It's the demographics, stupid!
 

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posted Friday, November 9, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 45

It's the demographics, stupid!
How Obama played the odds and won re-election

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

During the presidential campaign of 1992, Bill Clinton's campaign team posted a sign on the wall of their headquarters that said 'It's the economy, stupid!' to remind them how they were going to beat George H.W. Bush and make Clinton president.

President Obama's team might as well have had a sign that said, 'It's the demographics, stupid!'

Faced with a challenging economic environment - high unemployment and slow growth - the Obama team realized that the Republicans were taking political positions that were superficially populist but were, in fact, isolating them, limiting the GOP's political appeal to a shrinking demographic.

A DIVERSE COALITION
Based on that analysis, Obama's team was able to target a fairly wide range of constituencies across a large number of states to win the election.

This was a result that did not come as a surprise to more perceptive Republicans. Noting all the political advantages of running against a president in the midst of a recession, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said flatly, 'If we lose this election there is only one explanation - demographics!'

By the time Graham came to that conclusion it was far too late for the Republican Party to change course, however. For years Graham's party has taken positions that alienate growing sections of the population, especially communities of color but also younger voters and women of all races.

Data collected over several years shows that that the United States is poised to become a 'majority minority' nation, in other words one where whites may remain the largest racial group, but are overall a minority within the country. Most analysts project that whites will become a minority of the U.S. population sometime between 2040 and 2050.

In 2012, for the first time in U.S. history, white births were a minority of total births. While it will be 18 years - and five presidential election cycles - before children born this year will be able to vote, the proportion of white voters has been declining since 1992.

THE RIGHT IS WHITE
Meanwhile, the Republican Party remains an almost exclusively white party. According to a Washington Post poll, 89% of Republican voters are white, while only 54% of Democrats are.

About 80% of African Americans, Latinos, and other nonwhite voters cast their ballots for Obama on November 6 compared with less than 17% for Romney, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling. Romney won nearly 57% of the white vote compared with 41% for Obama, the polling data showed. The vast majority of votes cast for Romney (nearly 90% according to one estimate) came from white voters.

Latinos, now the fastest-growing demographic in the United States, voted for Obama by a margin of 70% to 28%, Reuters/Ipsos found, driven in large part by Republican opposition to the DREAM Act and Romney's references to 'self-deportation.' In 2004, George W. Bush, whose position on immigration was less extreme, won almost 40% of the Latino vote.

The rising number of multiracial children is also likely to become more of a factor, according to Pew Research Center executive vice president Paul Taylor. President Obama himself is of mixed racial background.

GOP LOSING ITS CORE
Younger voters also overwhelmingly supported Obama. Some 63% of voters aged 18-34 voted for the president. This is also a danger signal for the Republican Party, as their core voters age and eventually 'leave the electorate,' as Taylor delicately put it.

Younger voters also tend to be more accepting of diversity, especially equality for LGBT Americans. They were, for example, a key part of the coalitions that voted for successful marriage equality measures in Washington, Maine, and Maryland, and helped defeat an anti-equality amendment in Minnesota. All those states were also carried by Obama.

Because LGBT people tend to migrate to cosmopolitan cities with already large and visible LGBT communities, they are already part of the coalition that makes states like New York, California, and Washington solid 'blue' territory. In a swing state like Florida, LGBT voters concentrated in Miami-Dade County and Palm Beach County helped carry the state - although narrowly - for Obama this year.

SOME SEE THE SIGNS
Republican opposition to immigration reform and same-sex marriage is 'a recipe for extinction,' said Mike Murphy, former adviser to prominent Republicans including Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, and Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts.

'The question is whether or not we're going to have an adult conversation inside the [Republican] Party about our need to attract more people than grumpy old white guys,' Murphy told MSNBC. 'Demographically, our time is running out.'



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