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The Political Pulse

Latest opinion research and analysis

The Knowledge: A State of change

As right wing pundits in the States lament America's changing demographics, Mark Gettleson reflects on the Republican failure to reach out to non-white voters





In his classic doom-laden style, Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly was clear on Tuesday night as to why Mitt Romney had lost: “The white establishment is now the minority.” He went on to declare that “it’s a changing country – the demographics are changing – it’s not a traditional America anymore.”

Quite remarkably, even if they don’t share his harsh rhetoric, pundits from across the political divide agree. Conservative pundit Dick Morris, who spent much of the campaign ‘unskewing’ what turned out to be highly accurate state polls, tried to explain that he did not anticipate the levels of youth and minority participation in the 2008 election to be repeated: “I thought that was a one-off affair... not the permanent turnout model for the United States.”

From a liberal angle, New York Times journalist Ross Douthat described 2008 and 2012 as “the Obama realignment”, establishing that “the late George McGovern’s losing coalition from 1972 (have) finally come of age”.

The fact that Barack Obama lost the white vote by 20 points and still won the White House seems staggering. But not only did the President win over African Americans by 87 points, his campaign actually increased Democratic support among Latinos by four points, besting Governor Romney 71% to 27%. Part of this relates to a failure by the Republicans to recognise the electoral danger of their harsh stance on immigration and undocumented workers: former Governor Mike Huckabee declared that they “have done a pathetic job of reaching out to people of color.” It should be remembered that eight years ago, George W Bush received 44% of the Hispanic vote.

But this is also a question of changing demographics and phenomenal efforts by the Obama campaign to change the electorate through registering ever more young and minority voters and get them to the polls.

Moreover, this election laid bare the problems faced by the dominance of the Christian Right in the party’s primary process. Senate candidates who should have been sure-fire Republican wins in Missouri and Indiana went down to heavy defeats after voicing extreme views on pregnancy from rape. Suchmen contributed to a sense of what theDemocrats termed a ‘Republican War on
Women.’ The primary process, however, makes such events difficult to avoid.

Finally, the America that emerges this week seems more tolerant than just four years ago, when the success of California’s‘Prop 8’ gay marriage ban soured the election for many liberals. Maine, Maryland and Washington look set to be the first states
to introduce marriage equality by popular vote, while Minnesota has rejected a ban. Wisconsin, a state that in 2006 banned gay marriage by 59% to 41%, this week sent Tammy Baldwin to Washington as the first openly gay Senator, 51% to 46%. The times are fast a’changing, but a Republican Party continuing its rightwards drift will find it hard to adapt.