Note to ‘Pubs: The Demographic Tidal Wave is Hitting the Beach

Or: Even a Stopped Clock is Right, Eventually

For quite a while I’ve been explaining the rabid, frantic vehemence of tea partiers and Republicans in general with a single visualization:

They’ve got their backs against the seawall, and a massive, overwhelming demographic tidal wave is looming over them.

The terror that situation provokes among old, white, rich, “educated” male types is enough to mobilize a hell of a lot of political activity and influence (especially when it’s coopted and channeled by tens of billions of dollars in corporate propaganda). This goes a long way toward explaining the backlash of the 2010 election.

But desperate maneuvering can’t stop the tides.

This demographic notion got its first major airing in Judis and Teixeira’s 2002 The Emerging Democratic Majority, which seems to have been a little ahead of its time. But as Jonathan Chait suggests in “2012 or Never,” the demographic clock may finally be ticking up to high noon.

The modern GOP–the party of Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes–is staring down its own demographic extinction.

Despite assorted and sadly wishful pooh-poohing on the right (“the Republicans will just rebrand themselves”; “second-generation Latinos will be more conservative”), the demographic reality is displayed quite starkly in two graphs from a recent Pew report (PDF; hat tip Ruy Teixeira).

Say “buh bye.”

Nevertheless, as Robert Reich reminds us: for the present, “the loony right” remains “a clear and present danger.”

Update Mar. 5: “According to the latest survey from Fox News and Latin Insights, 73 percent of Latinos approve of President Obama’s job performance, compared to 35 percent approval for Mitt Romney, 13 percent for Ron Paul, 12 percent for Newt Gingrich, and 9 percent for Rick Santorum. What’s more, in a head-to-head matchup with the president, none of the GOP candidates would win more than 14 percent of the Latino vote.

Cross-posted at Angry Bear.






21 responses to “Note to ‘Pubs: The Demographic Tidal Wave is Hitting the Beach”

  1. Paul Avatar

    Wait a minute.

    I’m an old, white, not-so-rich, educated, male.

    What ‘chu talkin’ ’bout Willis?

  2. Luke Avatar

    So how is the Democratic Party going to respond to this change? The Democratic Party is going to end up representing a broad range of groups with conflicting interests. Is it really going to be able to effectively serve the interests of its wealthier and poorer, younger and older, constituents at the same time? At the end of the day some group of people is going to feel neglected and defect to the Republicans.

    It is worthwhile remembering that there was a time when most Blacks supported the Republican Party because it was the party that abolished slavery (and was founded for this purpose).

  3. Asymptosis Avatar

    Again (to quote the Eight Ball), “The [long term] future is unclear…”

    The ground-shifting changes in political parties are rare. Rise of the Republicans (Lincoln). The shakeup around Teddy Roosevelt and the Progressives. The Southern Strategy.

    If the ‘Pubs fail to find a supporting demographic (and it’s hard to imagine where they could find it without abandoning everything they stand for), their policies will be in decline for a while. I think.

  4. Luke Avatar

    Let me give an example that may be a little closer to home. Are liberals in Seattle, in response to the increase in the number of lower income Hispanic families, going to work to relax their exclusionary zoning policies to create more affordable suburban housing in their city? Or is it going to be up to Texan conservatives to ensure that these families can still have access to high quality affordable housing.

    It is white conservatives in Texan cities, through relaxed zoning regulations, that have ensured that they will be minorities in those cities. They could also have followed more liberal West coast cities in the exclusionary zoning game but chose not to. While this is not a high profile issue, it is having a huge impact in the lives of lower and middle income families.

    If the Democratic Party decides to cater to this rising demographic more, isn’t it possible that higher income Democratic voters might start shifting their allegiances? Or will they cater to their higher income supporters when it comes to actual policy, and try and rely on a “We feel your pain” approach to keep lower income supporters?

  5. vimothy Avatar


    Isn’t this something to be ashamed of and not something to crow over?

  6. Asymptosis Avatar

    While I try to follow it, I don’t have a good handle on zoning issues, or how Seattle compares to Houston, for example.

    But I can say a few things:

    1. There is no “suburban” housing in Seattle. (Maybe you’re talking about the metro area?)

    2. Zoning has become less restrictive within the city of Seattle — many more high-rises and higher density (plus things like “accessory dwellings” on single-family lots) are now allowed and even encouraged, following decades of “protect single-family neighborhoods” zoning restrictions.

    3. There’s just plain more unused, not-terribly-valuable land around Texas cities that can be turned into more-valuable housing. We’re got all sorts of geographic constraints here (Seattle is bounded on two sides by water.) Pretty much everything around here has a lot of value. So just changing its zoning doesn’t necessarily result in inexpensive housing.

    Sort of random thoughts, but all I have to hand at the moment…

  7. Asymptosis Avatar

    To be ashamed of as a nation? As democrats? I don’t understand.

  8. vimothy Avatar

    All of the above?

    Of course, from a partisan point of view, you want to crush your enemy beneath your heels, no matter what the cost.

    But from a human point of view, the whole thing seems deeply unpleasant and immoral.

  9. Asymptosis Avatar

    Certainly unpleasant. So was the Civil War.

  10. Luke Avatar

    Sorry for not being clear, I was referring to King’s County urban growth boundary. There may well be good reasons for it, however it does not work in the interests of lower income families who wish to move to the area.

    Nevertheless to clarify my point. Consider the following 3 groups:
    1: Lower middle class white family with two or three kids.
    2: Lower middle class Hispanic family with two or three kids.
    3: People like you. (Not intending to be disparaging here :-), just making a point.)

    In ten years from now, is it unreasonable to say that 1 and 2 will be a more natural alliance than 2 and 3? And while you are correct in saying that major realignments don’t come often, at some point one is going to be due.

  11. vimothy Avatar


    Say that we start deporting Liberal Democrat voters, so that the Liberal Democrats can’t win any elections. Great! Liberal Democrat policies are crumby in any case.

    That seems to approach a style of politics common in the 20th century. I don’t want to mention it by name in case it sets off any alarm bells, but I’m sure you can guess what it is.

  12. vimothy Avatar

    I can resist the urge no longer. I must quote Brecht!

    After the uprising of the 17th June
    The Secretary of the Writers Union
    Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
    Stating that the people
    Had forfeited the confidence of the government
    And could win it back only
    By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
    In that case for the government
    To dissolve the people
    And elect another?

    –Bertolt Brecht, The Solution

  13. Olav Martin Kvern Avatar
    Olav Martin Kvern

    @Luke–Why do you assume that there can’t be a natural alliance between groups 1, 2, *and* 3? Why does Steve’s personal situation (assuming that what he’s shared about himself isn’t Internet fiction–and that he’s not an AI living on an Amazon S3 server) have anything to do with his arguments?

    I cannot understand why so many people get hung up on the *person* holding a particular point of view. We’re supposed to reject everything that Ron Paul says, for example, just because he’s Ron Paul, and he believes crazy stuff. We’re supposed to look askance at Steve’s arguments because he’s well to do and lives in Seattle? It’s the argument that counts. Who cares what other things the person believes, what class they’re from, etc.? It’s a red herring.

    Has Steve fought/voted for or against low income housing? I don’t know. But it seems to me that your assumptions are not just unwarranted, but off topic. Look! Over there! Something that makes your statements seem hypocritical (given what we think we know about your situation)!

    @vimothy–I think you’re assuming that Steve is enjoying the decline of the Republican party because he loves the Democrats. I hate to have to point this out, but one can hate both the Democrats and the Republicans, and still enjoy the demographic decline of the latter. Great Brecht quote, though.

    @Steve–this is all nice, but the elephant in the room that dooms all political parties and religions as they’re currently constructed is the rising power of women. It’s not for nothing that much of the Republican/religious establishment has now made it clear that they’re not just against abortion, they’re against contraception, too. What we’re seeing now is the backlash against the 60s and the real revolution that happened there–the ability of women to control their reproductive destiny.

    Which is also off-topic, mostly.:-)



  14. Asymptosis Avatar

    @Olav Martin Kvern “an AI living on an Amazon S3 server”

    You weren’t supposed to reveal that!

    A quite poorly designed AI, at that.

    But storage here is cheap. I’m hoping to roll out an improved clone of myself RSN.

    I don’t think Luke was calling me a hypocrite. Just using me as an example of a class, and suggesting that most in my class would resist much of what I am in favor of. Which is probably true. cf the dismal failure of the Washington State high-earner income tax initiative, which I championed in my little way.

    As far as human governing bodies go — compared to the median — I actually do admire the Democrats quite a bit. Without of course denying huge quantities of craven despicableness. Just goes to show you how bad the median is.

    And Vimothy is perfectly right to take me to task for my vocalized shaudenfreude.

    Right about women, but we don’t see 67% of them being Democrats, do we? If we did, the wave would have crashed already. And the emergence of their voice and power sure doesn’t seem to have moved the center of the conversation to the left over the last thirty years…

    Jrzgbl schwampshntz jkla jkl….

    Ooops! Time to reboot…

  15. Olav Martin Kvern Avatar
    Olav Martin Kvern

    Hi Steve,

    These things take time. The effects of the technology of printing on society haven’t been fully figured out–after several hundred years. So birth control might take a little longer. I think that “the Wave” is a ways in the future, yet, but the backlash is just about at its crest.

    re: “”…but we don’t see 67% of them being Democrats”

    What does that have to do with what I was saying? Although, to be fair, it has everything to do with what you were saying. (So I’m the off-topic hypocrite here! Hah!)

    Our societies are still trying to figure out what it means when women can control their bodies. Not even fundamentalist religions have really figured it out, and it’s a matter of life or death for them. Or they’ve only figured out that they’re against it–they don’t get it enough to effectively co-opt it. And, right now, they’re in full-fledged primal scream mode.

    re: “And the emergence of their voice and power sure doesn’t seem to have moved the center of the conversation to the left over the last thirty years…”

    Hm. Think not? I’d say the conversation regarding women’s rights has moved quite a bit in the last 30 years. I’m not sure whether that’s “to the left” or not–but most (fake) conservatives would say it is.

    re: vimothy

    I was just poking to see where vimothy is at. My suspicion is that there’s more agreement than disagreement there.



  16. Asymptosis Avatar

    @Olav Martin Kvern “I’d say the conversation regarding women’s rights has moved quite a bit in the last 30 years. I’m not sure whether that’s “to the left” or not–but most (fake) conservatives would say it is.”

    Yeah of course you’re absolutely right on social issues. Hence much of the frantic backlash. They still hadn’t resolved themselves to having lost The Civil War (still haven’t), and now … all THIS!

    I think too much in terms of the economic conversation.

  17. Luke Avatar

    @Olav Martin Kvern
    I am not challenging Steve based on his personal situation or who he is, I have no issue with that. My issue with him is his good guy/bad guy approach that views the Democratic – Republican divide as more fundamental than it is. I find this to be an annoying weak point in his analyses, which I otherwise appreciate (even if I do not always agree with them).

    Using Steve as an example was a bad idea – it made my comment seem personal, this was not my intention and I apologize for that. I used zoning as it is a pet issue of mine, particularly having lived in the Dartmouth college area where more liberal communities are ruthless in their use of exclusionary zoning at considerable expense to others (this is a common problem in the NorthEast). On a number of issues there are going to be divides in the Democratic Party, most likely one is that most high earning liberals are not as willing as Steve to pay higher taxes. And on some issue I bet a clash will arise between the environmental left and some other faction withing the Democratic Party.

  18. Asymptosis Avatar

    I think we need to read Matt Yglesias’s new “The Rent is too High.”

  19. Olav Martin Kvern Avatar
    Olav Martin Kvern

    @Luke: Point taken. I’ve just got a knee-jerk reaction to the constant use of a person’s personal situation–usually by the Right–as a way of dismissing valid arguments. (As far as I can tell, the Right *always* attacks the person, no the arguments. It’s weird.)

    I don’t even know what “liberal” means anymore, apart from being another term for “ineffectual.” The Democratic Party, while the lesser of two evils (still a good thing, as Chomsky points out), is still a long ways from what I want in a political party. It’s a desert-island kind of problem: given that you only have the insane and the fatally compromised to work with, which do you choose?

    @Steve: I think you need to read Peter Frase’s take on Yglesias:

    Frase continues to rock the house.



  20. […] changed? Maybe the demographic tidal wave is hitting the beach. (Don’t believe me? Ask Pat Buchanan.) And the self-described “extreme […]