With the 2012 election settled the pundits have had over a month and a half to blabber away on their conclusions about what the election results mean. Time’s magazine with Obama as their “Man of the Year” is a perfect example. According to Time he has reshaped the American political landscape and brought about a demographic and political shift in the country. Apparently 2010’s interruption of this trend does not matter. Others, many of them intelligent political strategists on both sides of the aisle, say that if the GOP does not make inroads with minorities, young voters and women the party is doomed to be a permanent minority party (outside of the House).
In a prior posts I have explained how the GOP’s issues with many voters run deep. Among singles the GOP message of social conservatism does not resonate. Among minorities the image of being a white-male dominated party does not endear itself to an increasingly young and diverse nation. And for women, well, a staunchly anti-abortion stance makes the GOP ripe for attacks on the issue.
Yet if one digs through the numbers, at least in this election, one can see that the GOP’s issue with voters can really be lumped down to a problem with one growing group of voters, minorities. Indeed, Romney won white voters 59%-39% but he lost all other voters (minorities) by over 60 points. Even though whites were 72% of the electorate their distribution is smaller in swing states such as NV, CO, FL, etc. which Romney needed to win to take the White House.
Much of the GOP’s media hyped problems with singles, women and young voters can also be lumped down to their issues with the minority voters among these groups. Romney did lose white single men and women but not nearly by as much as he did among single blacks, Hispanics and Asians. Romney won white women 56%-42% but lost black women 96%-4% and Hispanic women 76%-23%. Romney even managed to win 18-29 year old white voters 51%-44% but he lost 18-29 year old blacks, Hispanics and Asians by massive margins.
There is no easy fix for the GOP among these voters. These voters have been ignored by the GOP since the 1980’s when it started to become clear that in the future they would be a serious electoral bloc. Now that the GOP has been prevented the White House, twice, by these voters the party is finally taking them seriously. But the issues the GOP has won on in the past seem to be the very issues these voters seem to have more nuanced views on.
Without a doubt the lack of a clear standard-bearer for the GOP post-Bush has hurt them among these voters. In the campaign this damaged Mitt Romney before he even made it out of the primary. Since GW’s exit from the White House these voters have been left with the notion that firebrands like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, etc. are the ones that head the GOP of today.
As fast as it possibly can the GOP is trying to push 2010 victors such as Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) to the forefront of the what the party represents. The election of 2010 represented the deepest diversity the GOP ever has had. Hispanic Governors in New Mexico and Nevada were elected. Indian-American Nikki Haley was elected in South Carolina. In 2011 Bobby Jindal (R-LA) was easily reelected. Even now the GOP is trying to bring more diversity to its Caucus with Nikki Haley’s nomination of African-American Congressman Tim Scott to replace Tea Party icon Senator Jim Demint.
But presenting an image of diversity is a far cry from actually winning voters on the issues. The GOP has long ceded numerous issues like Healthcare and Education to Democrats. On Entitlement programs the GOP is also seen as uncaring in its reforms among younger voters. Even on national defense and security, the GOP’s bread and butter issue, they have lost their significant edge in trust among voters on the issue. Only on taxes and fiscal issues does the GOP maintain a close edge with Democrats.
Younger voters are a different kettle of fish than older voters. This presents the GOP with a difficult and yet possible way forward. Embracing the issues that young voters care about, gay marriage, pragmatism on abortion, education reform, a reformed tax code and so on are the very things that might anger the party’s older, white base. Yet if this election proved anything it is that these voters are becoming a much smaller share of the electorate. For the GOP to survive in the new political environment they must embrace reform and change and aggressively push it.
In Wisconsin, Louisiana, Virginia, Michigan and elsewhere GOP Governors have been at the forefront of reforming their states. In Louisiana, Jindal has reformed his state’s pension and education systems. In Virginia, Bob McDonnell has balanced the state’s budget and presided over a massive expansion of the state’s economy. In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker fought back against unions and reformed the state’s education pension system. In Michigan, Rick Snyder just made the state the nation’s 24th right to work state (Mitch Daniels and Indiana became the 23rd in 2011).
Pragmatic/intelligent governance and increasing diversity are not instant panaceas for the GOP among these voters. The GOP has not only ceded issues to Democrats but it also has ceded the media and especially social media to the Left. This means that younger voters have been inundated with Leftist messages and propaganda. At some level, all these young voters have internally absorbed these biased views of the GOP and what it stands for. Fighting these messages will not be easy for the GOP. Nor will being labelled the party of white males no matter what the GOP does. But the GOP must, lest it become irrelevant in the future.