Sunday, July 12, 2015
“A Demographic Death Spiral”
These are the words of Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), one of the long-shot declared GOP candidates for the presidency. He is referring to a massive demographic transition within the United States, likely to be reflected in the next Census (2020), in which we are becoming nation where white traditionalists have become the new “minority.” Indeed, without fresh blood from some of these “new” majority constituents, simply based on raw popular votes, the GOP is indeed becoming a relic of a past that is unlikely ever to return.
The numbers are clear, and the political landscape is being redrawn accordingly. “Hispanic Americans are the second fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States after Asian Americans. As of 2012, Hispanics constitute 17% of the United States population, or 53 million people. This figure includes 38 million Hispanophone Americans, making the United States home to the largest community of Spanish speakers outside of Mexico, having surpassed Argentina, Colombia, and Spain within the last decade. Latinos overall are the second largest ethnic group in the United States, after non-Hispanic Whites (a group which, like Hispanics and Latinos, is composed of dozens of sub-groups).” Wikipedia. The GOP has hopes for the religiously conservative segment of that Latino vote, even as they seem to be going out of their way to alienate that powerful voting force.
While there is a growing Evangelical movement in both Asian and Hispanic communities, that Latino vote is largely Roman Catholic. And when Pope Francis, himself a Latino, released his encyclical on the disparities of income and the wasteful desecration of the planet’s resources and environment, the entire 200+-page document seemed to be an indictment of so many of the basic tenets of the GOP platform. Republicans moved quickly to cast this document as a religious leader, with no scientific or business expertise, merely expressing a non-binding opinion. Will the Pope’s rather clear statements, repeated with even more vigor on his Latin American tour which added a chorus of anti-capitalist sentiments, move an even larger segment of the Latino vote into the Democratic camp?
And if the Pope doesn’t move the needle, how about the lethargic response from a large bloc of GOP presidential candidates either supporting Donald Trump’s rather outrageous statements on Mexicans crossing into the United States or not really dealing with those remarks? Why? Could it be that Republicans fear that part of their Base that actually believes Trump’s statements to be true, enough to tilt a primary away from anyone who trying to run from the Donald? Or worse: that the Donald might just become an independent who, like H. Ross Perot who garnered 19% of the popular vote in the 1992 presidential elections (Democrat Bill Clinton won), will attract voters who would otherwise turn to the GOP? Trump’s strong standing in the polls suggests that he will be very much be front and center on Fox for the GOP presidential debates (where only the top ten contenders, based on national polls, will be allowed).
Again, GOP candidate Lindsey Graham (speaking on CNN on July 12th) tells it like it is, calling Trump disaster for his Party: “I think he's hijacked the debate. I think he's a wrecking ball for the future of the Republican Party with the Hispanic community and we need to push back…” CNN.com, July 12th.
Even without the Donald, is GOP “immigration reform” pushing in the wrong direction? After all, we aren’t exactly locking up our border with Canada – where all those white people live – even though if I were a terrorist looking for easy entry into the U.S., I would certainly pick the border to the north versus that risky border to the south, where all those brown people live. Does it matter that the net immigration from the south has declined in recent years or do facts still not matter?
Perhaps it is the rising tide of recent Supreme Court decisions that are clearly favoring the new minorities at the expense of white traditionalists, particularly those old world incumbents who cling to power by twisting the system with gerrymandering and exclusionary voter requirements (all aimed at minimizing non-while traditionalists at the polls). Times they are a-changing.
Just look at the recent Supreme Court decisions that have slammed Republican traditionalists. “The court decided in Obergefell v. Hodges that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage… In Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the court ruled that voters had the power to strip elected lawmakers of their authority to draw district lines… In Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, the court decided that plaintiffs suing under the Fair Housing Act of 1968 could prove discrimination using statistics to show that the challenged practice had produced a ‘disparate impact.’” New York Times, July 1st.
Even in the Deep South, right-wing bastion South Carolina voted to take down an offensive Confederate flag from the state capitol to the consternation to many locals who somehow believe that the symbol of the losing side in a war against slavery was somehow entitled to raise that emblem above their main governmental building. More from the Deep South: in Jacksonville, Florida, the State Supreme Court (The League of Women Voters of Florida vs. Ken Detzner) slammed pretty accepted gerrymandering that is now signature practice in too many GOP stronghold states. Like Florida’s Fifth Congressional District shown above (courtesy of The Washington Post, July 10th)
“The Florida Supreme Court on [July 9th] rejected political gerrymandering by state legislators and ordered eight congressional districts redrawn within 100 days, a decision likely to complicate preparations for next year’s elections.
“In the 5-to-2 decision, the justices concurred with a trial court’s finding that a 2012 redistricting map drawn by the Republican-led Legislature had been tainted by ‘unconstitutional intent to favor the Republican Party and incumbent lawmakers,’ and that Republican ‘operatives’ and political consultants ‘did in fact conspire to manipulate and influence the redistricting process.’” New York Times, July 9th.
In the background, there are a spate of legal battles brewing, some destined to spiral their way up to the highest court in the land. In 2014, in Shelby vs. Holder, the Supreme Court eviscerated the long-standing Voting Rights Act provisions that focused on nine specific states accused of imposing voter restrictions aimed at keeping minorities from the polls. Effectively, the Court suggested that enough time had passed such that Congress needed to reconsider whether the fact pattern of discrimination still remained. Instantly, a number of states reinstated provisions that, for example, reimposed voter ID requirements (urban minorities – mostly Democrats – are those least likely to have a driver’s license) on prospective voters.
Given a Republican-controlled Congress, which had no intention of challenging states that discriminated against Democrats, the fight against these new laws quickly moved back to the courts. The legal actions include cases filed in Texas and North Carolina (two of the nine states): “A federal trial… in Winston-Salem [North Carolina that began] on [July 13th] is meant to determine whether recent, sweeping changes in the state’s election laws discriminate against black voters. These changes were adopted by the Republican-dominated state legislature in 2013, immediately after the United States Supreme Court struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 when it ended a requirement that nine states with histories of discrimination, including North Carolina, get federal approval before altering their election laws…
“‘This is our Selma,’ said William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P., of the election changes in the state. His group brought the lawsuit, alongside the League of Women Voters, a group of college students and the Department of Justice… The Justice Department and other plaintiffs argue that the discriminatory effect was so clearly intentional that North Carolina should again be required to submit voting proposals for federal approval.
“The state’s attorney general, Roy Cooper, responded in a pretrial brief that the plaintiffs are arguing for ‘the equivalent of election law affirmative action’ or for ‘practices that are favored by political organizations dedicated to maximizing Democratic turnout.’” New York Times, July 11th. It seems that the GOP cannot wean itself off of exclusionary tactics aimed at non-GOP voters instead of attempting to change its policies to widen its appeal.
If the GOP cannot create a new constituency – adding a whole lot of voters that they have been spending years alienating – all the voting manipulation in the world will not stop that “demographic death spiral.” Republicans have designed a voting system that favors policies, prerequisites and moral standards that represent the passions of a dwindling percentage of the American people. Clinging to a past that can never return is a virtual guarantee of the slow but steady erosion of that white traditional GOP platform.
And if they cannot figure out how to be a more inclusive party, representing how the vast majority of American voters actually feel, we will see either a complete breaking apart of America into new little countries or a something we have not seen in this country for a very long time: new political parties, new political alignments and a new direction for the nation. Perhaps, it’s about time to live in the “now” and prepare for the future as it really will be.
I’m Peter Dekom, and any political party based on returning to the past and condemning change is doomed to extinction.