Republican Nightmares: The GOP and a Changing American Electorate
November 13, 2012
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.