Can GOP survive its 'minority problem'?
Polls show that the GOP continues to be 'the party of old, white men' – and that could be decisive in the 2012 presidential election. Demographics suggest that the party must change, and soon.
Some Republican strategists are already preparing for the worst. The numbers, frankly, are dismal. Nearly 2 of every 3 Latinos favor President Obama to Mitt Romney. Voters in the gay and lesbian community favor Mr. Obama by the same margin. Women favor the president by 51 percent to 41 percent, according to an August NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. And African-Americans? One poll suggested that Mr. Romney is being skunked: 94 percent to 0 percent.Skip to next paragraph
Clearly, the GOP has a minority problem. But Republican strategists aren't just worried about November – they're worried about the Novembers after that.
If demographic trends continue to swell the country's minority population, and the GOP continues to struggle to grow its white, Protestant base, the Republican Party risks going the way of the Whigs it replaced in the 1850s. Already, some experts say, minorities are likely to swing this presidential election to Obama. And going forward, the arithmetic (as a certain former centrist president from red state Arkansas recently pronounced) says it all: This year, for the first time, births of nonwhites outnumbered births of whites in America, putting the United States on the road to becoming a majority-minority nation in three decades, the US Census Bureau reported. For the GOP, the rubber is finally hitting the road.
"The GOP cannot continue to be the party of old, white men and succeed on the electoral map, [and in] the White House, going forward," says Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist and chairman of the political-action committee Civic Forum PAC in Washington.
If it wants to remain competitive for power in Congress and the White House, the GOP knows it must make serious inroads with minorities, and soon. That means it must begin to change the policies that have defined – and isolated – it for a generation. Of course, doing that without alienating its base is easier said than done.
But if 2008 was the year that Millennials pushed Obama over the top, 2012 could be the year that minorities do the same. It is a warning shot.
The demographics are compelling. The country's minority population grew by 30 percent during the past decade, according to data from the 2010 Census, while the white population grew just 1 percent. In 1992, the minority vote made up 12 percent of the electorate. This year, it's expected to be 28 percent.
Racial and ethnic minorities accounted for 92 percent of the nation's growth since 2000, with most of that increase (some 56 percent) coming from Hispanics, according to the 2010 Census. Non-Hispanic whites are projected to become a minority of the population in 30 years, according to Pew Research Center projections.
"The tectonic plates of American politics are shifting," writes Ruy Teixeira, a political demographer and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, in a paper prepared for a March 2010 "Future of the Parties" conference. "A powerful concatenation of demographic forces is transforming the American electorate and reshaping both major political parties."