Immigration and the fate of the Republican Party

(from an email in September, 2012)

The GOP’s national base is old white people. They also score among white males in general, but not as strongly as they do among older white people. And that GOP demographic is shifting upward in years…it’s not that  everyone over 55 turns, it’s that the people that were 55 and Republican fifteen years ago remain Republican, while there are far less 55 year old voters now than there were  15 years ago. (We’re talking percentages here…as their population grows the absolute numbers will shift upwards, obviously). Basically, the people that voted for Nixon and Reagan will vote for Romney…just like they voted for McCain and Bush. The ease with which Obama maintains a lead now (in September 2012) is just due to the fact that there are that many fewer of that age group left alive to vote for Romney. The same thing that allowed for Reagan–the aging FDR vote–will doom the current GOP. Their era is over. They are dominated by the Tea Party and its average age is above 55. The elderly have pushed the average younger voter out of the GOP. They’ve sealed their fate.

Incidentally…when the US virtually shut down immigration in the 20’s it allowed the original mostly WASP population to regain control of the political process by cutting off the supply of immigrants and their children who tend to be pro-government, pro-welfare, and pro-labor. By the time the third generation kids–baby boomers–of that wave took over they slid comfortably into conservatism. Think the upstate Italian Republicans in New York. I remember as a kid how few kids I knew who were first generation…we were all second and third generation.  When the US loosened up immigration in came a flood of Democratic votes. And when the U.S. lost control of the southern border and several million emigres poured in today’s democratic majority was formed…since every baby born in the US, even by illegal parents, is a citizen..and nearly all of them become Democrats (or lean that way.) In response the Republicans went crazily nativist–due to its base who grew up in an era when immigrants were rare–and doomed themselves. The Federalists in the early 19th century went out the same way….

Back in 1965-66 Richard Nixon pulled the Republican Party together after 1964’s Goldwater debacle by going liberal on social issues (compared to Goldwater) and then appealing to the southern whites. It was cynical, but politically ingenious, the GOP had a lot of smart people then. I wonder about now.

Of course, Nixon’s Southern Strategy has been its undoing, we can see that now. And if southern blacks would ever start voting in numbers matching their tuirn ouit in the rest of the country (which is as high as white turn out), the southern base of the GOP would begin to disintegrate. I wonder if we’ll see that in our lifetime? It’ll be interesting to see if there’s been an upsurge in the black vote in the deep south. It has in Virginia, North Carolina and Florida…

Funny how it was the Democrats who did the Whig Party thing. Just as the Whigs were torn apart by slavery the Demos were torn apart by the Civil Rights movement, and then the northern half was then torn apart by Viet Nam. Watergate saved us, because the Nixon coalition included the Liberal Republicans. When the Democrats won in 1974 and ’76 liberal Democrats swept out most of the liberal GOP, which gave an opening to the neo-Goldwater people to put Reagan in and purge what few liberal Republicans were left. If If you read the first Making of the President, the political structure Ted White described in 1960 had been virtually banished by 1984, so transformed that it was unrecognizable. But that GOP coalition in 1984 was dependent on a population that was either WASP or third generation immigrants. The demographics have changed, and in a dozen years the political structure that voted for Reagan will be long gone. The GOP has never been a flexible institution. And they aren’t dealing with this well at all.

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