Republican Nightmares: The GOP and a Changing American Electorate

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A map of election results, had the American electorate in 2012 consisted only of white males.

Ashton Macfarlane

After a devastating 2012 election cycle, in which the Republican Party failed to take the presidency, lost two seats in the Senate, and another four in the House, Republican elites must now struggle to define the causes of their party’s electoral debacle.

President Barack Obama won re-election with landslide margins among Latino voters, young voters, and women, capturing 71 percent of the Latino and Asian vote, 60 percent of voters under 30, and 55 percent of women voters.

Had the electorate consisted only of white men, Mitt Romney would have won every state in the nation but Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington.

Thus Mr. Obama based his victory on a broad coalition of support among nonwhite voters, a coalition that is growing rapidly, a worrisome trend for the Republican Party. In just eight years, from 2004 to 2012, the percentage of Latinos in the American electorate has grown from 8 percent to 10 percent, that of Asians from 2 percent to 3 percent.

Many analysts have attributed Republicans’ woes to hard-line conservative stances on issues such as immigration, abortion, contraceptives, and gay marriage.

Whit Ayres, President of a Virginian public opinion research firm providing consultation to Republican candidates told the New York Times, “It is patently obvious that unless Republicans do better among nonwhite voters, they will cease to be a viable national political party.”

Mr. Ayres added, “Obviously, doing something on immigration-related issues, like the Dream Act, is a start. But we’re also going to have to address the fact that younger people tend to be less conservative on a number of hot-button social issues.”

The demographics of many Western states are continuing to shift to favor democrats, and the next years could bring Nevada, Colorado, and ultimately even Florida firmly into democratic control.

The relevance of the Republican Party as a national entity in the future may depend on its ability to silence the more radical wings of the party, strict religious conservatives whose social stances alienate a wide swath of voters, and Tea Party activists, whose uncompromising anti-government attitudes unsettle many citizens who rely on services provided by the government.

As Karl Rove argued fruitlessly on Fox News on the night of the election, the nation saw a man gaping at the power of American voters to render useless hundreds of millions of dollars pumped into Republican campaigns. The Supreme Court may have ruled that money is speech, but money shall never be votes in a democracy. People will always be votes.

Sheldon Adelson, who personally donated at least $53 million to Republican causes, was forced to slink off the stage, as all eight candidates he had supported lost their elections.

Nevertheless, Adelson’s donations represented only .25% of the casino mogul’s wealth, and though he won no elections he won for himself a place on the national stage of American politics. He is likely far from finished in his political involvement.

The Republican Party now faces serious questions that will be answered only in the months and years to come. Can it successfully shift its stances on immigration, support the Dream Act, rally around Marco Rubio, and court Latino voters? Would more liberal stances on social issues so anger white evangelical voters (78% of whom voted for Mr. Romney) that the Republican coalition would collapse? And finally, should the next Republican candidate be a fiery and ideological conservative of the Paul Ryan mold, or a more moderate pragmatist of the Jon Huntsman vein?

These shall be the questions of the months to come, as Republicans seek to bounce back from electoral disappointment, and forge a lasting coalition in a changing nation.

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12 Responses to “Republican Nightmares: The GOP and a Changing American Electorate”

  1. zpacalin on November 13th, 2012 3:41 pm

    Wow when you look at the voting demographics, the results of this years election are really revealing. This is definitely something that the Republican Party will need to address before the next election.

  2. shoover on November 13th, 2012 8:41 pm

    Very interesting. I wonder what would happen if the republican party did “cease to be a viable national political party.”

  3. alai on November 13th, 2012 8:55 pm

    It doesn’t surprise me that the Republican Party is losing support as America’s population changes. Some of the party’s more extreme positions seem to have alienated a ton of voters.

  4. Virsies on November 13th, 2012 10:43 pm

    The swing voters/states are really important to Republican campaigns and a change in direction may be what the party needs. I’m a pretty strong liberal so I usually sway democratic but I would potentially support a Republican candidate whose policies and ideas I agree with.

  5. Sabiha Viswanathan on November 13th, 2012 11:04 pm

    I think that it truly goes to show that Romney was not the right candidate for the nation, seeing that Obama won the votes of a variety of different people while Romney pretty much just dominated when it came to white male voters.

  6. Robbie Gordan on November 15th, 2012 3:07 pm

    The GOP’s primary process is fundamentally flawed, which may be part of the reason for their presidential woes. There are many smart, moderate Republicans who have no chance of winning the nomination, but may be their party’s only chance at winning the presidency. One other thing I want to point out is that Democrats had a significant cash advantage in the election.

    amacfarlane Reply:

    I completely agree with you about the primary process. It is truly a shame that somebody like Jon Huntsman is largely unable to find any footing during the primaries. About the cash advantage, I’m not sure it was so drastic. The Democratic combination of the Obama campaign, DNC, and Priorities Action super PAC did outraise their Republican counterparts by about 6%, but with the participation of other groups like Crossroads and the NRA, it rather evens out. I must confess I do not know the exact figures for everything, but I do not believe this was an election in which Democrats had any dominating cash advantage. As we know, my views tend to align very consistently towards the liberal end of the spectrum, but I would nevertheless love to see the reëmergence of a moderate Republican Party. I think it is unfortunate for the political discourse of the nation that hardline conservative views have to receive so much attention. It would be such a relief if we could leave the arguments over gay marriage behind, lose the rhetoric about government ‘gifts’ to the less wealthy, forget the idea that income disparity can create jobs, and never say anything about rape other than that it is a horrific crime. The nation’s deficit is a serious issue. So is keeping a functioning safety net that helps support Americans that work hard but still have trouble making ends meet. The development of natural resources to power a 21st century lifestyle for a growing population is an important concern. So is protecting the beauty of the earth, its ecosystems and its animals. When we can have two parties that accept the same values, of tolerance, of compassion, of pragmatism, yet differ in the fine details of how to achieve their goals, then we will have stimulating political arguments, and a stronger nation.

  7. Nolan Martin on November 15th, 2012 9:37 pm

    I love seeing the diversity that is emerging in our elections; it’s nice to see that the white vote by no means determines the winner of the presidential election. The GOP is going to need to learn how to appeal to a diverse group of voters or they will no longer find success in America’s elections.

  8. Hannah on November 15th, 2012 11:19 pm

    Wow. Very interesting visual. In my opinion, the most provocative fact from this article was that if “the electorate consisted only of white men, Mitt Romney would have won every state in the nation but Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington.” Very thought-provoking. Thanks for reporting!

  9. David Schmitt on November 18th, 2012 1:51 pm

    I think that the forced evolution of the Republican party shows, at least to some extent, that democracy is still alive and well, because the Republicans are forced to reform their platform to pander to the voters. This means that, contrary to all of the money poured into elections trying to sway the electorate, the voters’ views on issues are still more relevant.

  10. NotkeVin on November 18th, 2012 6:21 pm

    The Republican party may have lost the Presidency, but we have to look at the makeup of the people that actually make the laws too. Senate still holds Democrat majority, but it’s not by a lot, and in the House, Republicans hold by 50 seats.

    That’s nearly equal to the amount of representatives held by California.

    FOOD FER THOUT

  11. Annalise Deal on November 19th, 2012 10:36 pm

    I agree with both Ashton and Robbie in that it’s unfortunate to see that moderate Republicans are losing time and again their party’s nomination, when in reality they would almost certainly have a better chance of winning a national election. Political conservatism has lost its merit amongst a significant portion of the population due to social issues–and is pushing people away because of these radical views. If the Republican party could nominate a presidential candidate that would hold fast in fiscal conservative roots, but remain open on other issues, I think they would definitely have a chance at winning the election.
    This would turn our partisan democracy back into what it should be–a battle of political philosophies, discussing whether a conservative or liberal economic system works better, rather than the complex social policy battle it has become. This way all demographics would be left to decide which platform they feel would suit our government better, rather than having their views tainted by whether they will be able to continue getting free contraceptives, or they can marry their partner. Social issues are much better dealt with on the state-wide level, as states tend to be more homogeneous socially anyways.