2012 The Numbers Game

GOP guru and fundraiser Karl Rove has some questions to answer this month — particularly to some of his largest donors, like Sheldon Adelson of Macau and Nevada — however, there are some systemic issues which have been raised from many sectors that deserve some consideration.

Demographic Shifts

No election is ever exactly like any other.  The candidates may differ, the immediate issues change, and the electorate moves along.  The GOP apparently assumed that the God, Guns, and Gays coalition aligned with Wall Street interests would continue to be a winning combination. Not. So.

Ethnicity Shift: Those who were successful in 2012 were no doubt operating from the 2010 Census.  Specifically, there is a significant shift in our population.

“More than half of the growth in the total U.S. population between 2000 and 2010 was because of the increase in the Hispanic population. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population grew by 43 percent, rising from 35.3 million in 2000 to 50.5 million in 2010. The rise in the Hispanic population accounted for more than half of the 27.3 million increase in the total U.S. population. By 2010, Hispanics comprised 16 percent of the total U.S. population of 308.7 million.”

“The non-Hispanic population grew relatively slower over the decade at about 5 percent. Within the non-Hispanic population, the number of people who reported their race as white alone grew even slower (1 percent). While the non-Hispanic white alone population increased numerically from 194.6 million to 196.8 million over the 10-year period, its proportion of the total population declined from 69 percent to 64 percent.” [Census]

Democratic Party policy positions on crucial issues like immigration reform and education were more aligned with Hispanic voters’ concerns than the hard-line “no amnesty” approach taken by the GOP candidates.  The results from south Florida aren’t yet available, but we could speculate that older Cuban American voters were more likely to vote for Republicans than their younger, Central America origin neighbors.  GOP opposition to the DREAM Act certainly couldn’t have helped.

Age shift:  Research was published last October which should have been of concern to the Republican Party:

“The Republican Party is not a party of the young. More than two thirds of those polled were over 48 years old and only 20% were in the bottom two age brackets. This raises the question of what kind of a future a party has whose membership averages close to retirement age with very few new members becoming involved at or near college age. There’s not much time left for those who currently lead the party. Membership is already shrinking and the trend suggested in these polls is one which would leave the Republican party as a much smaller minority party in less than a generation.”

The older themes still attuned to the Cold War polarization of Good vs. Evil, US vs. Them, may not, and seemed not, to resonate with younger voters in the 2012 election. Nor did the traditional appeals to “family values” from the 1980’s.  References to “Communism” don’t have the same sound to younger voters most of whom may have been in diapers when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.   Younger voters are also living in a Post-Stonewall World.  The virulent anti-Gay rhetoric of some GOP candidates and spokespersons doesn’t fit with their world-view.

Religion:  The Republicans did well with born-again Evangelical voters, however those declaring themselves “unaffiliated” has also increased among the general population.

The red outlines superimposed on the Pew Research results indicate that the two groups which gave Governor Romney more support than President Obama in 2012 may indicate a “wash” demographically.

In sum, there are demographic shifts in terms of ethnicity, age, and religious affiliation which suggest a diminishing base for Republican candidates.  However, the hypothesis that any one of these is of singular significance is problematic.

Issue Shifts

Whatever slicing and dicing might be done with polling on issues related to the social safety net, support for long-standing support programs — like Social Security — remain solid.

The Pew Research Center also reported back in October 2011 that its polling found the following opinions concerning federal priorities:

Notice that when American were asked about federal programs which seek to address issues of age, health, and education most Americans do not approve of spending cuts.

The issue for the Republicans then becomes — How do you successfully argue in favor of privatizing Social Security, turning Medicare into a voucher program, cutting Pell Grants, transforming Medicaid into a block grant program with significant cuts in state funding, and reducing funding for programs to help the poor, when the majority of Americans don’t share those views?  Hardline positions assumed by some Republican candidates which ran counter to the overall values of voters did not help the ticket.

Women’s Issues

Ah, recall the old saw: You are known by the company you keep.  Unfortunately, the Republicans offered extreme candidates who in turn provided some of the most strident sound bites in the 2012 campaign season.

Defunding Planned Parenthood, while playing well with some portions of the electorate, added to the “extremist” narrative provided by candidates like Todd Akin, Rick Berg, Richard Mourdock and others.   Nor did generalized attacks on Obamacare — with its provisions for women’s health, gender equity, and benefits for children — serve Republican candidates well among women voters.

Coalition Issues

Elections are numbers games.  The Republican formula in which success could be achieved by combining evangelical voters with Wall Street interests met something of a Waterloo in 2012.  The older, whiter, more socially conservative voters aligned with investment and banking sector support, were insufficient to move the needle away from a Democratic win.   One possible reason for this phenomena is that information and informational changes may also be shifting.

At this point, the Pew Research group is again instructive.  Notice who gets his or her news where:

At this point it looks as though as of 2010 we knew that older voters, more likely to be conservative, were more likely to limit their information to what could be obtained in the right wing sources and similar places.  Younger voters were watching cable — but ‘other’ cable shows, and were getting more of their information from traditional media sources.

This second chart is particularly interesting, because conservative have “ruled” the AM radio territory during the last election cycles.  However, that source has declined precipitously since 1991.   The creation of a self-informing echo chamber brings with it the perils of an ill-informed base. We saw one manifestation of the result:

“Many of us watched in astonishment late Tuesday night as Karl Rove frantically strove to deny his own network’s call of the presidential election. The urge to deny reality runs astoundingly deep at the heart of the right-wing propaganda machine. Even two terms of Barack Obama might not be enough to cure that sickness.” [Salon]

The tendrils of the problem entrap those with relatively narrow perspectives.  A smaller group, seeking to perpetuate issues of declining interest to a larger portion of the population, and clinging to a declining form of information transmission, isn’t likely to find larger audiences.

Well and often used business rule: When you are gaining a larger percentage of a declining market — you are in trouble.  If you have a larger audience on AM radio and a handful of cable news channels,  while information from the Internet, satellite radio, social media, and an expanding cable presence, then some questions need to be raised about how that Bubble can be sustained.

In the mean time, Democrats celebrate an outstanding victory in 2012 while the Republicans seek to determine how to avoid the fate of their party in California in the aftermath of Prop 187 in 1994.

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