When things seem darkest in our political world, it is useful to think about the longer-term future of America’s political parties: one an increasingly diverse demographic coalition, and the other an ever-greater concentration of fearful white racists.
That is just the demographic reality. Absent any drastic, 70s-style realignment of the U.S. political party landscape, the fact is that the Republican party will continue sinking farther into the cloistered white reactionary end of the pool, as the Democrats take everyone else. Consider the findings of a new CAP report on the demographic futures of the parties: first, that in the 2016 election, the “parties’ coalitions were more dissimilar in terms of their racial, educational, and age composition” than at any time since 1980, the beginning of the Reagan era and the modern Republican party. And second, the fact that diversity is coming into the electorate whether anyone likes it or not:
Nonwhites will continue to grow as a share of both parties’ coalitions, especially Hispanics. We find that, by 2032, Hispanic voters will surpass black voters as the largest overall nonwhite voting group. And, by 2036, black voters will make up a larger share of the Democratic coalition than white noncollege voters.
On the other hand, we find that white voters will continue to decline through 2036 as a share of both the Republican and Democratic party coalitions, though this decline with be considerably quicker in fast-growing states such as Arizona and Texas that are already less white. White noncollege voters, in particular, are projected to decline rapidly as a share of both parties’ coalitions across all states through 2036, although the sharpest declines will, again, be in fast-growing states.
The broad trends going forward: The Democratic party coalition will be college-educated whites plus black and Latino voters, and the Republican coalition will be white, non-college-educated voters plus rich people. But, concurrent with these trends is the fact that white, non-college-educated voters are sharply declining as an overall percentage of the electorate. The share of white, college-educated voters and black voters will hold more or less steady, and the share of Latino voters will increase. This means that the Republicans will have to make up the votes of their declining core demographic from within those groups. Picking up substantial numbers of black voters seems unlikely; there may perhaps be more votes to be found for Republicans among Latinos, but even there, they will have trouble, because of all the, you know, xenophobia-bordering-on-genocidal-ideation. So they will seek to attract more educated white voters.
The Republican party’s only real path in the future is to more tightly cling to its identity as The White People Party. That means more racism, more anti-immigrant sentiment, more Trumpian pseudo-populism, though probably in a more refined package. The future is more divisive, not less. We can expect the Republican party to move farther to the right—even though it is today, by one measure, already farther to the right than European parties that are considered racist and far right. Though moderating itself in search of centrist votes may seem “rational,” it will not be so easy for the Republican party to make inroads with all of the groups that Trump is currently oppressing as hard as he possibly can. The familiar fantasy of a “big tent” Republican party with a friendly face and an open door for all fiscal moderates will remain a fantasy. The pendulum has swung too far into extremism to be snatched back. The only real options for the Republicans to maintain power in coming decades will be:
- More white voters. And, in a nation that is growing less white,
- Voter suppression.
The demographic realities actually give me hope, because they are moving inexorably away from the Republican party. But the party of corporate dominance and racists will not give up power without a fight. White identity politics will, if you can believe it, grow even more intense. And we will see how much racism the business community is willing to support in order to maintain its low tax rate.
Probably a lot.