Friday, March 22, 2013

Ethnic differences, not gender or age, buffet GOP

An elephant (photo: Peter Wrege)

The RNC's autopsy this week on the GOP's failures in 2012 provoked another round of "The GOP is riddled with innumerable problems, everyone except (old) white men hate it, and the party must change."

But the fact is -- you can boil the GOP's presidential problems in 2012 down to just two things.

1. Romney was a bad candidate.

2. Nearly every electoral division in America is based on ethnicity.

In the "Reshaping the GOP" narrative this week, there were two pervasive myths that served as the backbone for story after story -- that the GOP has a problem with women and that the GOP has a problem with young people.

1. Does the GOP, in fact, have a problem with women?

No, not white women -- Romney won them by 14%. That's twice as good as McCain did with white women in 2008. Instead, the GOP has a problem with non-white women. The division that matters is based on ethnicity.

2. Does the GOP have a problem with young voters?

Not white youth -- Romney won them by 7%. Instead, the GOP has a problem with non-white youth. Once again, ethnicity and not age is the party's primary problem.

Yes, young people might be more progressive on the environment, gay marriage and the like, but it's ethnicity -- not those issues per say -- that explain their support for Democrats ((Of course, it could be that ethnic youth are more concerned about gay marriage and the environment, but exit polling doesn't address that).

In other words, the strongest predictor for nearly every electoral difference between Republicans and Democrats is ethnicity. You could, undoubtedly, run a regression analysis on this, and there are probably co-occurring variables, but undoubtedly, ethnicity would trump everything else.

And remember, just because scores of young people want gay marriage legalized and think the GOP is backward on it doesn't mean they'll vote Democrat. They're not one-issue voters, but in the push to nudge the GOP to the left on gay marriage and abortion, people like to portray the young as one-issue voters.

Look at these CNN exit poll graphs from 2012, and all of it becomes abundantly clear.

1. Obama won because of his personal qualities; not his values. 

In fact, more voters said Romney shared their values than Obama, but Mitt didn't connect with them on an empathetic level. That's a candidate problem; not necessarily a party problem. Would Huckabee really have been blown out, 81%-18%, on that measure?


2. The gender gap is far more about ethnicity.

White women (which make up 38% of voters) are voting more Republican than ever. In fact, Romney won white women by 14%, while McCain only won them by 7%.

If the GOP is waging a war on women, then white women apparently never heard that first shot in Lexington.


3. The GOP's problem with young people is primarily based on ethnicity. 

Sure, young people are heavily rallying behind gay marriage, but white young people actually voted for Romney by 7%.

In fact, that's far better than 2008 when Obama won white youth by 10%.  How many times have we heard about that significant weakening for Obama among white youth? Zero.

The reason Obama so roundly wins the youth vote is because he connects with ethnic youth.  And, once again, this seems to be about ethnicity more than anything else.


4. The notion that the GOP can afford to cross evangelicals to "get more relevant" is utterly silly.

Look at the graph below -- Why would a party ever jeopardize a durable 57% margin that makes up 26% of the voting electorate? That would be electoral malfeasance to the utter core.


The current narrative is deeply flawed.

The GOP is, indeed, losing badly, but in reality, it's losing badly primarily because of ethnic differences; not age and not gender. Sure, Republicans' winning margins with white women and white youth are smaller than with white men, but they're roundly winning whites of every age and gender. It's hard to beat themselves over the head about that.

So why the flawed narrative?

It's impossible to say for certain, but a good guess is that it's uncomfortable to say that nearly all of this country's political differences arise from ethnic differences.

Instead, people try to explain it away with elegant, savvy arguments while the Emperor with no clothes walks by.

We don't like to think ethnicity takes primacy in politics, but it does. That might be a sad division for our nation, but it's the reality, and unless the GOP nails down that one fact, all its finely-tuned, political tweaks won't matter.