By: Basil Wilson
Demographic dynamics will determine the Presidential election of 2012. In any democratic society, there are distinct voting blocs and in the United States where there is increasing class variegation, racial conflict, ethnic differences and gender gaps, political parties have to make special appeals to respective voting blocs to amass sufficient votes to emerge with a majority of the 538 Electoral College votes. Party strategies have been shifting from the 1960s with the advent of the civil rights movement.
Lyndon Johnson was prophetic when he declared that with the passage of the civil rights legislation in 1964 and 1965, the Democratic Party would not be able to obtain a majority of the white vote. In the post- civil rights movement, there has been a re-alignment of the political parties.
Kevin Phillips in his study published in 1967, The Emerging Republican Majority argued that the movement of people from the mid-west moving to the South-west where there was extant a more conservative ethos. Phillips’ position was that the population of the South-west region was expanding at the expense of a shrinking north-east.
Since Kevin Phillips the late 1960s, the signal demographic change in America has been the growth of the Latino population. In states like Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Florida, Colorado and Virginia, the Latino vote is critical to putting together a winning coalition for Democrats.
The Republican Party has been effective in alienating Latino voters. The Party platform of 2012 is adamant that there should be no accommodation to illegal immigrants in the country and blames the Obama government for lax enforcement of the borders. The Dream Act that was proposed in Congress was rejected as a form of amnesty that would undermine the principle of law and order. The Obama administration has used the power of selective enforcement on an interim basis to allow children who were brought to this country before the age of sixteen and has no criminal record to be allowed to obtain work permits and temporarily insulated from deportation.
George W. Bush in the 2004 election did appeal to Latino voters as he advocated for a comprehensive immigration act that would regularize the position of undocumented Latinos in the United States. Even John McCain in the 2008 election obtained 32 percent of the Latino vote.
Mitt Romney during the Presidential primary of 2012 was to the right of his Republican rivals. Romney rejected the Dream Act and came out in favour of self-deportation. Polls reflect this alienation in the Latino community as Romney trails far behind Barack Obama in amassing support among Latino voters.
The African-American population vehemently resented the southern strategy adopted by the Republican Party in the post- civil rights period. There are still a paltry number of blacks who remain wedded to the GOP like Condoleezza Rice but the veiled racism of the Party and its anti-government rhetoric have made the Party unappealing to the vast majority of African Americans. It is highly unlikely Mitt Romney will obtain more than 5 percent of the black vote.
At the Republican Party convention both Ann and Mitt Romney made a concerted effort to narrow the gender gap. Ann Romney bellowed her love for women and Mitt Romney spoke lovingly about his mother. American politics can plummet readily in a sentimental abyss. Romney’s gender gap has nothing to do with love for women. The gender gap came about because of a difference in policy. Republicans are adamant about the question of abortion and the notion of personhood threatens the right of women to control their bodies. Any student of Republican Party politics would be aware that Todd Akins is not an anomaly but the embodiment of the Party’s position on women’s rights.
The Republican Party has become quite dependent on the white male vote. The Democratic Party is triumphant when it is able to mobilize African-Americans, union workers, women and Latinos. Those folks did not show up at the polls in 2010. If Obama is to be re-elected, the coalition of 2008, including young white voters, must again be assembled.
The demographic dynamics do not impact all fifty states. There are approximately 40 states where the electoral process is already settled. The Republican bastion of support is in the South and in the Mid-western states. Democrats exercise hegemony on the west and eastern coastal states like New York, California, New Jersey and Washington.
The 2012 election will be decided by the 10 swing states and as the “gun lap” is underway, the election will be determined by which Party triumphs in Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Romney must win Ohio and Florida to emerge with an electoral majority. If Obama wins Ohio, he should win the re-election.
External shocks could impact the election. The situation in the Euro-zone continues to be rocky. Unemployment and employment figures for August, September and October will set the stage for some shift in the electorate. Romney did not get much of a bounce from the Republican convention. Now it’s Obama’s turn. If he alights from the Democratic Party convention with a sizeable bounce, Romney’s Presidential ambition will suffer the same fate as that of John McCain.