Demographics mean GOP needs to change strategy

Nicholas Saraceno /

An open letter to my Republican friends:

What now?

If you’re not at least lightly pondering that question, you should be. Republicans got trounced. Obama won re-election handily and Republicans lost seats in both houses of Congress, which isn’t just salt in the wound — it is the wound.

The analyses and polls predicting the Obama victory that right-wing pundits were so quick to write off, well, they turned out to be quite accurate. The polls were based on a model that showed a significant uptick in Democratic registrations and alignment among the voters. The right (i.e. Fox News) scoffed at the model. That model, however, was pretty much dead on. And the Democratic congressional victories are the proof in the pudding.

Republicans need to broaden their base, and here are the two major trends that are solidifying themselves as facts that Republicans need to strongly consider going forth:

1. The white vote is becoming a smaller and smaller percentage of the vote with each election. The white vote also makes up the large majority of the Republican base, in fact, more and more so with each election. These trends coupled together spell a major problem for the Republican Party.

Meanwhile the Latino vote is on a steep ascent as a percentage of voters. The key issue here is obvious: immigration. What conservative Republicans need to realize, however, is there will never be a mass deportation. It’ll never happen. The borders can only be so protected. And Mexico is our neighbor, always will be.

The fact is, conservatives simply need to come to grips with reality. They need to listen to the Bushes of the world and get behind comprehensive immigration reform. It’s in everybody’s best interest. The sooner this issue gets resolved, the sooner Latinos will start listening to the other social and economic arguments that they are largely aligned with conservatives on.

2. The “youth” vote (ages 18-35) voted at a clip of 60-39 for President Obama. They made up 19 percent of the electorate. They showed up again; they’re engaged and they care.

Republicans face a major roadblock with this voting group, however. Still clinging to the echoes of Jerry Falwell, Republicans are on the wrong side of 90 percent of the social issues this bloc cares deeply about en masse, the largest and most important being gay marriage (i.e. gay rights), marijuana legalization and abortion rights (i.e. female reproductive rights).

What’s fascinating about those examples, however, is the degree “freedom of choice” is encapsulated there. The gut check here is simple: Can conservative Republicans align themselves with positions that may go against what is being preached in the pulpits, but conversely, seem to be the bedrock of America — freedom and liberty?

The sooner versions of morality are communicated in a personal way — i.e. through more effective and traditional methods of proselytizing, as opposed to outmoded Falwellian legislative and electoral agendas — the easier it will be for Republicans to capture that youth vote.

There is modern precedent for cutting losses to become stronger. Democrats lost the fight for gun control. It became politically nonviable. Despite a lot of passion, it was roundly removed from the Democrat’s National Party platform. It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary. And here’s a hint: If your argument gets muddled on rape, you’ve lost the argument politically and it’s time to cut your losses.

Furthermore, images of radical, and at times woefully misinformed, tea-partying adults acting like temper-tantrum-throwing toddlers at town hall meetings during the Obamacare debate turned off their children as much as anything else. Simply — entrenched, radical, right-wing conservatives constitute an anchor that must be cut.

America spoke. True, real, meaningful compromise must be achieved. If Republicans hope to find political success in this new day, then they must come to terms with a changed and shifting reality and cut ties with their most stringently radical elements. Or become content with losing.