R.I.P., GOP: Party of old, disillusioned white people is dying a slow death

Changing Demographics will be the death knell for the Republican Party — even though it may take White House in ’16

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Credit: Samuel-Warde

No matter who wins the nomination battle, the Republican Party has a much bigger problem: demographics. A new report released by the Center for American Progress analyzed the demographic advantages for Democrats in 2016 and beyond and the results are overwhelmingly positive.

And this should surprise no one.

Observers on both sides have long questioned the Republican Party’s viability in an increasingly progressive and less white America. With every national election, it becomes more obvious that the GOP’s “Southern Strategy,” which exploited racial and cultural resentment for votes, has finally backfired.

As The Nation’s William Greider wrote in October: “The GOP finds itself trapped in a marriage that has not only gone bad but is coming apart in full public view. After five decades of shrewd strategy, the Republican coalition Richard Nixon put together in 1968 – welcoming the segregationist white South into the Party of Lincoln – is no devouring itself in ugly, spiteful recriminations.”

Greider was responding to the resignation of House Speaker John Boehner, who left on account of the nihilistic Tea Party caucus. The Tea Party extremists in Congress, like the social conservatives who supported them, are part of a reactionary movement of cultural discontents whose only purpose is to negate and obstruct, and they’ve proven that in office.

This movement, which has consumed the Republican Party, consists primarily of old and disillusioned white people who are rejecting a world that, in many respects, has passed them by. The nativism, the xenophobia, the social hysteria, the religious demagoguery – this is what defines the GOP now, and it stems from the party’s cynical plot to capitalize on cultural angst nearly fifty years ago.

Although it worked in the short and medium-term, the “Southern Strategy” is now the most likely cause of death for the Republican Party. Republicans still hold 31 of 50 state governorships and they control most state legislatures, but that’s not the problem. Today and moving forward, the GOP will find it harder and harder to compete for national elections.

By appealing to the fears of culturally isolated white people, the Republican Party has created an intractable demand-side problem: Gradually, their platform has become dominated by social and religious issues which alienate nearly everyone outside of their base. Given the shifting demographics in this country, this portends doom for the GOP.

From the Center for American Progress report:

“Recent social trends present significant headwinds for Republicans, particularly as they relate to demographic shifts in the country. For years, Republicans could rely on white voters—and, in particular, working-class whites—to constitute a decisive proportion of the electorate and deliver victory. This is no longer the case. As documented in the 2014 “States of Change” report—published jointly by the Center for American Progress, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Brookings Institution—the percentage of white voters in the actual electorate dropped 15 percentage points, from 89 percent in 1976 to 74 percent in 2012. The percentage of white working-class voters dropped even more, decreasing by 26 points over the same period. Future projections in the “States of Change” report suggest that the percentage of eligible white voters in the American electorate will drop to 46 percent by 2060…The decline in the white percentage of the electorate has coincided with stronger Democratic identification and voting patterns among nonwhite voters, as well as increasingly more liberal social views among higher-educated white professionals.”

The writing is on the wall, in other words. In its current form, the GOP can’t survive, not if these projections are even remotely accurate. It will become a regional party, propped up by parochialism and gerrymandered districts. None of this means the Republicans can’t win in 2016. What it does mean, however, is that they’ll have to overcome a significant demographics disadvantage, a disadvantage that will only grow over time.

For the Democrats, the landscape is far more encouraging. Virtually all of the numbers favor a Democratic candidate in 2016:

“If the Democrats receive their 2012 levels of support among these three groups in 2016—an 11-point deficit among white college graduates; a 22-point deficit among white working-class voters; and a 64-point advantage among minority voters—the party will easily win the popular vote by a 6-point margin. If support for the Democrats among minorities declines to our more conservative estimate of 78 percent, they would still win the popular vote by 4 points. If, on top of that diminished minority support, white working-class support replicates the stunning 30-point deficit congressional Democrats suffered in 2014, while support among white college-graduates remains steady, the Democratic candidate would still win the popular vote—albeit by a slender margin. If, however, white college-graduate support also replicates its relatively weak 2014 performance for the Democrats—a 16-point deficit—Republicans would win the popular vote by a single point.”

The popular vote won’t decide the election, but it’s an indication of where the country is politically. The Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential campaigns – that trend will continue and, eventually, it will translate into more and more electoral votes.

In 2016, all the Democrats need to do is hold on to the Obama coalition, and even that’s not entirely necessary. As the CAP report notes, the “sobering reality for Republicans is that the Democratic candidate will be able to absorb mild levels of defections or lower levels of turnout from its core voters in the general election and still capture an Electoral College majority.” Because of its over-reliance on white male voters, however, the GOP can’t win a national election unless turnout is historically low for the Democrats. And they still have to appeal to a cross-section non-ideological working-class voters. But the anger and the bitterness pulsating through their base at the moment will surely turn moderates and independents off, and the GOP can’t afford that.

Whatever happens next year, it’s clear that the GOP is slowly pandering its way into oblivion. The country has changed demographically, culturally, and politically – and the Democrats have changed with it. The Republican Party has not. And if Donald Trump’s present success is any indication, it’s headed in the wrong direction.

 

Written by  via SALON

Donald Trump’s Powerful Ignorance

And four other lessons from Tuesday night’s Republican debate

Here are five things I noticed in last night’s debate:

 

1. Donald Trump has made fools of us all.

The consensus among the talking heads afterward was that Trump had done fine, maybe helped himself a little, certainly hadn’t hurt himself with his constituency. What were they watching? By any objective standard, Trump had a terrible debate. He said nothing substantive. He made faces–elementary-school faces—when he was attacked. He displayed his powerful ignorance: He had no idea what Hugh Hewitt was talking about when he was asked about the “nuclear triad.” This really is presidential politics for dummies: Control and use of our nuclear arsenal is perhaps the most serious presidential responsibility. Nuclear weapons are deployed in three ways—in land-based silos, in submarines, by aircraft. Three ways. The nuclear triad. This guy is running for president without the most basic vocabulary about weapons that could destroy the world. I suppose this doesn’t matter to his nitwit constituency—but it should. And if that constituency becomes a majority of our electorate, we are truly cooked. That the talking heads think Trump did okay because he didn’t offend his supporters represents journalistic malpractice…but I guess we’ve all been burned by predicting Trump’s demise in the past. The fact that he survives doesn’t make him any less disastrous.

2. Senators Cruz and Rubio lost when they were right.


Their mini-debate was fun to watch. Both are intelligent and articulate—although I think Cruz has a better strategic sense of what he is doing and is running the smarter campaign. It is a testament to the current incoherence of the Republican constituency that each man’s “weakness” was actually a strength. Rubio was entirely candid about immigration. He offered a realistic solution to the problem—but his solution does not involve the deportation of 12 million illegals and so he lost that particular debate to Cruz, who summoned the newly terrifying spectra of Chuck Schumer and called the plan “amnesty.” For his part, Cruz is absolutely right to be wary about “regime change” in the Middle East. It’s been a disaster. But that won’t help him in a party where neoconservatives now control the foreign policy debate.

3. The Governors won.


In fact, Chris Christie put both Cruz and Rubio in their place when he said after a Cruz-Rubio exchange: “If your eyes are glazed over like mine, this is what it is like to be on the floor of the United States Senate…I mean endless debates about how many angels on the head of a pin from people who have never had to make a consequential decision in an executive position.” Christie’s toughness is an informed version of Trump’s posturing. It is simple, compelling, and probably not as dangerous as it sounds–asked if he would shoot down Russian planes if they violated a Syrian no-fly zone, he said yes. This is the sort of tough talk that Ronald Reagan deployed successfully…while simultaneously signaling to the Soviets that he was ready to negotiate seriously with them. The will to bluster was the difference between Reagan and George H.W. Bush. It’s the difference between Christie and Jeb Bush. Both Bushes were better informed than their rivals, but less given to melodrama–although, over time, according to Jon Meacham’s biography of Bush the Elder, even HW came to appreciate the role Reagan’s “evil empire” rhetoric played as a negotiating tool. (Jeb Bush had some very good moments in the debate, directly attacking and flustering Trump–but he has too much respect for the process, is responsible to the point of abstraction in his answers and his opening and closing statements were close to incomprehensible.)

4. The others lost.


Carly Fiorina’s act has grown old. Rand Paul is smart, and generally reasonable on foreign policy, but he belongs to a different party than the Republicans. As Michael Scherer pointed out in his reliably sharp minute-by-minute account of the debate, John Kasich was done in by his spastic karate chop hand motions–he may been the first candidate I’ve ever seen who was rendered incoherent by his own body language. Ben Carson offered a moment of silence for the San Bernardino victims; he has never belonged on this stage–but then, neither has Trump–and Carson, at least, wreaths his presidential incompetence in dignity.

5. Fact Check.


Three persistent errors or elisions should be pointed out. The first is the matter of the defense cuts–the Republican party agreed to these as part of a deficit reduction maneuver called the sequester, because it opposed the tax increases (or loophole closing) necessary to make an actual deal with the Democrats. The GOP thereby showed its priorities: low taxes were more important than national security–a point that Hillary Clinton will doubtless make in the fall (although I’m not so sure that defense spending on weapons we don’t need–i.e. more ships–will increase our security). Second, the much ballyhooed “flood” of illegal immigrants doesn’t exist; indeed, the numbers of illegals crossing the border have declined drastically during the Obama years. Third, Iran will get sanctions relief–an estimated $100 to $120 billion–only after it complies with the nuclear agreement and destroys its enriched uranium stockpile, dismantles 75% of its centrifuges and makes other significant concessions. If Iran doesn’t do those things, there will be no sanctions relief.

11:36 AM ET via TIME


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