- Politics and Social Issues
Storm Clouds for the GOP in the Age of Obama
Picture taken from www.inhabitat.com
In the midterm elections of 2010 the GOP took six Senate seats from Democrats, gained 63 in the House of Representatives and won important gubernatorial contests. It was a resounding conservative victory that will reverberate for years to come. But the midterm success shouldn’t obscure the somber reality for Republicans. America’s demographics are changing in a way that will aid Democrats and strengthen President Obama’s hand unless the GOP takes step to reach out to minority voters and the nation’s youth.
The problem for the GOP is simple but serious. As minority populations grow and naturally make up a larger portion of the electoral pie, the natural beneficiaries are Democrats. In 2008, more than 95% of black voters supported Mr. Obama. They made up 13% of the electorate. Hispanic voters supported then-Senator Obama by a margin greater than thirty points, and they made up 9% of the electorate. Of course, Hispanic voters are the fastest-growing demographic, and they’re expected to make up a double-digit share of the electorate by 2012.
In 1980, 89% of the electorate was white. By 2008, that number had dropped to 72%, and the white share of the vote is only going to continue shrinking. That’s bad news for Republicans and great news for Democrats because Democratic candidates regularly clean up with minority voters, while tending to trail among white voters. For example, in 2008 Obama only won 43% of the white vote.
If you need any more statistics to convince you of the serious threat to the Republican Party, just consider this. If the 1992 voter demographics had remained constant through 2008, with each demographic keeping support for either party constant, John McCain would have won comfortably. Instead, he lost the election by nine and a half million votes.
The growing influence of minority voters and especially Hispanics is already being felt in other crucial ways. In 2010, Harry Reid secured another six-year term in the Senate despite underwater approval ratings, which would have been impossible without his commanding lead among Hispanic voters. Despite a 53% disapproval rating, the Majority Leader has been returned to the US Senate, where he is President Obama’s most powerful ally. In Colorado another reliable supporter of Barack Obama, Senator Bennett narrowly won reelection as well, with overwhelming support from Latino voters.
There is also grim news for the GOP outside of racial demographics. Barack Obama overwhelmingly won the youth vote in 2008, carrying voters between 18 and 29 years of age by more than 60%. To put that margin into context, he carried young adults by a healthier margin than he won Massachusetts, known as the most liberal state in America.
John McCain and the Republican Party showed some strength with senior citizens, winning 55% of the elderly vote. That’s an important area to do well in, because elderly voters are also the most likely to show up at the polls, especially in midterm elections. But who can the GOP turn to as senior citizens are gradually replaced by younger voters who overwhelmingly backed our President? Republicans had better hope that young adults aren’t in the Democratic camp to stay.
The 2010 midterms were important and consequential, but Republicans take too much comfort from their results at their own risk. The GOP was able to do well in a midterm election in which 42% of eligible citizens voted, that was marked by a mobilized conservative base and economic angst. But as the demographics trend away from Republicans, the party of Reagan may need to get adjust to competing in a nation that looks less and less like Ronald Reagan’s America.