percent of the white male vote compared to the 35% who voted for Obama. However, white men are a shrinking segment of the voting population. In the 1972 presidential 46% of the votes were cast by white males but by 2012 election they accounted or only 34 percent of the votes. That trend is expected to continue into the future.
On the other hand non-whites comprise the fastest growing segment of the American electorate and in 2012 Obama obtained 80% of the non-white vote. Broken down by category he captured 71 percent of the Latino vote, 94 African-American vote and 73 percent of the Asian vote. These statistics do not bode well for the future Republican Presidential candidates because the percentage of non-white voters is steadily rising and sometime in the next thirty years the combined number of Latino, African-American, and Asian voters will outnumber white voters in this country.
In national polls, 3% to 5% of the American population claim to be part of the American LGBT community, though the actual percentage may be greater due to the fact that some may not want to advertise their sexual preferences. More importantly, the support of LGBT issues such as same sex marriage has spread rapidly to a majority of the entire population. While a not insubstantial percentage of gay population consider themselves to be conservative or moderate politically, the anti-gay rhetoric and stances of the Republican Party are driving them to vote for Democratic candidates. Also gay issues are beginning to be viewed by large segments of the US population as civil rights issues which does not bode well for the Republican Party.
Looking down the list of changing demographic factors, not one favors the Republican Party chances of winning the Presidency going forward, especially if its far right base continues to control the party’s soul. In fact with each future Presidential election, the chances of a Republican victory will grow slimmer and slimmer. This means that the 2016 Presidential election will probably provide the Republicans with their best shot to win for the foreseeable future. Since the Republicans have already lost four of the last five Presidential elections, I don’t like their chances this time around either.
Now some may point to the Republican victories in 2014 House and Senate races as proof that demographic changes may not be that important after all, but a number of factors run counter to that notion. First off year House and Senate elections are not seen as important as Presidential elections so young people and minorities usually vote in lower numbers. In addition the 2014 Senate races were stacked against the Democratic candidates with far more Democratic seats up for grabs than Republican. The opposite will be in 2016. On the House side while the Republicans picked up even more seats, but when totaled together Democratic candidates actually received 1.5 million more votes nationwide than Republican candidates . This attest to amount of gerrymandering built in to House districts.
Since Presidential elections are totally different from off year Congressional races, if the political platform of the Republican Party remains unchanged, changing demographics will make winning the Presidency more and more difficult for them. On the other hand, Republicans politicians could come to their senses, ignore their extreme base, and cater more to the segments of the electorate favored by the changing demographics. However, since that means taking more liberal stances on many issues, I don’t think we have to worry about that for a while.