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GOP Loss Reveals Demographic Trouble, Split within Party

by Peter Barbour, published
Credit: LA Times

The only silver lining for the GOP that can be gleaned from the November 6 elections is that it retained control of the House of Representatives. Otherwise, the election results were devastating for the GOP, and while demographics was a primary reason Governor Romney lost to President Obama and Democrats increased their majority in the Senate, it was not the only reason. The loss, once again, revealed a split in the party which I mentioned in a prior column.

A demographic analysis of the results of this election show trouble for the GOP in future elections. A demographic breakdown from a survey of 26,565 voters (exit poll) conducted for the Associated Press and the television networks by Edison Research revealed that, while Romney won nearly 60% of white voters, Obama won over 90% of black voters and over 70% of Hispanic voters. Also, a breakdown of female voters showed that, while Romney won the votes of married women by 7 points, he lost single women by a whopping 36 points.

Many of the battleground states were close, and the overwhelming support Obama received from black and Latino voters made the difference. In an analysis of exit polls by the Pew Hispanic Center, Hispanics made up a growing share of voters in three of the key battleground states—Florida, Nevada, and Colorado.

Part of the problem for the GOP is a failure to communicate and understand the concerns of these different demographics. Throughout his campaign, Governor Romney said that if elected president he would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"). What the former Massachusetts governor and GOP failed to do, however, was clearly communicate what would replace Obamacare. While millions of Americans want to see the law repealed, millions also support Obamacare. In fact, exit polls showed a split, with 47% favoring Obamacare and 45% supporting its repeal.

The Romney campaign and GOP failed to make an effective case to the very groups they are doing poorly with for a better alternative to Obamacare. For instance, a poll of over 800 likely Latino voters conducted on 9/11/12 by Fox News showed that 62% of respondents favored the law. Despite the overwhelming support amongst Latino voters for Obamacare, the Romney campaign's first Spanish-language spot vowed to eliminate Obamacare.

The immigration issue also hurt Romney and the GOP with Hispanics, where most in the GOP have opposed legal status for illegal immigrants. The Pew Hispanic Center said that, according to the national exit poll, 77% of Hispanic voters believe immigrants should be offered a chance to apply for legal status while 18% said these immigrants should be deported. Among all voters, 65% said immigrants should be be able to apply for legal status while 28% say they should be deported.

Yet, to say that the GOP's only problem is a demographic one would not be accurate. There is a split within the party between supporters of military force abroad without a formal declaration of war (i.e. most Republicans) and those who oppose use of military force abroad unless there is a formal declaration of war, such as congressman Dr. Ron Paul (TX) and his son, Senator Rand Paul (KY). Other issues which divide the GOP include taxation and liberty issues (i.e. NDAA detention clause, Patriot Act), the federal drug war, and size of government.

The attacks leveled against Dr. Paul have been strongest not from Democrats, but Republicans. Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani said this of Dr. Paul:

"I think he's a kook. His views on 9/11, to me, are horrifying. I don't understand how people support him. Some of the things he says are, to me, the product of a cranky old man."

GOP presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum said "Ron Paul is disgusting." Santorum also said "vote for Ron Paul, that's what you should do" if you want limited government. That is not a withering attack, but again shows that there is a split in the GOP.

Criticism and strong disagreements with Dr. Paul came from talk radio as well. Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh blasted Paul for being to the left of Obama on Iran after a GOP debate held on 12/15/11. Fellow conservative radio host Mark Levin said last year that Dr. Paul was part of the hate American first crowd and "makes it sound like we're the Old Soviet Union or Red China." Levin also said Dr. Paul's foreign policy is unpatriotic and un-American and "the fact that so many people find it alluring is troubling to me."

The GOP did not learn its lesson from 2008. They are seen as a party of the rich, a party that wants more war, a party that is hostile to Hispanics and blacks, and a party that is at odds with itself over its own ideology. To gain more support from Latinos and blacks, the GOP should not try to imitate Democrats on the issues, but the party does need to change. For instance, on illegal immigration, the GOP should fully support granting legal status for undocumented workers (i.e. through a guest worker program).

Beyond that, it's not enough to reach out to minority voters come election time. The time to start is now. The GOP needs to have a conversation with black and Hispanic leaders, rather than just giving speeches. They need to listen more and talk less or to put it another way, be swift to hear and slow to answer. When you have over 90% of Blacks and over 70% of Hispanics voting for Democrats, it is clear that the GOP is missing the boat.

As for whether or not the split can be healed within the party, there is a lot of work to be done. When you have the GOP establishment calling Dr. Paul a kook, disgusting, part of the hate America first crowd, and with an unpatriotic and un-American foreign policy, should it really surprise the GOP if many of the millions of Americans who support Dr. Paul did not support Governor Romney on November 6?

Those Republicans who support military intervention abroad without a formal declaration of war, the federal war on drugs, and anti-liberty laws need to face this truth: Most Americans are not buying what you are selling, as is reflected by the 2008 and 2012 election results.

Many people who believe in liberty will not support GOP candidates who speak of liberty but take positions on issues that are in direct contradiction to liberty. Furthermore, a party that is doing as poorly as the GOP is with minority voters cannot afford to turn away liberty minded voters.

Finally, this note for the Libertarian Party. You have a lot of great ideas and while not all will be endorsed by Republicans, there is nothing to suggest based, on historical data, that a Libertarian Party candidate will ever be elected president. The best chance for libertarians to get some of their ideas implemented is by joining the GOP. Those who believe in liberty will not win from the outside; instead fight for liberty from within, like Dr. Paul has done.

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