Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Your grannies are going to hurt you, Republicans

This is an example of an old voter. Thank you to CapitalGazette.com

Republicans face a problem in 2016 - this has been well documented thus far. The electorate is now full of brown people, which makes lacing a campaign with racial dog-whistles to hustle up old white people much trickier than before. Plausibly, the next person to sit atop the Democratic Party will also be a white folk (Hillary Clinton, Andrew Cuomo, Martin O'Malley etc.) which means that whole Muslo-foreign-brown-person-birth-certificate-no-that's-not-a-real-birth-certificate argument will work even less successfully in 2016 than it did in 2012.

While those demographics are a-changin', so is one core Republican constituency: old people. The Baby Boomers started turning 65 last year, and there are bucketloads of them. There are going to be more people older than 65 in America than ever before, and they vote in numbers, in any weather, and they lean Republican. 56% of them voted for Mitt Romney; assuming Obama won the other 44%, that's a 12-point gap. In American politics that's a solid win.

"Yay,"I hear you cry, "that's great news for Republicans - our very own growing demographic!" No, according to some reports I looked at (and I am open to argument here as I am no anthropologist), the bloc of +65s, while growing, is not growing fast enough to counter-act the increase in groups favouring Democrats. However, it is a MASSIVE bloc within the Republican Party: ie. primaries that pick the presidential candidate (and others, of course). 

The coalition that makes up the Democratic voter coalition - brown people, young people, vagina-d people, gay people, poor people - by virtue of its existence kind of leans toward immigration rights, same-sex marriage (although this is hardly universally popular), liberalism, atheism and agnosticism*, a belief that there is a role for government in improving the country, and so on. 

As per the New York Times:
Beyond political parties, [young and old people] have different views on many of the biggest questions before the country. The young not only favor gay marriage and school funding more strongly; they are also notably less religious, more positive toward immigrants, less hostile to Social Security cuts and military cuts and more optimistic about the country’s future. They are both more open to change and more confident that life in the United States will remain good.

Old people tend to vote conservatively, particularly on immigration. Take, for example, this year's election result in the state of Arizona - Romney won 67% of the votes by people aged over 65. This is the state where immigration is the hottest political topic - the home of the "papers please" law which would have enabled police to request the papers of anyone who seemed to be there illegally (eg. because of brown skin or a funny accent). Romney openly backed Arizona's plethora of restrictive immigration laws this year and two-thirds of old people went along with him. To be clear, the presidential candidate for Republicans in 2008, John McCain, who has previously backed paths to immigration reform, finished the election then with 11 points less amongst this age group than Romney did - McCain is from Arizona!

Old people tend to make up a fat portion (50% to 70% over those older than 50, depending on which state you are in) of the vote in Republican primaries - and candidates with strong anti-immigration messages will therefore likely have a strong platform on which to stand. It is likely that the elderly will support such measures.

A quick count tells me 21 states have open primaries (anyone can vote) to elect party presidential candidates, plus California and Louisiana which have another kind of system, which means 27 states (plus some other territories) do not (which means only registered Republican Party members, and sometimes independents) can vote). In other words, old people, and their concerns, will be hugely influential in 27 closed state primaries. But this influence will not help them in the general elections.

If the elderly's influence on the Republican primary process continues to grow, the party runs a serious risk of selecting an unelectable presidential candidate. Again.

And the party will pay dearly for only waking up in 2012 to the changing country they wish to run. 

A friend of mine on Twitter, @shans, points out: "Perhaps just a matter of wording, but wouldn't say D. coalition "by nature of its existence" leans atheist/agnostic. Brown people and poor people are generally MORE religious than the gen pop. Not sure about women... And Pew which does most reliable research on religious trends says women more religious than men." She is quite right. In my clumsily worded paragraph above I used the phrase "atheism and agnosticism" in a list of characteristics of the Democratic voting coalition. I intended it to reference the young people who are part of this voting bloc, as well as the acceptability of secular legislation, but I referenced it awfully. 

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