Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ian M. MacIsaac: Romney's whitewater runs dry

  Mitt Romney lost on Tuesday for a lot of reasons. He was a flip-flopper and a serial liar; he was a wooden campaigner and repeatedly proved himself incapable of connecting with average people; he was a caricature of all the worst aspects of the "one percent."

  But Romney did not lose last night purely through personal failings. In retrospect, any Republican candidate would have likely lost last night. The problem? There simply were not enough white people.

  After all, white Americans are just about the only ones voting for Romney: 88 percent of all Romney voters were white. This means that if you picked a random selection of voters off the street and polled them, nine out of ten that answered "Romney" would be white. Whites were not necessarily Romney voters, but the vast majority of Romney voters were whites.

  Obama won about 39 percent of the white vote. No Democrat has won the white vote since Lyndon Johnson's 1964 landslide, but 39 percent is still a historically low share of the white vote for a Democratic presidential candidate. Nonetheless, the trend toward decline in Democrats' share of the white vote predates Obama and even Clinton.

  This slow but steady shift in the white vote toward Republican candidates is being offset by the increasing share of the nonwhite vote won by Democratic candidates.

  These two trends in voting benefit Democratic candidates in the long term because the share of nonwhite voters has grown in every presidential election since then, and the share of white voters has shrunk correspondingly as well.

  Romney almost certainly would have won this election with the ethnic demographics of forty years ago; maybe even with those of twenty years ago. Twenty years ago, in the 1992 presidential election, whites made up 87 percent of all voters.

  But in the 2012 presidential election, whites made up 72 percent of all voters and nonwhites 28 percent--more than one out of four voters.

  Latinos specifically went for Obama by nearly three to one. McCain managed to scrape up 31 percent of the Latino vote, whereas Romney only earned 27 percent--barely managing one out of four.

  It remains to be seen, however, how having 88 percent of whites voting for one party's presidential candidate and 81 percent of nonwhites for the other's will affect our country immediately. Ethnic divides like that are never good for a civil society.

  Romney has portrayed himself since his first campaign in 1994 as a numbers-crunching CEO who can balance the books and use data-driven analysis to make governance a science as opposed to an art. He proclaimed that his two decades of business experience had given him the skills to get things done based on results, not on politics.

  Of all people, then, Romney should have understood from the very beginning that the white vote was simply not large enough alone to win a presidential election any longer.

  The truth is that the Republican candidate for president has won more votes than the Democratic candidate for president in only one presidential election since the Cold War, Bush vs. Kerry in 2004. We are living in a Democratic era. One of the crucial reasons for this is the steadily declining share of the vote coming from White America.

  This is not to underestimate the size of the white vote in American presidential elections. Seven out of ten voters on Tuesday were white; whites made up a majority of Obama's coalition on Tuesday (56 percent of his total votes). Whites are and will be for the foreseeable future the majority of voters in American presidential elections.

  If the Republican Party wants to survive through this century and avoid going the way of the Whigs, it must quit alienating one quarter of the electorate every four years. The Republicans have made their bed this past forty years when it comes to African-Americans, but the Latino vote is still rapidly growing in size and has yet to solidify along partisan lines.

  Unless the Chris Christies and Marco Rubios of this world would like to see a few more elections like the last two, the Republican Party has some real soul-searching to do over Mitt Romney's numbers on Tuesday.

  About the author: Ian M. MacIsaac is a staff writer for the Capital City Free Press. He is a history major at Auburn University, and former co-editor of the AUMnibus, the official Auburn Montgomery student newspaper.

Copyright © Capital City Free Press

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