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The GOP Has A Policy Problem, Not A Demographics Problem


CREDIT: Flickr/DreamActivist

There's been talk of a "demographics problem" currently facing the Republican party, but framing emerging demographics in the electorate as a "problem" will only serve to further alienate young Americans, single women, and people of color, and it could deter lawmakers from striving to create fair policies that serve all Americans.

Bloomberg's Francis Wilkinson argued that some Republicans' involvement in Voter ID legislation across the country is proof that the party leadership is "seeking to turn back the demographic tide rather than accommodate it." Framing the GOP’s current dilemma as a “demographics problem” rather than a problem with these policy decisions—Voter ID and immigration reform in particular—allows certain members of the conservative media to shift blame onto the American electorate.

Several commentators, like Ross Douthat of the New York Times, argued that this problem is actually a crisis manufactured by progressives to pressure Republican politicians into “pandering” to Latino communities by getting behind immigration reform and amnesty initiatives. Others have suggested that a "demographics problem" is not connected to the Republican party's unpopular stance on issues like immigration reform but is, instead, a surface-level problem that could be solved by putting forward a new face for the party, such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). 

Charles Krauthammer suggested in an op-ed for the Washington Post that a 2016 presidential ticket featuring Rubio "would transform the landscape." Krauthammer writes: "He’d win the Hispanic vote. Yes, win it. A problem fixable with a single policy initiative is not structural. It is solvable.” In the piece, Krauthammer warded off Republicans from considering the concerns of communities of color as they seek ways to recast themselves as a viable party going forward, suggesting that such thoughtfulness would be a sign of weakness.

Insisting that the GOP should remain the party for old white men and "stay strong" only alienates one of the most powerful and still emerging voting blocs in the nation. Millennials are the most diverse and most progressive voting group in the country and by 2020—the first presidential election in which all Millennials will have reached voting age—44 percent of this bloc will be people of color. Arguing that there is no need for elected officials and candidates to take the concerns of young people and minorities seriously would seem to place you on the wrong side of history. 

If the GOP cares about its future, elected officials should take a hard look at the constituencies that voted in large numbers in this election. Young people and women, particularly of color, came out strongly in favor for President Obama and progressive policies across the nation. The Republican Party's opposition to the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform, as well as  involvement in pushing voter suppression laws across the nation, alienated many of these voters and acted to galvanize support for President Obama's re-election.

On Election Day, Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly railed at the loss of “traditional America," expressing outrage at the new reality and challenges facing a white minority. And post-election, Charlie Webster, head of the state Republican Party in Maine, equated high black voter turnout with voter fraud. He told reporters: “In some parts of rural Maine, there were dozens—dozens—of black people who came in and voted on Election Day. Everybody has a right to vote, but nobody in town knows anyone who’s black. How did that happen? I don’t know. We’re going to find out.”

There are five stages of grief, according to the Kübler-Ross model, and unfortunately, it looks as though some Republicans will be teetering between denial and anger for a bit before they can accept that the underlying problem rests on some of the party's members' regressive rhetoric, policies, and tactics. In such cases, they're refusing to fall in line with reality—not the demographic makeup of America nor the inclusive, participatory nature of democracy.

Pauline Holdsworth is a reporter for Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter at @holdswo.

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