Can the GOP survive on white voters alone?

Party's future depends on being more inclusive

WASHINGTON, D.C. - “The Republican Party as we know it cannot survive,” according to Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz.

Note the caveat: “as we know it.”

The Republican Party we know today can barely get 20 percent of the non-white vote in presidential elections.  That kind of political party can’t survive precisely because it is the non-white population that is growing, much faster than the white population.

By 2044, the United States will be a majority-minority country; there will be more non-whites than whites.  The word “minority” will probably be mothballed by then.

Unless the GOP can figure out how to stop alienating voters who aren’t white people, they won’t be able to win national elections or very many state elections. That’s what Abramowitz meant in his remark at a recent conference about America’s shifting demographics.

Judging from the behavior of House Republicans, you would think they couldn’t care less.

The latest brass-knuckle brawl over Obama’s immigration policies seems intentionally designed to pander to white, less educated, less wealthy voters who see immigration as a threat, and intentionally designed to turn off minorities, especially Latinos. They just happen to be the fastest growing population of all.

House Republicans may not need to worry about that – yet.

That is because of gerrymandering, the art of drawing Congressional districts to partisan advantage. Minority populations tend to be tightly clustered, especially in urban areas.

If you draw boundaries so that some districts are essentially segregated as all-minority, they will elect minority members by huge margins. But there will be many more districts where whites will have majorities just large enough to win.

That gimmick won’t last forever, but it helps the GOP ignore their long-term problem – and the problems of the minorities they don’t represent.

Change will come swiftly.

For example: According to a new study by the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution and the Center for American Progress, Texas will have more Latinos than whites by 2020. The GOP needs Texas’ electoral votes in presidential elections.

In 2040, Hispanics will outnumber whites in Nevada and Arizona. Thirteen heavily populated states with lots of electoral votes will be majority-minority.

Republican voters are actually closely divided on immigration issues. You wouldn’t know that by watching Congress though.

That is because the voters that are most fiercely anti-immigrant and anti-immigration are heavily Republican. They are epitomized by groups named after some of our earliest immigrants – the tea party gang. They have disproportionate clout – and volume – in the House.

The Public Religion Research Institute recently did an extensive poll about values. One question asked if immigrants “strengthen” America because of their “hard work and talent” or if they are a “burden.”

Only one demographic sub-group had a majority saying “burden” – white evangelical Protestants. These are the voters who hold sway in GOP primaries and power the party’s right wing.

If the Republicans’ anti-immigrant posture holds through a few more election cycles, Asian and Hispanic voters will likely become hardened Democrats for generations. 

No matter what party you prefer, that is a lousy political setup for a country fast becoming more diverse.

[Related: What will America look like in 2060?]

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