Those Pesky 'Demographics'

11/13/2012 06:20 pm ET | Updated Jan 13, 2013

One of the more interesting consequences of the Nov. 6 elections was the sudden GOP interest in -- almost fascination with -- "demographics."

Even before the clock struck midnight on Election Day, even before Karl Rove conceded that his party had lost Ohio, even before the election outcome was decided in Florida, the pundits, the analysts and the politicians were focusing on and blaming the "demographics" and many GOP leaders suddenly decided that the party needed to "make nice" to Latinos/Hispanics in order to have a shot at the next election.

We started hearing about Obama's "demographic edge," the GOP's "demographic dilemma," and even of a "demographic time bomb...that blew up in GOP faces."

Why this sudden Republican fascination with demographics?

Could it be because President Obama got 93% of the African-American vote, 77% of the gay-lesbian vote, 73 % of the Asian vote, 71% of the Latino/Hispanic vote and 60% of the votes of those voters of ages between 18 and 29. Obama also won the votes of women -- they make up 53% of the electorate -- by a margin of 55 to 44 percent.

Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake at the Washington Post's "The Fix" call the fact that Romney lost Hispanic voters nationwide by 44 points "[p]erhaps the most daunting demographic data point coming out of the 2012 election."

Could it be because, even though 89% of all votes for Romney came from whites, it is a vote they are already maximizing because the white vote as a total of the overall vote has continued to decline in every election since 1992, dropped to 72% this election and will drop another couple of points come 2016 and become a vote that the Republican Party "can no longer rely win national elections anymore, especially in presidential cycles"?

Could it be because the America of today is no longer the America it was 50 years ago, but Republicans still are?

Ross Douthat at the New York Times suggests, "Reliable Republican constituencies -- whites, married couples and churchgoers -- are shrinking as a share of the electorate. Democratic-leaning constituencies -- minorities, recent immigrants, the unmarried and unchurched -- are growing, and voting in larger numbers than in the past."

And growing and voting they are. We saw how 60% of voters of ages between 18 and 29 went for Obama. Now here is an eye-opener: Todd Harris, a veteran Republican consultant, points out that 50,000 Hispanic teenagers turn 18 (voting age) every month. "That means that every two months there are enough potential new Hispanic voters to make up Romney's losing margin in Ohio," he adds.

It is not as if there were no warning signs. Already back in August, as GOP dignitaries were delivering rousing speeches to overwhelmingly white Republican conventioneers, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was cautioning, "The demographics race we're losing badly...We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."

And, less than a month before the elections, Renée Loth presciently wrote in the Boston Globe, "If demographics is destiny, the Republican Party has a rendezvous with irrelevance -- unless its policies change."

Loth suggested ways by which the Republican Party could appeal to the new demographic, but also recognized that the party "could double down on its harsh approach to immigration, affirmative action, and other wedge issues and hope -- as more than a few have noted -- that restrictive new voter ID laws will suppress turnout among minorities." Loth asked, "Is it any surprise that of the 34 states introducing voter ID bills last year, 33 had Republican-majority legislatures?" She concluded, "Republicans are facing a serious quandary of electoral math. They should be working to broaden their party's appeal and build a true majority of voters, not treating America like it is one nation, divisible."

How right she was, and is.

Even with all these warning signs, some incorrigible, tone-deaf-to-everything-but-dog-whistles Conservatives will never admit that there is a real, irreversible, unstoppable change occurring in the American demographic and moral landscape. For the likes of Rush Limbaugh, doubling down on insulting and denigrating minorities is the appropriate response. Other high-profile Republicans believe that raising token immigration reform proposals up the angry-white-male GOP flagpole and recruiting and parading a few popular Latino and other minority personalities will ameliorate -- "camouflage" is a better term -- their party's "demographic problem" just enough to squeak by in 2016.

Of course, Senator Graham's warning signal and Loth's suggestions came way too late for the ponderous, angry-white-men-overladen GOP ship of state to even attempt to change course by Election Day. It may be even too late for such a course change -- a "recalibration" -- by 2016, unless the party can manage to cast overboard some if not all of its most loathsome, divisive characters, some if not all of its most ideological, extreme policies and all of its discriminatory, prejudiced and denigrating attitudes towards minorities -- attitudes that are entirely based on race, ethnicity, religion (or lack of it), sexual orientation, national origin, etc.

Perhaps, instead of trying to "win the hearts and minds" of the folks in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, Republicans could start doing so here at home, with all Americans.

And wouldn't it be nice if Republicans, in their genuine quest to become more inclusive -- to get more votes -- would discover that gays and lesbians are voters, too.