by Joe Shea
March 26, 2012
THE WATCHMAN COMETH
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- If it looks to you that the Republican Party's primary voters this year seem older and whiter than usual, you're not mistaken.
National Journal took a look at exit polls posted on CNN.com through last week's Super Tuesday primaries. What the magazine found was that "whites have cast at least 90 percent of the votes in every Republican primary except Florida (83 percent) and Arizona (89 percent).
In every other state except Michigan (92 percent) and Nevada (90 percent) whites have comprised at least 94 percent of the GOP vote this year.
"That includes Georgia (94), Virginia (94), Ohio (96), Oklahoma (96), Tennessee (97), South Carolina (98), Massachusetts (98), Iowa (99), New Hampshire (99), and Vermont (99). By comparison in the 2008 general election, whites cast only 74 percent of the total vote."
As for ages of the Republican voters, National Journal found that "voters 50 and older cast at least 70 percent of the Republican ballots in Florida (71) and Nevada (70); at least 60 percent in Massachusetts (64), Georgia (64) Vermont (63), Tennessee (62), Oklahoma (62), South Carolina (61), Virginia (60), Iowa (60) and Michigan (60); and at least 55 percent in Ohio (56), New Hampshire (56), Arizona (55)."
This is some of the data that backs up this unmistakable conclusion: The Republican Party's is shrinking to a core that is white, over age 50, mostly male, mostly evangelical Christian, and mostly lives in rural areas of the former Confederacy.
Notice what's missing from this description. Blacks. Hispanics. Young people. People with college educations. And, most ofall, women.
That's because the Republican Party has gone out of its way to alienate all these groups.
Take Rick Santorum's recent rant against President Obama's call for more Americans to get a college education. It's great if you're trying to corner the blue collar vote, but voters with undergraduate and advanced degrees will comprise the majority voters as soon as 2016.
Hispanics are the fastest growing ethnic group in America. Yet the Republican Party competes to see who can be more draconian about immigration. A Fox News Latino poll last week showed that Hispanic voters favor President Obama by a 6-to-1 margin over any of the current GOP candidates.
With the exception of the 1972, 1984 and 1992 elections, Republicans haven't received more than 20 percent of the black vote in presidential elections since 1964. That pattern is unlikely to change in 2012. A Pew Research Center poll that came out this week showed Obama with a 83-13 lead over Mitt Romney among all people of color.
As for women, John McCain got 43 percent of the vote in 2008. Given the current Republican war on women, that number is certain to be lower for the eventual nominee in November. Then factor in that women vote in higher numbers than men, and things start looking bleaker. The Pew poll has Obama with a 20 point lead over Romney and a 26 percent lead over Santorum among women voters.
Young voters were key to Obama's victory in 2008, and the decline in young voters in 2010 helped give Republicans control of the House. In the 2008 election, Obama lost the overall over-45 vote to McCain. His entire margin of victory came from younger voters who were more educated, less religious, more racially diverse, and generally more socially and economically liberal than the average Republican voter.
This year, voters under the age of 30 will again decide the election, and in the wake of the youth-driven Occupy movement and Republican hostility toward it, it seems unlikely that Republicans will be supported in 2012.
This is why, as Jonathan Chait wrote in the March 5 issue of New York magazine, "The modern GOP - the party of Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes - is staring down its own demographic extinction."
This isn't a new theory. In their 2002 book, "The Emerging Democratic Majority," journalist John Judis and political scientist Roy Teixeira put forth the idea that with each passing election, the electorate was becoming somewhat better educated, and dramatically less white, and secular college-educated whites and racial minorities tended to vote for Democrats.
In swing states where the Hispanic population has greatly grown, such as Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona, and in states such as Virginia and North Carolina, which have seen an influx of college-educated whites, the ground is now fertile for Democratic candidates.
Demography really is destiny for Republicans, wrote Chait.
"Each year, the nonwhite proportion of the electorate grows by about half a percentage point -- meaning that in every presidential election, the minority share of the vote increases by 2 percent, a huge amount in a closely divided country. One measure of how thoroughly the electorate had changed by the time of Obama's election was that, if college-educated whites, working class whites, and minorities had cast the same proportion of votes in 1988 as they did in 2009. Michael Dukakis would have, just barely, won. By 2020, just eight years away, nonwhite voters should rise from a quarter of the 2008 electorate to one-third. In 30 years, nonwhites will outnumber whites."
That is why Republican-controlled legislatures around the country are busily throwing up bureaucratic obstacles to make it more difficult for people to vote. If Republicans can keep as many younger and browner voters away from the polls as possible, they improve their chances of winning.
It's a desperate act by a desperate party that sees the sands of time shifting away from them. If the Republican Party wants to the party of elderly white males, extinction is inevitable.
AR's Chief Correspondent Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.