Why Republicans must change to survive (let alone to win again)
The GOP is in disastrous shape now, even a worse shape than in 1964 or 1974. As of today, it has lost 4 of the last 6 presidential elections by large EC vote margins and has lost the popular vote 5 out of 6 times. The most recent GOP President, George W. Bush, won reelection by the smallest margin of any reelected President in US history, 286-252. Eighteen states that collectively have about 240 EC votes have voted Democratic in each of the last 6 presidential elections, from 1992 to 2012. Three of the nation’s seven mega-states – California, Illinois, and New York – are safely Democratic. Pennsylvania has voted Democratic in each of the last 6 presidential elections; it has not voted Republican since 1988. Ohio and Florida are swing states, and Republicans have not won either of them since 2004.
Only Texas remains secure – for now. But whites are already a minority in Texas. When the Lone Star State is lost, America will be irrevocably lost.
By contrast, the GOP was not in such dire straits in 1964 or 1976.
In 1964, it did suffer a worse defeat, but that one was entirely avoidable if Republicans had not nominated Barry Goldwater. And it had won three of the previous 4 presidential elections, including the 1960 election, which JFK “won” solely due to vote fraud in Cook County and Texas.
In 1974, the GOP was defeated in the Congressional midterms, but its 1976 presidential election loss was by a slight margin. Had a few states where the election was decided by less than 1% of the vote had voted Republican, Jimmy Carter would’ve lost it. And even though he won, he could muster only 51% of the vote in an environment marked by Watergate, defeat in Vietnam, inflation, and a stagnant economy. And the GOP had won 4 of the previous six presidential elections (or 5 if you count that of 1960), all of them except the 1968 election won by a landslide. Indeed, just 4 years before, the GOP had won the presidential election by one of the largest blowouts in American history. Furthermore, in both cases, the electorate was predominantly white.
This year, Republicans badly lost what should’ve been a winnable election. Barack Obama won 7 of the 9 swing states he had won in 2008 (all but North Carolina and Indiana) and won the EC vote 332-206. Republicans won no Senate seats on net, and actually lost two, thanks in part to nominating extremist candidates like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock who beat far more electable Republicans (John Brunner, Sarah Steelman, and Richard Lugar) only to go on to lose the general election by a landslide. The GOP has also lost seats in the House and now retains only a slim minority.
And looking ahead, the Party’s prospects for Senate seat pickups are dim. Only the seats currently held by Jeff Merkley, Jay Rockefeller, and Mark Begich are realistically winnable as of today – and only if Republicans nominate electable candidates (Greg Walden, Shelley Capito, and Mead Treadwell, respectively).
Why have Republicans lost this election so disastrously, and how can the GOP win future elections?
There is no single answer to the first question, because many factors colluded to give Obama a victory: a friendly media, a better GOTV machine, a largely uninformed electorate (a large portion of which is dependent on the government and has an incentive to vote for Big Government politicians), and more.
But the biggest factor was demographics. And demographics is destiny.
Today, whites constitute only 72% of the electorate and 65% of the population. Blacks constitute 13% of the electorate; Latinos, 10%; Asians, 2-3%. In some states, such as California, Texas and New Mexico, whites are already the minority.
Obama got the majority of his votes from minorities, and won these minority groups by huge margins: 90% of the black vote, 71% of the Latino vote, and over 70% of the Asian vote. The GOP received 90% of its votes from whites – a shrinking majority that is on course for minority status by 2050.
It has been said that “Europe will be Islamic by the middle of the century.” The US will be Hispanic by that time.
Obama also received the majority of the female vote and a large majority of the youth’s vote. Old Republicans are dying out and being replaced by young, mostly Democrat, voters.
And why is the GOP not winning these groups’ votes? Contrary to what some fringe groups and activists may tell you, it’s because the GOP advocates, on some issues, policies that repel the vast majorities of these groups. Policies which these groups, and indeed, a vast majority of all Americans, oppose by large margins.
Take Hispanics, for example. Some columnists, such as Mark Krikorian, Ramesh Ponnuru and John O’Sullivan, falsely claim that Hispanics don’t really care about immigration and instead care about the issues that most Americans consider most important – the economy, jobs, healthcare, and the budget deficit.
This is not true. While immigration is not THE single most important issue for Hispanics, it is nonetheless an important issue for them. And on that issue, the vast majority (77%) of Hispanics strongly oppose the GOP’s official policy. Here’s what a post-election Pew Hispanic poll said on the subject:
“Throughout this election cycle, the issue of immigration has been an important issue for Hispanics. In the national exit poll, voters were asked about what should happen to unauthorized immigrants working in the U.S. According to the national exit poll, 77% of Hispanic voters said these immigrants should be offered a chance to apply for legal status while 18% said these immigrants should be deported. Among all voters, fewer than two-thirds (65%) said these immigrants should be offered a chance to apply for legal status while 28% say they should be deported.”
See? 77% of Hispanics want illegal immigrants to be legalized; only 18% say these people should be deported. But most importantly, 65% of all Americans – a staunch majority – agree with 77% of Hispanics on this, while only 28% support a mass deportation policy.
Things are actually worse for the GOP than that: Hispanics, even those who are US citizens, consider an attack on immigrant an attack on themselves. Thus, it’s not just the GOP’s policies but also its language that repel Hispanics.
And the Latino vote clearly cost, or greatly helped cost, the GOP the crucial swing states of Nevada (6 EC votes), Colorado (9), Florida (29), and Virginia (13), as well as putting New Mexico (6) out of reach for Republicans. Had those five states voted for Romney, he would’ve won 269 EC votes, and get elected President by the Republican-controlled House.
Latinos are hardly the only way the GOP has alienated. Republicans have also offended the ladies by adopting extremist stances on abortion, thus playing nicely into the (false) Democrat narrative of a “Republican war on women”. This started when Virginia legislators, led by single-issue anti-abortion-crusader Delegate Robert G. Marshall passed a bill (signed by Governor Bob McDonnell) requiring every woman wanting to obtain an abortion to undergo a vaginal ultrasound. Then, Missouri Republicans (and Democrat plants in the open MO primary – when will Republicans learn that they need to hold closed primaries?), helped by Mike Huckabee nominated anti-abortion-crusader Todd Akin, whom Democrat incumbent Claire McCaskill correctly considered to be the weakest candidate, instead of nominating a across-the-board conservative like John Brunner or, even better, Sarah Steelman (endorsed by Sarah Palin). Republicans initially denounced him, but he refused to withdraw from the race, and Republicans eventually adopted his (and Marshall’s) policy of seeking to ban abortion in all cases – including rape, incest, and the life of the mother – as their official party policy, inscribed into the GOP platform.
So, while the GOP was denouncing Todd Akin’s remarks, it was simoultaneously inscribing his policy into the party platform.
Then, Richard Mourdock opened his mouth and said to women, “Don’t worry about that getting pregnant thingy, because if you get pregnant as a result of rape, that is a gift from God!”
This allowed the Dems to slight all Republicans across the country by warning voters that if they vote for this or that Republican, they’ll be voting for the party of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. This hurt Republicans across the country and lost several winnable races – not just those in MO and IN.
The result? Women could not run away from the GOP fast enough.
In every state that Romney lost, he also lost the female vote, in most cases by a large margin. Even in NC, where he won overall, he lost the female vote.
It’s not surprise, because women are the majority of voters in this country. Alienate a majority of them, and you will lose.
And yes, contrary to what radical religious Republicans will tell you, most women support a pro-choice position and consider this issue important. Right or wrong, they do.
Indeed, according to the most recent Gallup poll on the subject, 54% of all Americans consider themselves pro-choice.
And 75% of all Americans support maintaining abortion’s legality in cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother.
The electorate will never support, and no state legislature will ever pass, a law requiring a woman to bear the child of her rapist.
Again, Republicans are advocating a policy that a vast majority of Americans oppose. No wonder why they’ve lost 4 of the last 6 presidential elections.
Finally, there’s American youth. They are less religious and less traditionalist than any previous generation of Americans. While they may be fiscally conservative, they are socially liberal and consider “socially conservative” policies such as banning abortion and gay marriage to be inconsistent with the GOP’s self-proclaimed principle of limited government.
Obama’s presidency has been a disaster for them. The youth unemployment rate is in the double digits, and Obama has accumulated a huge public debt that these young people – not their parents or grandparents – will have to pay back, with interest.
But Republicans have failed to seize the moment. They have alienated young people with their extremist policies and self-righteous pontification about abortion (see above) and gay marriage. The problem is not just the policies Republicans advocate, but also the fact that when Republicans talk about these issues, they sound like pompous, self-righteous prigs.
65% of all Americans, including a solid majority of youngsters, support allowing gays to marry. The public’s attitude towards this issue has changed significantly since 1996. It’s a losing issue for Republicans these days (as is abortion). Hence why it has already been legalized in several states by legislatures and in two by referendum.
The American electorate has changed beyond recognition since 1980, but the GOP hasn’t changed with it.
And so, young Americans, who would’ve otherwise been natural Republican voters (if they are really fiscally conservative – this is not yet clear), couldn’t run away from the GOP fast enough.
Looking ahead, what should the GOP do?
Firstly, it needs to state clearly that it is a party of limited Constitutional government, free market economic policies, fair trade, and a strong national defense. Period.
Secondly, Republicans should drop the gay marriage issue. Now. There is zero evidence that allowing gays to marry somehow harms the institution of marriage. It is divorce (predominantly no-fault divorce, pioneered by California) that really threatens marriage: America has a sky-high divorce rate, the highest in the world. Divorce, breaks up families with disastrous results for everyone.
At minimum, Republicans should adopt a federalist position on gay marriage, i.e. say that it should be decided by the states.
Thirdly, on abortion, Republicans should also adopt a federalist position, i.e. leave it to the states, and at the state level, say that they support an exception for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. This should be written into the GOP platform to make clear that it’s the official GOP policy.
Fourthly, on immigration, Republicans should support the legalization of illegal immigrants who have not committed crimes other than immigrating illegally, coupled with securing the border with a fence, a virtual fence, and making the E-Verify program obligatory. Simoultaneously, immigration laws need to be reformed so as to bring in (indeed, attract) bright, well-educated, productive people to the US while ending the cretinous policy of letting in huge numbers of unskilled relatives of US citizens (extended families). Only spouses, fiance(e)s, and children of US citizens should be let in. Otherwise, the only way to immigrate to the US should be to have at least a Master’s degree and/or some years of experience in an occupation, science, or art in demand in the US.
Currently, if you have a relative in the US, you can immigrate easily, but if you don’t, your chances are slim, even if you have a PhD in computer science and an IT or computer games company wants to hire you. If that company petitions to get you a visa, you’ll have to wait 5 or more years for it. In that time, the company could go out of business, and in the meantime, you need to feed yourself.
The US should stop importing unskilled relatives of US citizens who are a burden on taxpayers, but extend a warm welcome for skilled, self-supporting people.
Fourthly, the GOP needs to diversify its ranks and its leadership. Yes, this is “identity politics”, but it works. One of the reasons minorities vote for Democrats is because the Dems nominate minorities for high positions. They have nominated a black for President, and in 2000, they nominated a Jew for Vice President.
Republicans, by contrast, have never nominated anyone but a white for President or Vice President, anyone but a white man for the highest office in the land, and only one woman (Sarah Palin) for Vice President. Minorities will not vote for Republicans if the top tiers of the party’s nominee crop and its leadership remain an exclusive club for whites.
And no, Republicans don’t have to adopt an affirmative action policy to change this. There are plenty of qualified Republicans who can lead the party. They include Hispanics Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Brian Sandoval, and Susana Martinez; Indian Americans Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley; and women such as Martinez, Jindal, and Kelly Ayotte. All of whom except arguably Sandoval, are conservatives.
So the good news is that Republicans can still win elections and can still become a majority party. But it’s imperative that they drop losing positions on losing issues and make amends with Hispanics, women, and young voters. Before it’s too late.