If demographics is destiny, the Republican Party has a rendezvous with irrelevance — unless its policies change. This is the message some Republican leaders have been sending in the closing weeks of the presidential campaign. “The demographics race we’re losing badly,” Senator Lindsey Graham recently told the Washington Post with characteristic bluntness. “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”
The numbers tell the tale. Minorities have accounted for 85 percent of the country’s population growth over the past decade, according to the US Census Bureau. A record 24 million Hispanics will be eligible to vote in the 2012 presidential election, up 22 percent since 2008. Meanwhile, nearly 87 percent of registered Republican voters are white. And whites have declined as a portion of the electorate in every presidential election since 1992.
It’s getting harder and harder to cobble together a winning coalition based on the grievances of a diminishing faction of white men, and many Republicans know it. An unnamed strategist was quoted in the National Journal in August explaining that Mitt Romney campaign’s formula for winning the presidency involves capturing 61 percent of the white vote (more than any candidate since Ronald Reagan). “This is the last time anyone will try to do this,” the strategist said.
Of course, no voting bloc is monolithic. There are conservative Hispanics, pro-life women, gay Catholics, and any number of other crossovers. But they are the exceptions. The “ethnic gap” between Hispanic voters who favor the Democratic Party (62 percent) over the Republicans (25 percent) is 37 points — wider than the gender gap.
So the Republican dilemma is clear. The argument comes over what to do about it. The party could appeal to the new demographic by adjusting its policies toward immigration reform, for example. It could denounce racial profiling by authorities enforcing “show me your papers’’ laws. It could make another sincere stab at a guest worker program for agricultural sectors of the economy.
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