The Republican Party’s squandered opportunity
By Fairooz Adams
Given that a solid bloc of states vote reliably Democratic and that predictions show demographic trends will turn solidly Republican states into swing states or blue states, many pundits have speculated that the Republican Party will cease to be a presidential party, but will instead be relegated to races that can be won statewide, at most. Just like other predictions of doom for the two major parties, this is probably overblown. Though, the Grand Old Party’s inability to expand the base beyond an increasingly angry and shrinking segment of the population does not bode well for the party’s chances. Analyzing the electoral map and the socially conservative inclinations of the Hispanic American population, the incredible lost opportunity looks increasingly like an indictment of the failure of Republican politics in the last decade.
Per Pew Research Center polls, the percentage of Hispanics in 2014 that did not support marijuana legalization (51 percent), believed that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases (51 percent), and a higher than average opposition to marriage equality places this demographic among one of the most conservative in America. Considering large Hispanic populations in states like Florida, California, New Mexico, and sizable populations in states like Nevada and Colorado, embracing comprehensive immigration reform and building on President Bush’s robust Hispanic support in 2004 onward by emphasizing common ground on social issues, the Republican Party may have been able to lock up the swing states Florida, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and turn California into a reliably Republican state. California may seem puzzling to some readers because Obama won the state by 60 percent over former gov. Mit Romney’s 37 percent in 2012. But, the state went to John Kerry by 54 percent over 44 percent for George W. Bush in 2004, and Obama’s victory was wrought largely on the back of enormous support from Hispanics in 2012. This only serves to underscore the deep chasm the Republicans have opened up for themselves, consigning themselves to virtually certain defeat in an electorally rich state that could have been wrestled from the Democratic orbit.
The results of being able to tap into the social conservatism of Hispanic Americans are startling. By locking up Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado, in addition to the reliably Republican states, the party would start off the election with 255 electoral votes out of the 270 needed to win the election. Just by winning Ohio or two swing states the Republican Party would emerge as the victor in the general election. If the GOP was able to take a sizable portion of Hispanic voters, then California may lean Republican. With its 55 electoral votes, this would mean that an indomitable swath of America would be firmly under Republican control, making it impossible for a Democratic presidential candidate to win without radically altering the party’s ideology. Because political realignments can take up to decades, by absorbing Hispanics into the party like Democrats have been able to take in African Americans, the Republicans would have an enormous electoral advantage for decades.
However because of the Republican Party’s inability to do so, they have forfeited this demographic largely to the Democrats, and so the Democratic Party now has a formidable electoral advantage to the detriment of the Republicans. The Democrats are virtually guaranteed 237 electoral votes in the presidential election, just 23 shy of the 270 needed to win. By maintaining a large lead among Hispanics, Florida, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico will increasingly move out of reach for the Republicans while Texas becomes a swing state, as well as Virginia and North Carolina. This trend means electoral doom for the GOP.
Alleviating this problem for the Republicans will require them to adopt a more inclusive position on immigration and emphasize common ground on social issues with Hispanic Americans. As 2016 has unfolded, it has quickly become apparent that that will not be happening. Until the Republican Party’s voters soften their opposition to granting legal status to undocumented workers or Hispanic voters magically appear in large numbers in the GOP’s primaries, then it will remain rational for a candidate attempting to win the party’s nomination to remain hardline on immigration reform. This posits the party in a great quagmire. If the GOP succeeds in 2016, and it may well be the last time for a while until a realignment occurs, then it must set to work making inroads with Hispanic voters. Fast. Lest the Republicans are content with consigning themselves to irrelevance.