Thursday, September 12, 2013

Demographics May Not Be Destiny

Chris Cillizza, weathervane that he is, spoke for most of the punditocracy when in May he wrote

The Republican National Committee’s “Growth and Opportunity Project”, a 100-page autopsy of what went wrong in 2012, is an attempt to re-start a party that has stalled out nationally — having come up short in consecutive presidential elections and having suffered popular vote defeats in four out of the last five contests.

Much of the document is dedicated to addressing the demographic problems that confront Republicans with a shrinking white population and rising number of Hispanics entering the electorate.

“We are not a policy committee, but among the steps Republicans take in the Hispanic community and beyond, we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform,” reads the report. “If we do not, our party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.”

That’s 100 percent right. (Heck, we wrote a whole chapter in the “Gospel According to the Fix” about the Republicans Hispanic problem.) But words alone don’t tell the story of both the necessity and the challenge of Republicans finding a way to broaden their demographic coalition.

Because Republicans never, ever will win another election outside of the South, border states, or the northern Rockies unless they appeal to Hispanics.


Colorado’s state senate president and another legislator have conceded in an unprecedented recall election triggered by their push for stricter gun control measures. The outcome is likely to be viewed as a referendum on the hot-button issue that has divided the country this year.

The senate leader, John Morse of Colorado Springs, and state Sen. Angela Giron of the Democratic-leaning city of Pueblo were targeted by a highly contentious recall effort that drew big-name donors on both sides of the debate. The legislative recall effort is the first in state history.

With about 80 percent of voted counted, the Denver Post and other local media outlets reported that Morse had conceded Tuesday night. The final counts showed Morse was voted out 50.9-49 percent. Giron was ousted 56 percent to 44 percent.

Most analysts attribute the loss to the gun control issue and support by Giron and Morse of measures which included expanded background checks and limits on the size of magazines, popular initiatives almost everywhere.  Other individuals, such as NBC's Chuck Todd, point to the active involvement of Michael Bloomberg and his Mayors Against Illegal Guns, though there is insufficient mention of "New York City" and the mayor's religion.  (Race isn't the only untouchable issue in polite discourse.) The impact of this factor in energizing conservative voters, however, was limited, given that turnout in the election was very low.

Admittedly, it was only elections in two parts of a state, rather than a nationwide contest or state-by-state contests.. In off-year elections, the minorities (predominantly blacks and Hispanics) who go to the polls often take a pass.  But it is in some of those off-year elections that many state legislators are elected, and it is no coincidence that most of the victors are Republican. They then turn their sights on voter suppression (as well as restricting the reproductive rights of women) because the votes of minorities can only cause trouble for them.

State elections, which are dominated by whites, the affluent, and special interests, are important. And as we saw in Colorado, they can be won by conservative white voters without regard to Hispanics.  In three years, when the Democratic Party will neither be represented on the presidential ballot by an incumbent nor have the strategic advantage of running against eight years of demonstrable incompetence, those non-Hispanic whites still will be allowed to vote.  Their interests (or what they perceive as their interests), enhanced by Repub success in voter registration, may carry the day, making a mockery of blind faith in the power of demographics.

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