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Politics and Demography

Richard M. Scammon and Kevin Phillips told the Republican Party in the 1960s that the American electorate was not young but middle-aged and old, not poor but middle-class and rich, and not minority but white. Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan heard them and decided to go "where the ducks are"--to try to cement an electoral coalition by broadcasting as many signals as possible that the Republican Party was not for the young, not for the poor, and not for the minorities.

Nate Silver says that the bill has finally come due:

Politics Done Right: GOP Has Always Been Dominated by White Voters: [In] last November's Presidential election when 89 percent of John McCain's voters were white.... 88 percent of George W. Bush's voters in 2004, and 91 percent of them in 2000, were white. And nearly 98 percent of Ronald Reagan's voters in 1980 were white as were 96 percent of Gerald Ford's in 1976. The GOP is, in fact, slightly less white than it once was....

The Democrats, however, are becoming less white at a much faster rate than the Republicans. Whereas 85 percent of their votes were from white voters in 1976, the number was just 60 percent last November. This is, of course, a helpful characteristic, since the nonwhite share of the electorate, just 11 percent in 1976 and 1980, represented more than a quarter of the turnout in November.

Consider this remarkable statistic. In 1980, 32 percent of the electorate consisted of white Democrats (or at least white Carter voters) -- likewise, in 2008, 32 percent of the electorate consisted of white Obama voters. But whereas, in 1980, just 9 percent of the electorate were nonwhite Carter voters, 21 percent of the electorate were nonwhite Obama voters last year. Thus, Carter went down to a landslide defeat, whereas Obama defeated John McCain by a healthy margin.

In certain ways, I wonder if the GOP isn't paying a price for a strategy adopted years ago -- namely, the Southern Strategy. The Southern Strategy... adopted at a time when probably less than 10 percent of the electorate was nonwhite.... The steady drumbeat of demographic change, coupled with an inability or unwillingness to adapt to it, has steadily made the Republicans' job harder and harder.