Tuesday, March 09, 2021


In The New York Times today, Jamelle Bouie expresses skepticism about predictions of the Republican Party's demise. He thinks the modern Republican Party more closely resembles
the Democratic Party of the 1850s, with its structural advantage in federal elections, its ideologically aligned majority on the Supreme Court and its fervid base, whose acute grievance and bottomless paranoia pushed the party to nihilistic extremes.

Of course, when that Democratic Party finally went too far, it plunged the country into the worst, deadliest crisis of its history. Let us hope, then, that that particular resemblance is only superficial.
Yet he also tells us that "the Republican Party now is struggling to reorient itself to a new era of mass politics, its reinvention held back by its aging white base." He cites a New Yorker article by Jelani Cobb, who has many smart things to say but recites the conventional wisdom: "Time may be running out for the Party, as its base ages and dwindles."

But I've been hearing that the GOP faces demographic doom for much of my adult life. It's one of those things -- like Democrats winning Texas -- that's always just a few electoral cycles away.

I looked at the Roper Center's age breakdown of the 2008 presidential vote. It says that 18-to-29-year-olds voted for Barack Obama by a 66%-to-32% margin. That's a huge gap. If those young people continued to vote Democratic at that rate for life, then of course the Republican Party would be doomed.

But they haven't. In 2020, those young people were 30 to 41 years old. We can't get a precise match from 2020 exit polling, but we can come close: In 2020, 30-to-44-year-olds voted for Joe Biden over Donald Trump by a 52%-to-44% margin -- 8 points rather than 34.

In 2008, 30-to-44-year-olds chose Obama by a 52%-to-46% margin. Those voters were 42 to 56 years old in 2020. Again, it's an imprecise match, but the 45-to-64 vote in 2020 favored Trump, 50% to 49%.

We can go back to 1976 and do this. When Jimmy Carter won that year's presidential election, the vote was close -- but according to Roper, Carter won 22-to-29-year-olds by 12 points, 56% to 44%.

Those voters were 66 to 71 years old in 2020. Trump won the 65+ demographic by 3 points, 51% to 48%.

So I'm not going to let myself get too excited about the 62%-to-35% vote for Biden among 18-to-29-year-olds last year. Republicans like Nixon, Bush, and Trump always alienate the young -- but when the young get older, they become more Republican.

Demographics won't save us. THe Democratic Party needs to govern well when it has the chance, and toot its own horn when it succeeds. Democrats also need to make a greater effort to discredit the Republican Party, using the ample material the party offers on a daily basis.

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