The Problem With a Really Tiny Tent


At some point in the not-too-distant future, I intend to explore the Census Bureau’s excellent data sets on Population Projections and Voting and Registration. I hope to examine how the composition of our nation will change over the next 12 years or so (through the 2024 election). After all, I don’t want Bill O’Reilly to be as surprised in 2024 as he apparently was on Tuesday night (“The white establishment is now the minority.”). I hope that the work I intend to do will put some forward-looking meat on the bones of articles like this one, this one, and this one. I want to save my fellow Americans the $400 million they squandered on Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS for no ROI.

In the meantime, here’s the thing: If guys like O’Reilly, or Jack Welch, Donald Trump, Sheldon Adelson, the Koch Brothers, et. al., had a demographer in their employ some 15 or so years ago (probably even earlier), none of what has transpired would have come as a surprise to them.

In fact, they didn’t even need a demographer. All they needed to do was read this 1996 report (third from bottom) from Census, some of the highlights of which foretold our current situation and, in fact, what is yet to come. (I hope to check the 1996 forecasts against where we actually are today, which should be an interesting exercise, and which will also give me some idea of what we can expect in the years to come.)

Let me state for the record here that this post is not intended to be incendiary or inflammatory, despite what I know will be written in comments. Yes, I am a Democrat. But demographics are what they are, and they will not be looking favorably on the GOP in the years to come. From the Bloomberg article cited above, look at what happened last week, which is very likely to continue:

According to exit polls, President Barack Obama won the Hispanic vote by a whopping margin of 71 percent to 27 percent. […] Asians voted for Obama by 73-26; they were more Democratic than Hispanics. [Ed. Note: Obama won the black vote by some 93 – 6.]

That said, let’s take a look at what Paul R. Campbell found in 1996 regarding population projections and see how the GOP might have used such information to its advantage (or at the very least not ignored it or been so surprised that it played out more or less exactly as forecast). Emphasis mine:

The White population, the largest of the five race/ethnic groups, is projected to be the slowest-growing among the groups during the 1995 to 2025 projection period.

The Asian population is the fastest-growing group in all regions.

The Hispanic origin population is projected to increase rapidly over the 1995 to 2025 projection period, accounting for 44 percent of the growth in the Nation’s population (32 million Hispanics out of a total of 72 million persons added to the Nation’s population). The Hispanic origin population is the second fastest-growing population, after Asians, in every region over the 30 year period.

As knowledge is power, the GOP arguably could have figured out that, based on the demographics, it needed a course correction before too long or it would find itself in the straits it’s in now. In other words, they could have tried to figure out how to get a bigger tent. They didn’t. (Corollary: How do you spell “voter suppression”?)

Here’s a table that sums up the GOP’s problem beautifully:

Discussion question: To which of the above five groups does the GOP appeal, and what has it done to embrace those groups? I’d venture it gets worse still if we include women (Linda McMahon lost among women in CT; Todd Akin; Richard Mourdock) and the LGBT community.

Let’s look at the table above another way, shall we:

The point, as Bill O’Reilly very tardily came to realize, is that there are not – nor will there be going forward – enough rich, old, angry white guys to sustain the GOP as it’s currently constituted.

An additional note on the Hispanic population:

  • The Hispanic population is expected to comprise a substantially larger share of the total population in 2025 than in 1995 — up from 21 to 32 percent in the West, from 9 to 15 percent in the South
    and Northeast, and from 3 to 6 percent in the Midwest.

So, what is the GOP’s strategy going to be? Will it relax its stance on women’s reproductive rights or, alternatively, will women come to embrace unnecessary trans-vaginal ultrasounds? What about immigration law? How does it engage the Asian community? Attract more blacks? In other words, how is the GOP going to make itself attractive to groups other than older white males? If it can’t figure this out, its future is bleak indeed. The numbers are what the number are – and I’ll have more on them soon (focusing on 2016, 2020 and 2024). Denying them – BubbleLife℠ (which is, frankly, all we’ve seen since the election) – is only bound to cause more “shellshock” in the future.

P.S. There is merit to the argument that black turnout will diminish in 2016 in the event there is not a black candidate on the ticket. The extent to which it may recede, while not exactly quantifiable, may or may not be significant. I intend to examine that and try to make some inferences when I look the population projections in a future post.

Main Citation: Campbell, Paul R., 1996, Population Projections for States by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin: 1995 to 2025, U.S. Bureau of the Census, Population Division, PPL-47.

Further reading: Pew Research

Adding: It will be times like these, in the future, that I’ll really mourn the unnecessary loss of the Statistical Abstract, which is essential for this type of research.

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