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No Easy Path Forward for Republicans

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As recently as 1992, white voters made up 87 percent of the electorate. That year, 94 percent of the votes George H.W. Bush won were from white voters. In 2012, white voters were down to 72 percent of the electorate, and Mitt Romney got clobbered among the other 28 percent.

The strategy of playing to white voters, which worked well for almost half a century, has rebounded on Republicans, to devastating effect. When you pass draconian “papers please” legislation, or denigrate any social safety net program as giving T-bone steaks to “strapping young bucks,” you send a clear and unmistakable signal to people that you do not value the people you’re attacking. Unsurprisingly, these people then vote against you. With people of color making up a greater percentage of the electorate, Republicans have hit a demographic brick wall — there simply aren’t enough white voters intrigued by a return to segregation to overcome the massive deficit Republicans face among voters they’ve tried to dehumanize.

Voters Less Religious, More Tolerant

Another factor working against Republicans is their embrace of conservative social issues. The Religious Right had its genesis in the fight for continuing segregation. When the American apartheid system was finally killed, leaders in the movement such as Jerry Falwell retrenched, fighting instead against abortion and homosexuality, as well as pushing women toward “traditional” family roles. The positions espoused by the religious right became part of the Republican catechism. It drove some Rockefeller Republicans out of the party and caused others, like President George H.W. Bush (and Mitt Romney), to reverse their positions on abortion rights. The GOP was happy to make the deal, though, as there were more than enough socially conservative voters to make up the gap.

The problem for the Republican Party is, unfortunately, that younger voters had their own minds, and used those minds to draw different conclusions about the world. As more LGBTs came out and demanded civil rights, as more women joined the workforce and as birth control went from unusual to ubiquitous, younger voters became more liberal in their views.

The disconnect between young and old is seen most sharply in the split on same-sex marriage. Younger voters strongly favor full civil rights for same-sex couples, and view opposition to it as pure bigotry. This is true even among Republicans. Republicans have been slow to pick up on this sea change, in no small part because older, less tolerant people make up the core of activists and elected officials in the party.

Republicans still do well among Christian Conservatives, but there are fewer conservative Christians all the time. Protestants are no longer a majority of the population, and the fastest-growing religious group in the country is “no religious affiliation.” The upshot is that the country is rapidly moving away from the culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s, toward a more tolerant, pluralistic society.

Unfortunately for Republicans, they’ve been opposing tolerance and pluralism for forty-odd years. Simply put, the party is out of step with the country — and especially, with younger voters.

Economic Policies Unpopular

Republicans have always been a party of wealth, and much of their drive to attract working-class voters can be seen as an attempt to deal with the simple reality that there are always more non-rich people than rich people. That doesn’t mean that Republicans have been unable to push their economic vision these past fifty years, though. Republicans have used their relationship with value voters to advance their ideal of smaller government. They’ve managed to do this in no small party by not actually cutting that much out of government, of course — but they’ve succeeded in winning tax breaks for the wealthy, which has been a key part of their policy.

Unfortunately for Republicans, the past decade of slow growth has laid bare the fact that tax cuts aren’t particularly correlated with economic growth. As the middle class has stagnated, the rich have continued to get richer, causing wide swaths of the electorate to question the wisdom of trickle-down economics. Exit polls showed that 60 percent of voters supported raising taxes on the wealthy. Indeed, Romney’s loss can be pinned in no small part on his opposition to government intervention in saving the auto industry; his belief in “smaller government” would have cost a million jobs, concentrated in the Midwest. It’s no surprise that the Rust Belt rejected Romney, despite his being a native of Michigan.

This leaves the Republicans in an awkward place. If people are turning against their economic proposals, and if there aren’t enough white conservative voters to keep winning on social issues, where can they go from here?

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258 comments

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5:28PM PST on Nov 26, 2012

Thank you for article.

5:28PM PST on Nov 26, 2012

Thank you for article.

11:42AM PST on Nov 16, 2012

Republicans do well with those who have a hard time with change, those who have trouble recieving new information, drawing new conclusions and changing their minds. Sometimes it seems they're regressing into the Dark Ages.

You notice the demographics at Romney's rallies don't reflect the demographics of the American people. Obama's rallies reflected the real America with people from all demographics.

Republicans seem to be living in a bubble, Reagan did-away with the "Fairness Doctrine" which mandated that broadcasters present contraversal issues of public importance in a honest, balanced, and fair manner. How can that be good for Americans to recieve only one point of view - like the republican-leaning Fox News. I think this is a great dis-service to Americans and allows broadcasters to control what information viewers/listeners recieve. Instead of presenting the facts, opions from all different points of view and allowing people to make up their own minds, they are controlling information and making up the minds of others for them. I find that frightening - it's not even news anymore, it's propaganda.

Anyway, I'm glad Obama won. I wish the republicans would either go the way of the WHIG party, or catch up with this changing world.

6:18AM PST on Nov 16, 2012

(continued)

It does, however, fit very well. As the last fragments of the Romney/Ryan campaign flutter to the ground, one last confirmation: Paul Ryan is above your petty party rules, and when Paul Ryan is involved with something, the math is whatever Paul Ryan wants it to be.


(It's always the same result, over and over again - when you put it in R, it just goes backward...)

6:06AM PST on Nov 16, 2012

(continued)

Even though vice presidential Mini-Mitt Paul Ryan was reelected to congress, this was to have been the last year of his highly prized House Budget Committee chairmanship. That's because the Republicans have an ostensible rule that term limits committee chairmen and/or ranking members to six years in those plum positions, partly because Republicans really like term limits and partly to give other members a chance to rake in some of the sweet, sweet campaign money that comes from being in those positions of maximal power. Whatever is the case, I can't think of a better way to welcome official "GOP intellectual" Paul Ryan back into the congressional fold than for the GOP to ignore simple rules of math for his benefit:

Speaker John Boehner is declaring that nobody but Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., fresh off his unsuccessful vice presidential bid, will be granted a waiver from internal GOP term-limit rules requiring several members to give up their chairmanships next year.

“He told me he wants to limit it to Ryan,” said Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., of such a waiver, on Thursday

Well, there's some good news: Republican Math Guy will be the only recipient of the magical "rules are for everyone else" waiver, and Peter King specifically won't be getting one. (I have to believe that King isn't especially well-liked even in the GOP, because, well, c'mon. Have you heard him?)

It does, however, fit

6:04AM PST on Nov 16, 2012

Thanks, Lynn C.!

And thanks to Leonard T. for posting this URL: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/11/13/1161225/-Jimmy-Carter-s-grandson-strikes-again

Very interesting indeed!

Michael M., if I could give you all the Green Stars you deserved, you'd probably smother, so just as well I can't...


It sounds as though the Republicans are incapable of moving forward, and I suspect that they may be thinking of running Lyin' Ryan again, next Presidential election, so be warned...

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/11/15/1162093/-Despite-GOP-term-limits-Republicans-allow-Paul-Ryan-to-continue-as-head-of-Budget-Committee

hu Nov 15, 2012 at 06:15 PM PST
Despite GOP term limits, Republicans allow Paul Ryan to continue as head of Budget Committee

by Hunter for Daily Kos

Even though vice presidential Mini-Mitt Paul Ryan was reelected to congress, this was to have been the last year of his highly prized House Budget Committee chairmanship. That's because the Republicans have an ostensible rule that term limits committee chairmen and/or ranking members to six years in those plum positions, partly because Republicans really like term limits and partly to give other members a chance to rake in some of the sweet, sweet campaign money that comes from being in those positions of maximal power. Whatever is the case, I can't think of a better way to welcome official "GOP intellectual" Paul Ryan back into the congressional fold than for the GOP to ignore simple rules of

4:07AM PST on Nov 15, 2012

The republican party will be just fine, just like the democrat party would have if Romney had won.

9:29PM PST on Nov 14, 2012

Really enjoyed Michael M. and Dorothy N.'s discussion, among other comments. Thank you all.

9:23PM PST on Nov 13, 2012

@Jim L

More background and straight from the horse's ass himself, Lee Atwater. To put him in context, he was part of a troika of GOP dirty tricks specialists, contemporary of Donald Segretti and Roger Ailes. Karl Rove is a Segretti protege. Atwater was partially redeemed when on his death bed he apologized for all the dirty stuff he pulled on behalf of the GOP, and he had a great deal to answer for as you can hear in this clip.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/11/13/1161225/-Jimmy-Carter-s-grandson-strikes-again

4:48PM PST on Nov 13, 2012

Thanks. Jacob R......there's not much of what your wrote that's correct. It turns out President Obama DID win the election (it's this thing called Math, which those on the right seem to have great difficulty understanding), he got 51% of the vote (that's called a mandate, which is what happens when you win MOST of something (again, Math..over 50% necessarily means most), and he did something only 3 others (Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Reagan) have done....win over 50% of the popular vote in 2 successive elections. Not only did he win, not only does he have a mandate, but the win was truly historic.

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