GOP a Bridge to 1960, When 90 Percent of the Population Was White

By
Family walking along suburban street
Last time America looked like the GOP, nonwhite folks were almost invisible. Photo: H. Armstrong Roberts

It’s hardly news to observe that partisan polarization in this country is reinforced by sharp divisions in the demographic composition of the two major parties. But National Journal’s Ron Brownstein offers one bit of data that dramatizes the issue as well as any I’ve seen:

>

In 2012, whites ac­coun­ted for about 90 per­cent of both the bal­lots cast in the Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial primar­ies and the votes Mitt Rom­ney re­ceived in the gen­er­al elec­tion. The last time whites rep­res­en­ted 90 per­cent of the total Amer­ic­an pop­u­la­tion was 1960.

Think about that. If the Republican Party were a country, it would racially resemble the America of 1960, 55 years ago. Brownstein goes on to argue that Democrats are also out of alignment with today’s demographics — but it most resembles an America of the future, and the not-too-distant future at that. 

Eth­nic groups now equal just over 37 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans. But voters of col­or ac­coun­ted for nearly 45 per­cent of Pres­id­ent Obama’s votes in 2012. Eth­nic minor­it­ies likely won’t equal that much of the total pop­u­la­tion for about an­oth­er 15 years.

If one party (whose average age of about 52 means that a sizable minority can actually remember the America of 1960) is composed of people who are both aware of their once-dominant position and of how quickly it is slipping away, is there any reason to be surprised that party is strongly influenced by feelings that the country has taken a wrong turn that must be resisted? And should anyone be shocked that reaction to cultural and demographic change might well begin to compete with free-market economics or universalistic values in shaping the party’s positions and leadership? 

Two Parties Represent Nation’s Past, Future