It’s been said that demography is destiny, and demography is on the Democrats’ side.
In putting together a winning coalition, President Barack Obama won big with three of the fast-growing segments of this society: Latinos, 71 percent, Asians, 73 percent, and voters 18-29 years old, 60 percent. He also received 93 percent of the African-American vote and was favored by women voters by 11 percent over Republican opponent Mitt Romney, with a 36 percent margin among unmarried women. To top it off, the Democrats had a superior ground game that did an excellent job of finding their voters and getting them to the polls.
The Republicans, by contrast, relied on lies about Obama, his policies and their effects, particularly hoping voters had such short memories that they forgot the economy tanked under George W. Bush; an enormous amount of Super PAC money, in an attempt to buy the election; and voter suppression, seeking to keep people likely to vote Democratic away from the polls. This strategy failed completely.
The Republicans are stuck with a narrow and diminishing base. The party’s biggest weakness is that its economic policies are strictly of, by and for the rich, resulting in class warfare over the last 30 years that has produced a regressive redistribution of income, with the rich getting richer and the rest of us losing ground.
Since appealing to the rich alone won’t win elections, the Republicans have expanded their base by viewing the electorate as comprised largely of stupid and ignorant bigots, using a divisive culture war strategy of appealing to racism, sexism and homophobia, thereby alienating large and growing societal sectors on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity and class. This strategy has proven short-sighted when whites are a shrinking proportion of the population, most recently declining from 74 percent of the electorate in 2008 to 72 percent in 2012, with younger whites tending to reject their elders’ bigotry.
In light of their Nov. 6 defeat and demographics working against them, we might expect some Republicans to realize that they may need to moderate some of their positions on the issues to avoid becoming a permanent minority. But so far, that hasn’t been the case.
Romney, who like most Republicans has no concept of the public interest, attributed Obama’s victory to “gifts” given to African-Americans, Latinos and young voters, primarily in the areas of health care reform, immigration reform and student loan forgiveness. In doing so, he completely skipped over the nationwide social benefits created by these policies, along with the negative impact of Republican policies on these groups.
Similarly, conservative pundit William Bennett didn’t get it, either. He saw Obama’s appeal to these groups as “identity politics,” when it is natural for everyone to vote their self-interest. From Bennett’s culture war perspective, he saw a poll finding 49 percent of 18-29 year old voters have a positive view of socialism, compared to 46 percent viewing capitalism favorably, as the product of liberal teaching. But in fact, it is based on reality. When young people see income redistributed from the middle class to an already rich corporate elite; state higher education appropriations cut, resulting in college tuition going through the roof and an enormous student loan burden; and a job shortage leaving half of recent college graduates unemployed or underemployed, they can’t be expected to have much faith in capitalism.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is yet another Republican who doesn’t get it, saying that his party needs to “modernize, not moderate.” While urging Republicans to reject “identity politics,” Jindal failed to offer any policy shifts that would appeal to growing minority constituencies, let alone young voters, only making a vague appeal for undisclosed “policies that can create prosperity.”
Along the way, none of these Republicans addressed the fact that Obama won several key states without large cities or significant minority populations. Meanwhile, their culture war is starting to backfire, with Maine, Maryland and Washington becoming the first states to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote, and Colorado and Washington the first states in which voters approved legalization of marijuana.