Culture Wars/Current Controversies

When will Republicans face demographic reality?

The Republicans have two very serious strategic problems: First, their only reliable constituency (middle-aged to elderly white folks in the South, Midwest, rural areas, and small towns) is shrinking in size. Second, this constituency is sinking fast economically (which will be dramatically accelerated by the current crisis). Hence, the move toward a combination of nativism and faux populism in recent times. There seems to be a way this kind of “American LePenist” strategy could work.

First, the GOP has to maintain the loyalty of the evangelicals/religious-right and the populist-right (the anti-immigration, pro-gun, anti-free trade, anti-China configuration). Second, the GOP has to cultivate potential “swing voters” such as union members, legal immigrants opposed to illegal immigration, Catholics, minority business owners, socially conservative minorities, independents with populist-leaning economic views, Jews and gays and women alarmed by Islamism, etc. That’s more or less the constituency of France’s National Rally, with some adjustments for an American context. It might keep them GOP in business a little while longer although, historically, throne and altar usually loses to the bourgeoisie.

By Jeffrey Kabaservice

Niskanen Center

In 2013, after the Republican Party had lost the popular vote for the fifth time in six elections, the Republican National Committee issued its “Growth and Opportunity Project” report — better known as the “autopsy report” — calling for the GOP to recognize and respond to the nation’s changing demographics. Under the heading “America Looks Different,” the report observed that whites would become a minority sometime in the 2040s. Unless greater numbers of Latinos, Asian Americans, and African Americans could be persuaded to vote Republican, the report’s authors warned, demographic changes would “tilt the playing field even more in the Democratic direction.”

Donald Trump, as the Republican presidential candidate in 2016, rejected virtually every recommendation advanced by the autopsy report and still managed to win, even while losing the popular vote. Although the movement toward the majority-minority crossover has continued apace during Trump’s presidency, the proposition that demographic change will deliver the Democrats an enduring electoral majority no longer seems as imminent as it once did.


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