Feature

Republicans: The shrinking white base

The Deep South is the Republican party's only reliable geographic base. It's demographic base is largely white, male, and old.

“Republicans are in demographic trouble,” said Matthew Continetti in The Weekly Standard. In amassing 52.5 percent of the vote on Election Day—the best showing by a Democrat since 1964—Barack Obama assembled a broad-based coalition of voters, a “kind of mini-America” that forms a new Democratic majority. Two-thirds of Obama’s votes came from whites, most in urban areas and suburbs, and one-third from minorities. Not surprisingly, he won overwhelming support from blacks, but what should worry Republicans is that he also won Hispanics by two-to-one and Asians by nearly as much. Hispanics were turned off by the conservative base’s hard-line stance against immigration, and helped turn Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada from red to blue. “The Republican coalition, by contrast, is white, male, and old.”

That’s a nice way of saying “troglodytic,” said Charles M. Blow in The New York Times. In 1980, the Republican Party platform vowed to stand “shoulder to shoulder with black Americans” and promised to extend the American dream to Hispanics. Now, the party is ruled by hard-core social conservatives obsessed with building a wall at the Mexican border and with preventing “Chuck and Larry from getting married.” How does that party win elections in 21st-century America? We can, but only by adapting to a changing electorate, said GOP strategist Karl Rove in Newsweek. In 2004, 44 percent of Hispanics voted for President Bush, but we lost them during the immigration debate. In coming years, Republicans must remember that “an anti-Hispanic attitude is suicidal.” As the party of Lincoln, the GOP has “a moral obligation to make our case to Hispanics, blacks, and Asian-Americans who share our values.” History shows that parties do rebound from electoral defeats like 2008, but only when they make pragmatic adjustments. Good luck with that, said Norman Ornstein in the Los Angeles Times. For Republicans hoping for a brighter day, this year’s election results are “sobering, even chilling.” Democrats have gained a firm foothold in the West, Midwest, and even the South, leaving the GOP with only the Deep South as a reliable base. That’s why conservatives who are clamoring for the party to move even further to the right are fooling themselves, said John P. Avlon in Politico.com. “Republicans will remain in the wilderness if they stubbornly deny their problems by preaching to the choir.”

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