THE BLOG
07/02/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Republican Party is a Mess

The Grand Old Party is in bad shape. From humiliating defeats in the last two national elections and its recent outburst of internecine warfare, to a new party chairman who has gotten off to a rocky (to be charitable) start to the sexist, racist response to President Barack Obama's selection of Federal Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to succeed David Souter on the Supreme Court, and beyond, the "Party of Lincoln" is consistently showing that it is flying in the face of the future of America. The consistent, and accurate, Republican narrative is that the party is too conservative and too homogeneous to be attractive to the next generation or so of American voters. While party leaders keep trying to convince us that America is a conservative country, Republican candidates are getting their brains beat out at ballot boxes all over the country. Recent evidence shows that the GOP is simply out of touch with the rest of the country and, barring Democratic overreach, has a very long way to go to regain relevance in American politics because it's lost college graduates and minorities.

The first piece of evidence can be found in the November 2008 presidential election results. According an analysis from National Journal and the Cook Political Report, the Republicans hold on highly-educated voters has disappeared. The Republicans' rocketship ride to political dominance occurred when it was able to meld its traditional base of the upwardly mobile economic and social supporters with religious and social conservatives. The first part of that marriage could be seen in the how Republicans performed in America's 100 most-educated counties (those with the highest percentage of over-25 adults with college degrees). In 1984, Reagan carried 82 of today's 100 most educated counties. George H. W. Bush carried 64 of those counties four years later. The Republican shared of these counties has been in decline in each presidential election ever since. John McCain, the 2008 GOP standard-bearer, won just 22 of these counties. In a political whiplash-inducing shift, college educated voters, once the lynchpin of the GOP, are leaving the party in droves.

The second piece of evidence is perhaps more devastating to the GOP. According to the Census Bureau, the United States will be a "majority-minority" country by 2042. One would think, given this reality, that the GOP would redouble its minority outreach efforts in an effort to have access to the votes of the future majority of the country. Quite to the contrary, the GOP appears to be pushing minorities out of the Party. And a recently released Gallup Poll confirms the suspicion that the Party is getting whiter while the Democrats, Independents, and the rest of the country are not. According to the poll, 89 percent of Republican voters are white, and that 63% of White Republicans identify as conservatives. Meanwhile, 64 percent of Democrats are White, about half of whom describe themselves as moderate or liberal. Given Census Bureau projections, this may be all you need to know about where the GOP is heading if it doesn't get its act together.

This evidence reveals structural problems for the GOP, not the liberal media spin they have been offering since the last election. How will the party be able to raise money as before without its college educated base? Indeed, to the extent that the media play a role, it's in giving attention to people like Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh, who are only making things worse.

Michael K. Fauntroy is an assistant professor of public policy at George Mason University and author of Republicans and the Black Vote.

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