Will Demographics Force GOP Moderation?


Democracy Journal has a series of essays by a number of people answering the question of what the political parties will look like in 2024 as a result of shifting demographics. Ruy Teixeira, an expert on demographics, argues that the growth of the Latino vote and other shifts in the population will force the Republican party to take more moderate positions on a number of issues.

In sum, then, the electorate of 2024 will be marked by a substantial increase in the share of minority voters, who lean strongly Democratic, and significant shifts within the declining white population that should serve to liberalize that population. This casts considerable doubt on the viability of current GOP strategy that cedes the minority vote to the Democrats and relies on squeezing an ever-higher share of votes from whites. Indeed, this approach seems a perfect candidate for Stein’s Law: If something can’t go on forever, it won’t.

Republicans will eventually—and very reluctantly—bow to electoral reality. They will compete much more vigorously for minority, particularly Hispanic, votes, and they will seek to broaden their appeal to younger and more moderate white voters. This will involve not just moving away from hard-line positions on social issues like immigration and gay marriage but also jettisoning a reflexive opposition to social spending and the tax increases that will be necessary to support it. Expect more David Frum and less Grover Norquist.

Frum himself has an essay on the same subject and his conclusions are fairly similar:

For Republicans, the trends pose a coalition-management question. Throughout the Obama years, Republicans built a powerful coalition of the rich and the old. The coalition was built on two principles: militant rejection of any and all new taxes, and unyielding defense of existing government benefits for those at or near retirement age.

But as Medicare costs rise, the no-new-taxes/no-cuts-in-Medicare combination will become increasingly difficult to sustain. Already, polls show that Republican voters (as opposed to activists) prefer tax increases on upper-income earners to Medicare cuts. So long as the choice between taxes and Medicare cuts remains latent, the preferences of rank-and-file Republicans may not matter much. But as budget gaps widen, that tension will surely come to the fore…

If the fiscal squeeze tightens enough, Republicans will be forced to choose between their limited government ideology and their older voting base. If they choose their ideology, they will need to locate some new voters in upper-income America. They will need to draw back to the Grand Old Party the kind of voters who defected to Barack Obama in 2008: affluent professionals, especially women, in major urban centers. This was the kind of Republicanism practiced in the 1990s by governors like Christine Todd Whitman, John Engler, Tommy Thompson, and George Pataki. Such a Republicanism would not need to jettison its pro-life message, just de-emphasize it, as Democrats have, for example, de-emphasized their message on gun control.

At the beginning of the Tea Party era, there was much talk that Republicans might switch to a more economic, less culturally exclusive message. That talk came to nothing. Instead, Republicans infused cultural exclusion into their economics, drawing a sharp distinction between the “earned” benefit of Medicare and Social Security and other programs that serve supposedly less deserving populations: food stamps, unemployment insurance, and Medicaid.

Yet it does not have to be this way. The GOP can remain a culturally conservative party without needing to endorse vaginal inspections of women or miring itself in fights over birth control. The coming generational shift within the GOP on gay rights points the way to such future change.

But the real problem here is the hard right. How does the GOP move to the middle and moderate its stances on immigration, abortion, and gay rights without losing at least a portion of its religious right base and sparking real interest in a conservative third party?

Comments

  1. Alverant says

    You know more about American political history than I do. Has there ever been a point where 3 parties were successfully able to exist? Also since the Democrat-liberal/Republican-conservative structure is somewhat recent do you see that changing in the future?

  2. Stevarious says

    The problem is that you (and Ruy) are conflating minority growth rates with minority voter growth rates. If the Republican party’s current wildly successful voter-suppression tactics continue to their logical conclusion – Apartheid – then the growing minority populations won’t matter a bit, because they won’t be able to vote anyway.

  3. says

    In sum, then, the electorate of 2024 will be marked by a substantial increase in the share of minority voters, who lean strongly Democratic, and significant shifts within the declining white population that should serve to liberalize that population.

    There is an assumption here that those minorities will still be allowed to vote in 2024. With the current attempts by Republicans to purge the voter rolls, this is not a sure thing.

  4. abb3w says

    @0, Ed Brayton:

    How does the GOP move to the middle and moderate its stances on immigration, abortion, and gay rights without losing at least a portion of its religious right base and sparking real interest in a conservative third party?

    Gradually?

  5. eric says

    I’m cynical. I think that racial gerrymandering will make this change go slower than these two pundits predict. The response by conservatives to increasing numbers of minority voters has been – and will be in the case of hispanics – to shove as much of the state’s minority population into the smallest number of districts possible, preserving white or conservative majorities in the majority of districts. There’s a million hispanics out of a population of 10 million? Congratulations, instead of being a weighty 10% of each district’s vote, we – the folks who hold the seats right now and thus get to redraw the borders – are going to put 99% of you in one district, so you get to decide 1 seat out of 10 and have zero impact on the other 9.

    In 2024, we will have undergone one more census cycle. One. That’s it. The ability for hispanic voters to influence the outcome of elections will laregly be decided by the old white guys redrawing the district borders in the 2014-2020 period.

  6. roggg says

    Perhaps I’m overly cynical, but what I see happening is the GOP finding points that resonate with minorities, and using those commonalities to move minorities to the right, rather than moving left to court minority groups. For example, using the anti-gay agenda to appeal to immigrant groups from conservative christian backgrounds.

  7. scienceavenger says

    Republicans will eventually—and very reluctantly…[move] away from hard-line positions on social issues like immigration and gay marriage [and jettison] a reflexive opposition to social spending and the tax increases that will be necessary to support it.

    Not any time soon they aren’t. Oh, they should, no doubt, but how is one supposed to broach the subject to a base who’s had it beaten into their heads for years that such positions aren’t just wrong, but evil, and the cause of the collapse of our society? Further, YOU are the one that’s been telling them so. You might as well try to persuade a 5-year-old child to eat an apple you’ve been telling him is poison since he was born.

    Further, the GOP writ large denies the demographic realities. They remain convinced they are the majority, the REAL Merkins, and any electoral defeat is the result of cheating (see: ACORN). None of these changes will happen in the GOP until they start getting hammerred at the polls Goldwater-style, across the board, for years.

  8. eric says

    Has there ever been a point where 3 parties were successfully able to exist?

    Depends on how you count success. There were third party contenders fairly regularly up until about 1940. Some of those third parties got candidates on the national ballot in 2, 3, 4 election cycles in a row. It was also common in the 1800s for a party to put up multiple candidates, which complicates the question.

    If you count in terms of # electoral votes, however, the answer is “approximately never.” You would have to go back to the early 1800s to find an election where a 3rd candidate took more than 10% of the electoral college votes (for reference, Perot got 0). For example, in the 1800 election Jefferson won in a close four-way split where he had 73 votes and the worst candidate got 64. That’s a pretty tight race and a pretty significant showing by candidates #3 and 4. Of course, there were only two parties in that race; each put up two candidates. :) As I said, complicated.

  9. busterggi says

    “How does the GOP move to the middle and moderate its stances on immigration, abortion, and gay rights without losing at least a portion of its religious right base and sparking real interest in a conservative third party?”

    It can’t.

  10. Gregory in Seattle says

    Regardless of the partys’ social positions, their corporate positions will remain indistinguishable for the forseeable future.

  11. jayarrrr says

    By 2024 Karl Rove’s dream of the “Permanent Republican Majority” may have been realized and all this will be moot.

    American politics will consist of replacing retiring Republican/Authoritarian Pols and weeding out the ones who stray from the hard right ideology. They may court wealthy ultra-right Latinos and other former minorities, but frankly, they won’t need them. Or you. Or me.

    Opposing parties, if allowed to exist, will serve only to be pointed to as an example of how we still have “free” elections.

  12. says

    The fact that America is a conservative outlier in the democratic world give me hope that the nation’s political center of gravity will move leftward at some point.

    Conservative fearmongering can’t last forever–it has to give way to mental exhaustion eventually, though it could take a while yet.

    Demographically, the signs are hopeful. Not only is the racial mix changing in favor of the Democrats (assuming they will embrace it), but Pew Research recently published a survey that shows a rapid acceleration in the number of young people who “have doubts about God.” (15% in the last decade). It’s probably too early to be sure, but it’s possible that we’re finally seeing the type of widespread secularization of society that’s already happened in most other western nations. That can’t be good news for the religious right.

    Gerrymandering will only get conservatives so far. It worked in Texas for the couple of elections (thanks, in part to Tea Party enthusiasm), but the majority of Republicans in many state congressional districts are getting perilously thin, and the rapid growth of the Hispanic population could well push the Democrats over the top within the next eight years, hence the voter suppression tactics being attempted here too.

    But a lot of this depends on whether the Democrats are able to seize the initiative. On issue after issue, independent voters line up with registered Democrats to the point where they should be crushing the Republican already, yet somehow they manage to squander that advantage time after time. Frustrating to say the least.

  13. otrame says

    In 2024, we will have undergone one more census cycle. One.

    >

    Hell, when they are desperate enough, they don’t bother with waiting for a new census. That’s what all the fuss in the Texas legislature was about a few years ago. The Repubs re-gerrymandered a bunch of districts between cenuses. Dems tried to stop it, but they didn’t have the votes, so they left the state to try to deny them a quorum. In the long run, though, the Repubs got what they wanted.

    What is important is voter registration drives and preventing the voter purges.

    In the long run, they will lose, of course, but if I want to see it happen (I am in my 60s) we need to work hard to get out the vote. That includes those who are extremely disaffected. Just because you are pissed at Obama (me, too) does not mean you can fail to vote for him. Failing to vote is handing the Repubs the equivalent of 2 votes. We can’t afford that. If you want to slow or stop the right wing, YOU MUST VOTE. Even if we lose a particular district, if there are enough progressive voters, they politicians will pay attention.

    My feeling is that the middle class is about to do one of its punctuated shifts from the right to the left (never very far either way, but significant all the same), but I have been wrong before and it could easily be wishful thinking.

  14. wayneturner says

    Instead, Republicans infused cultural exclusion into their economics, drawing a sharp distinction between the “earned” benefit of Medicare and Social Security and other programs that serve supposedly less deserving populations: food stamps, unemployment insurance, and Medicaid.

    I have never seen the Rethugs draw this distinction. While on the Simpson-Bowles ‘catfood commission’, Alan Simpson famously referred to Social Security as a ‘milk cow with a million teats’. When rethugs want to make a point about the spending of the federal government wrt social spending, they routinely include Social Security figures as part of ‘entitlement’ spending, even though it is not. Even Frum can’t avoid lying.

  15. christophburschka says

    Just because you are pissed at Obama (me, too) does not mean you can fail to vote for him. Failing to vote is handing the Repubs the equivalent of 2 votes.

    That is the problem with US democracy in a nutshell. A Democratic vote is not so much a vote for Obama as it is a vote against Romney, and vice versa. This is a self-maintaining system in which any vote, to be effective, must go toward one of the two main candidates in order to prevent the opponent from winning). The worst thing is that most of the people who seem to recognize this problem right now are supporting a nutcase of a third party candidate.

    Parliamentary systems like Canada, the UK or Germany have their own problems, but at least a vote for a third party is not automatically worthless. The international growth of the Green parties during the 80s (and the Pirate parties now) never reached the States.

  16. magistramarla says

    I was just reading the depressing post over at Pharyngula about what the rethugs are doing to public education in Louisiana.
    I think that is part of their long-term solution to their demographic problems. They are working to make sure that the hated minorities are too poorly educated to even want to vote, and if they do vote, they are already brainwashed to be easily manipulated by them.

  17. plutosdad says

    @1
    I believe a lot of the reason for 2 parties only is many election laws are written to keep 3rd parties out. Just like Republicans want many poor and minorities to not be able to vote, both parties are happy to pass strict restrictions on who can even run in an election. Hoops to jump through, tests to pass, ensure it’s extremely difficult to even get on a ballot without the party being behind you. Primaries are a little easier of course but not all that much.

    If we do have the religious right break away, with all their resources and money, we might actually see them sue and get some reform to make it easier for 3rd party candidates to get on ballots. That may actually be really good for the country.

  18. bruceh says

    If the Republican Party moves to the center, thereby making room for a viable third party on the far right, would that in turn mean the Democratic Party will move to the left? I would certainly welcome such a development, but of course I won’t be holding my breath.

  19. Alverant says

    #8 and #18
    I’m in agreement. The question is how do we fix it or is this the best solution we can expect for right now. (And keep in mind there may be no perfect solution, just a “best of the worst” solutions when it comes to government. I can’t see a third party developing from one of the two existing ones since it would mean one side is now divided into two parts while the other one stays the same size. The only way it would be viable is to have it take from both parties in substancial quantities as to keep the balance of power.

  20. D. C. Sessions says

    This is why the Presidential election this fall is a must-win for the Republicans. One more reliable Republican on the Court and they can not only reverse Wickard but pretty much the whole of the New Deal and Great Society, including the Voting Rights Act. Not to mention the infamous “one man, one vote” ruling.

    At that point, Republicans in control of State governments will be able to redistrict to their hearts’ [1] desire and purge the voter rolls like they’ve never been purged before.

    Oh, eventually enough demographic change will tip the balance again, with or without tumbrels. But it will take a long time, and after all après moi, le déluge.

    [1] Yeah, ObQuirk, I know.

  21. tomh says

    The biggest hurdle for a third party candidate is the fact that almost all states use a winner take all electoral vote system. Ross Perot got about 20% of the popular vote in 1992, highest third party total since Teddy Roosevelt, but Perot didn’t get a single electoral vote. Unless and until the electoral college sytem is changed there is no chance a third party candidate could win. The reason is simple. In a winner take all vote, (electoral votes, that is), voters realize that a vote for the third most popular candidate is a vote wasted. So they vote for their least objectionable of the top two choices.

    We have had a third party candidate elected president, though – Abraham Lincoln.

  22. slc1 says

    Re D.C. Sessions @ #21

    Mr. Sessions is absolutely correct and accurate. However, like Michael Heath and myself, this type of thinking will fall on deaf ears to the left that wants Obama’s head on a stick. One need only look at posts by PZ Myers et al. I am afraid that the left will do to Obama what they did to Al Gore in New Hampshire and Florida. The result of that was a couple of thugs named Roberts and Alito.

  23. says

    scienceavenger “None of these changes will happen in the GOP until they start getting hammerred at the polls Goldwater-style, across the board, for years.”
    And that’s not going to happen because their opponents are Democrats. There. I said it. I’m not scared of them. What’s the Democratic party going to do, feckless me to death?

    tomh “We have had a third party candidate elected president, though – Abraham Lincoln.”
    And look how that worked out. He “wins” the election and before he even moves in he promptly cuts America in two with his divisive policies and speeches! Remember the first FEA* Party protest at Ft Sumter?

    * Free Enough Already

  24. Midnight Rambler says

    If the Republican Party moves to the center, thereby making room for a viable third party on the far right, would that in turn mean the Democratic Party will move to the left?

    I think it’s more likely that the “centrist” wings of both the Democratic and Republican parties (e.g. Evan Bayh, Dick Lugar, Bart Stupak, Olympia Snowe, etc.) would form a new one that would be competitive in much of the country, while the current Democrats and Republicans stay more or less where they are. Part of the problem that third parties have is that they often try to compete in presidential elections first, when House or governor’s races are much easier to win by plurality as a third party candidate.

  25. Midnight Rambler says

    Of course, the problem with that kind of scenario would be coming up with any kind of even semi-coherent ideology or platform for such a middle party; all those middle people differ from their current parties but in different ways. But then again, that never stopped anyone.

  26. tomh says

    Modusoperandi wrote:
    he promptly cuts America in two with his divisive policies and speeches!

    And executive orders. Right wingers complain about Obama using an executive order on immigration, Lincoln suspended habeas corpus by executive order. Now that’s how you use an executive order!

  27. jthompson says

    @Midnight Rambler: Good luck to the centrists finding a middle ground between the two parties. For their next trick they can try to fit everyone in the country into a thimble.

  28. laurentweppe says

    He “wins” the election and before he even moves in he promptly cuts America in two with his divisive policies and speeches!

    Forget about the speeches: he kept the USA united in the end by killing over a fourth of southern young adult males.
    And I know I should be sympathising with these victims of warfare as well… but I don’t: when a corrupt aristocracy is willing to defends its undue privileges with guns and canons, slaughtering a significant number of its members is the best way to proceed.

  29. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    And I know I should be sympathising with these victims of warfare as well… but I don’t: when a corrupt aristocracy is willing to defends its undue privileges with guns and canons, slaughtering a significant number of its members is the best way to proceed.

    How many of those slaughtered were actually aristocrats?

  30. laurentweppe says

    How many of those slaughtered were actually aristocrats?

    In a society built upon slavery, every non-slave is a de-facto aristocrat.

  31. dingojack says

    ‘Hey Lurlene get off’n the roof and stick ya good teeth in!
    We jist got ourselves pro-moted ta royalty!’ [/Cletus]
    ;) Dingo

  32. redgreeninblue says

    How does the GOP move to the middle and moderate its stances on immigration, abortion, and gay rights without losing at least a portion of its religious right base and sparking real interest in a conservative third party?

    This is what really gets me about US politics.* It seems to be based on the premise that having more than two parties (or at least, having an electoral system which does not massively favour two monolithic, established parties) is somehow bad. And then everyone moans about how both parties end up pursuing a variant of the same old tried-and-discredited political platform. Well, of course!

    If you create a system where only two parties have a hope in hell of winning, then “winning” means obtaining more than 50% of the vote, i.e. appealing to a majority of people. That means that policy formation is at the mercy of a relatively small target voter group (that which will take one party or the other over the 50% mark) those political and social opinions are in the middle, and by definition susceptible to the soundbites and attacks of election-period campaigning (i.e. probably not very well thought out). Everyone else’s views can be ignored to the extent that they can still be depended on to vote for their usual favoured party (or better still, not vote at all, which is the usual long-term outcome of being neglected and ignored by your elected representatives).

    * No, I’m not in a great position to lecture the USA on this, given that I live in England which (a) doesn’t even have its own parliament (unlike Scotland, Wales, and NI), and therefore (b) relies for its primary legislation on the UK parliament at Westminster which is effectively a duopoly** and the same unfair FPTP voting system. (I will gloss over the monarchy and the lack of a written constitution)

    ** OK, OK, the Liberal Democrats – but under the current system, the only way they could get into government was by selling out of the few principles they had,*** effectively becoming part of the larger party and defeating the object of campaigning as a separate party.

    *** Other than delivering the most leaflets and getting elected, which I think is their raison d’être.

    (I’m sure daisy-chained footnotes are poor typographical practice :-D )

  33. says

    “How many of those slaughtered were actually aristocrats?”

    The object of most wars is to “cut off the head”, thereby removing the “body’s” will to prosecute war. In most cases the head is protected by multiple layers of honest, decent men (thoroughly larded with sycophants and sociopaths) who are deluded into believing that their cause is just.

  34. eric says

    @16:

    This is a self-maintaining system in which any vote, to be effective, must go toward one of the two main candidates in order to prevent the opponent from winning).

    @20:

    The question is how do we fix it or is this the best solution we can expect for right now.

    I think the best near-term solution was provided (ironically) by the tea partiers: strongly contest congressional and senate incumbents in the primaries.
    (1) While they only won about a third of the races they contested, that’s a hell of a lot more succes than any third party. It gave them a pseudo-parliamentary result of representation being (somewhat) correlated with actual votes.
    (2) Regardless of how many they won, just seriously contesting the incumbents caused a shift in the national GOP platform. IOW, they did what green party and libertarians have been claiming they are trying to do for years; shift platforms.
    (3) I would bet that most people are far more comfortable voting their conscience in a congressional race than the presidential one, and far more comfortable voting their conscience in a primary than in a general. The stakes are quite a bit lower in both cases. So whereas asking people to vote “third person” in the presidential general election probably isn’t ever going to get a lot of traction, that strategy might get traction in the congressional and senate races, especially in the primaries.

  35. eric says

    redgreeninblue @34:

    This is what really gets me about US politics.* It seems to be based on the premise that having more than two parties (or at least, having an electoral system which does not massively favour two monolithic, established parties) is somehow bad.

    I think you are somewhat unfairly characterizing us. I would guess that a majority of Americans are unhappy with the system or see the problems in the current system. Its just that we’re stuck in a prisoner’s dilemma-type situation, where the best long-term national strategy goes against our short-term, state or local interests.

    Take, for example, the U.S. tradition of a state giving all its electoral votes to the candidate that wins the most number of districts (winner take all) – rather than apportioning electoral votes based on number of districts won (representational). The federal system doesn’t force this on us, states choose to do this, because they see it as being in their own best interests to do so. Any state, at any time, can switch to a more representational method if they choose to do so. Would a more representational system, nationally implemented, be better for the country in the long run? Probably. Would it make third parties more viable? Almost certainly. Would it be better for any individual state in the short run? With a few exceptions, no. Any state who choses this strategy while others states continue to do winner-take-all is lessening their influence in the national election. In prisoner’s dilemma terms, they are cooperating against known defectors. Thus, with a few exceptions, the states won’t do it. They’ll take the “defect” strategy instead…and we end up where we are now.

  36. d cwilson says

    I think it’s more likely that the “centrist” wings of both the Democratic and Republican parties (e.g. Evan Bayh, Dick Lugar, Bart Stupak, Olympia Snowe, etc.) would form a new one that would be competitive in much of the country, while the current Democrats and Republicans stay more or less where they are.

    The fact that Stupak is considerd a centrist democrat shows just how skewed politics in this country have become. But if the democrats stay where they currently are, I don’t see the point of another “centrist” party.

  37. birgerjohansson says

    “Will Demographics Force GOP Moderation?”

    -In your dreams. There used to be some cynical old boys in charge who knew their politics was bullshit, just pandering to the loons. Now the old boys themselves are loons.

  38. baal says

    will force the Republican party to take more moderate positions on a number of issues.

    Wishful thinking.

    The republicans are running the show for the oligarchy (.1% & big corps). They are immensely successful at diverting the wealth of the US to a very narrow segment of the population. We don’t have a political left in the US (not as a political force anyway, the progressive caucus in the FEDHOUSE is huge but can’t hardly even get on the Sunday talk shows). And the republican have shown themselves entirely able and willing to head down anti-democratic pro-oligarch path.

    The governors Scott & ALEC legislation have been throwing the Overton window down the field. Huge amounts of effort have been spent to get them trimmed back even two steps.

    Given these trends and the other societal lock down methods (2012 voter suppression efforts, militarization of the police in the lowest crime period, shocking incarceration rates (and the social justice implications from them) and …), I don’t see moderation from demographics anytime soon. They’ll get to an apartheid like society first and I’ve yet to see a sustainable way to stop them. Occupy maybe gets part of the way but again, it’s a huge cost method that might not be sustainable especially with the police abuses (and legal support for it) we saw last year.

  39. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Those poor white folks were way more important that the order of magnitude more black folks who were enslaved.

    Where did I say that?

  40. martinc says

    There’s another issue with third party candidates in the USA: they benefit the ideology most opposed to the candidate. Say a particular electorate is 52% conservative and 48% liberal. If a third party – the Extreme Conservatives – started up, their vote would be drawn almost exclusively from those who would have voted conservative with only two parties, thus handing victory to the liberal candidate – the one most opposed to the ideas the Extreme Conservative candidate wants promulgated. This of course happened in reverse in Florida in the first election this century, where votes for Nader which would otherwise have been significantly likely to have otherwise been votes for Gore were wasted, effectively handing victory (with an awful lot of jiggery-pokery) to the disastrous GWB. I lost a lot of respect for Michael Moore (he was in the Nader camp) because one of his books simply glossed over any responsibility for that disaster, probably the single biggest political tactical failure in my lifetime.

    Given the way the vote can be split in tight races as described above, I’m surprised there aren’t more attempts to game the system. Say you’re a Democrat in an electorate where polling shows you’re going to get only 48% of the vote. You have a small nest egg for discretionary spending. You can: a) spend it on a small TV advertising blitz, which will increase your vote to 49%; or b) secretly fund a fake Tea Party-style candidacy, which will get 10% of the vote, 9 of those percentiles coming from your opponent’s initial 52%. You choose option B. You win. Happy days.

    There is a simple solution to the above. It’s called preferential voting, and it is done in my country, Australia. Instead of picking a single candidate from the list, voters list the candidates in order of preference: 1, 2, 3 etc. If the vote as described above finished Dem 47, Repub 43, Tea Party 10, the Democrat would not be declared the winner. The Tea Party candidate would be eliminated, and votes for that candidate would be distributed among the remaining two candidates according to the second preference expressed on the ballots. In the example I invented, 9 of the Tea Party candidates 10 percent would go to the Republican, and 1 to the Democrat, bringing the result back to the original 52-48 victory to the Republican expected before the Tea Party candidate came into the picture.

    Some countries (and I believe in the past possibly USA as well) have run-off elections: if no candidate achieves 50% of the vote, the last-placed candidate is eliminated, and then another vote is held, until a vote produces a result of more than 50% to one candidate. Preferential voting is effectively just having the run-offs all on the original ballot. While slightly harder than “place an X in one box”, it doesn’t require “rocket surgery” to simply list the candidates in the order you prefer them. In fact, party officials at each polling booth hand out “how to vote” cards listing the preferential order that they believe would best support their requirements. In recent years, shorthand methods have been developed to allow voters to simply indicate “vote as per party X’s requirements”.

  41. says

    The response by conservatives to increasing numbers of minority voters has been – and will be in the case of hispanics – to shove as much of the state’s minority population into the smallest number of districts possible, preserving white or conservative majorities in the majority of districts.

    But this is what both parties already do — they try to draw district boundaries in such a way as to maximize their seats. All that’s going to change with more Hispanics is that there will be fewer R voters and more D voters, assuming that Hispanics don’t shift their allegiance. And that means more D districts and fewer R districts no matter who draws the boundaries.

  42. eric says

    Some countries (and I believe in the past possibly USA as well) have run-off elections: if no candidate achieves 50% of the vote, the last-placed candidate is eliminated, and then another vote is held, until a vote produces a result of more than 50% to one candidate.

    I think the parties sometime do that in primary elections, but AFAIK no general election in the U.S. uses run-off.

    While slightly harder than “place an X in one box”, it doesn’t require “rocket surgery” to simply list the candidates in the order you prefer them.

    You underestimate the stupidity of the American public. Remember, two of our biggest election controversies of the last couple of decades were the butterfly ballot and hanging chads. Literally, people not understanding that there were candidates listed on the left AND right side of the page, and people not being able to punch out a divot in a piece of paper, respectively.

  43. lorn says

    For all the well advertised and lavishly crowed over successes of the right the general trend is optimist. The GOP is spending a lot of effort and money on what amounts to rear-guard actions.

    Women and minorities have a hell of a lot more freedoms and accepted rights than thirty years ago. Gays have never before had such high levels of acceptance and protection. The society is far less controlled by churches and religion in general.

    The simple fact is that after over fifty years of dedicated investment and building of right-wing organizations and interlocking power structures they haven’t really changed the terms of debate or come near to nailing the lid shut on any of their major issues.

    After fifty years of anti-labor activism, pushed so fanatically that it damn near crippled the economy of the entire western world, they haven’t killed the idea behind all labor activism, that workers deserve a fair deal and have a right to come together to fight for it. They have mowed the flowers of labor down, plowed them under, and burned the land to try to kill them. But like the weeds we are, labor will spring up from seeds hidden deep in the earth as soon as the rains come.

    Unions fought their way into existence when nobody knew what a labor union was. They demanded and got rights when nobody thought labor had rights. They planted union in the hard pavement of the Gilded Age after creating the cracks to grow out of. Once this latest gasp of reactionary politics has worn itself out punching and blocking progress the waters will fall and the seeds will sprout. The resurgence of labor will be faster and easier this time.

    Demographics is part of this. The browning and citification of the nation also helps. But there are two big factors that are going to seal the deal; the conservative base is old and dying out, and the present system will not and is not working at a time when even the most anti-government people know it has to work. The people on the right are no less dependent on government working than any other group, even as it claims that government can do no good, it really needs it to work. They are slowly coming around to this contradiction because it is effecting their prosperity.

    The right-wing is slowly running out of bullets and they are soon going to be at that throw-the-gun moment when hate and anger comes to term with their ever dimmer prospects.

  44. jesse says

    @martinnc–

    A lot of people blame Nader for Florida, but that’s not true. New Hampshire had a bigger percentage of its votes go to Nader — it’s a small state after all — and had all those people voted for Gore Florida wouldn’t have mattered in the slightest. Remember, those 3 EVs in NH would have given Gore 278.

    Also Gore couldn’t carry his home state. Nobody ever wins without that. (I looked it up — you have to go back a long way, to the 19th century). Had Gore carried Tennessee Florida would not have mattered.

    The real problem was the 50% + 1 strategy the Democrats were using, and writing off huge swathes of the country. That’s why the party always supported Southern Democrats — the idea was always to pick off one of the Dixie states and fight for the West Coast and Northeast.

    Interestingly, had Kerry carried the same states as Gore plus New Hampshire, he too would have made it, but he lost out in New Mexico and Iowa. (Again, in that case, Ohio ceases to matter).

    And let me say this: the Democratic Party has moved hard to the right too. One other demographic reality that has shaped this is the increasing populations in the South. Air conditioning has probably had a gargantuan impact on American politics by simply making it bearable to live there. Couple that with high population and to a lesser degree, economic growth (some Dixie states are still very poor, but Texas and NC did well) and it makes a big difference in the EV count.

  45. tomh says

    @ #46
    A lot of people blame Nader for Florida, but that’s not true.

    I find it hard to justify that claim. It’s easy to say that this state or that state would have changed things, but the fact is it came down to Florida at the end, where Nader got over 97,000 votes, while Bush won the state by 543 votes. It’s not hard to do the math. Beyond that, though, I blame Nader and his ego. If he hadn’t run, Gore would have been president and we would barely remember George W. Bush.

  46. jesse says

    @tomh — mathematically Florida didn’t matter any more than New Hampshire. We only remember it because it took all night. (Same as the myth of “clutch” hitting).

  47. martinc says

    jesse @ 46:

    I’m not suggesting Florida was solely responsible for Gore’s loss. Obviously in any tight election any state lost can be viewed as “the one that made the difference.” My point was simply that Nader standing as a third party to the LEFT of Gore resulted in a presidential win to the RIGHT wing candidate, Bush, whereas Gore the relatively center-Left candidate, would have won otherwise. The Nader voters, by voting for Nader, ended up achieving what was no doubt their LEAST desirable outcome.

    My second point is that the USA’s first-past-the-post system makes this “splitting OUR side’s vote” a real risk for putative third parties, and that that risk is eliminated by using preferential voting.

Leave a Reply