The right’s new racial math: How its view of nonwhite voters got so demented

Seemingly every time they talk about the Obama coalition, conservative dolts reveal a disturbing bias. Here's why

Topics: Race, White people, African Americans, women, Racism, GOP, The Right, Editor's Picks, Stuart Stevens, Barack Obama, aol_on,

The right's new racial math: How its view of nonwhite voters got so dementedMitt Romney (Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

The news is so depressing for conservatives these days. All the demographic trends are moving against them.With every election showing a large majority of single women, young people and people of color voting for the Democrats, thus solidifying their identification with the party, the less likely it is that Republicans can outrun the shift to a multiracial majority. But they still don’t seem to understand exactly what this means for them.

Take, for example, Michael Medved’s latest in the Wall Street Journal in which he explains that the Democrats’ strategy of wooing women voters by pointing out the GOP’s hostility to reproductive rights and equal pay is nothing but a sham. Sure, Barack Obama won the female vote by a commanding 11 points in the last election but it’s not as if he won a mandate for his message. After all, he lost the white female vote:

A closer look at the numbers reveals that Mr. Obama’s success with the ladies actually stemmed from his well-known appeal to minority voters. In 2012, 72% of all women voters identified themselves as “white.” This subset preferred Mitt Romney by a crushing 14-point advantage, 56% to 42%. Though Democrats ratcheted up the women’s rhetoric in the run-up to Election Day, the party did poorly among the white women it sought to influence: The Republican advantage in this crucial segment of the electorate doubled to 14 points in 2012 from seven points in 2008. In the race against Mr. Romney, Obama carried the overall female vote—and with it the election—based solely on his success with the 28% of women voters who identified as nonwhite. He carried 76% of Latina women and a startling 96% of black women.

The same discrepancy exists when considering marital status. In 2012, nearly 60% of female voters were married, and they preferred Mr. Romney by six points, 53% to 46%. Black and Latina women, on the other hand, are disproportionately represented among unmarried female voters, and they favored Mr. Obama by more than 2-to-1, 67% to 31%.

A similar pattern emerges among young voters, suggesting the president’s popularity among millennials also came from racial minorities, not any special resonance with young people. While nonwhites compose 28% of the electorate-at-large, they make up 42% of voters ages 18-29. Mr. Obama won these young voters handily—60% to 37%. He lost young white voters by seven points, 51% to 44%.



If the majority of women who vote for Democrats are young, single and black or brown, how can anyone say the war on women was a legitimate issue? True, those votes do come in mighty handy Election Day but let’s take a look at the reality: If young, female racial minorities couldn’t vote, the Republicans would win in a landslide!

I’m sure this makes them feel better. The right women are all on their side. Well, actually it’s just a small majority, even by that unfortunate standard: 46 percent of white women went with the Democrats so I wouldn’t be too sure that they’ve got them quite as locked up as Medved supposes.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard such embarrassing rationalizations coming from the Republicans after a loss. They often explain that they actually won — it was just all those young nonwhites who messed up the proper results. Take this one from Romney’s adviser Stuart Stevens who explained his boss’s loss this way:

On Nov. 6, Mitt Romney carried the majority of every economic group except those with less than $50,000 a year in household income. That means he carried the majority of middle-class voters. While John McCain lost white voters under 30 by 10 points, Romney won those voters by seven points, a 17-point shift.”

There was a time not so long ago when the problems of the Democratic Party revolved around being too liberal and too dependent on minorities. Obama turned those problems into advantages and rode that strategy to victory. But he was a charismatic African American president with a billion dollars, no primary and media that often felt morally conflicted about being critical. How easy is that to replicate?

It’s interesting how he assumed that none of the African-Americans, women and young people who voted for Obama are middle-class. But then that was the campaign that famously derided “the 47 percent” for being parasites so it’s not all that surprising. He also assumes that the “minorities” the Democrats are traditionally “too dependent” upon will not vote in future elections and thus deliver the presidency to the candidate who represents what are apparently the Real Americans: white people who make over 50K a year.

None of this is to say that studying the demographics of the voting public is unacceptable. It’s a big part of American politics, and slicing and dicing the electorate is how the two parties strategize their campaigns and that’s fine. But to constantly bring up the fact that Democrats can’t win if they don’t have the votes of racial minorities and young people implies that there’s something not quite legitimate about it.

As Politico helpfully spelled out for us in 2012:

If President Barack Obama wins, he will be the popular choice of Hispanics, African-Americans, single women and highly educated urban whites. That’s what the polling has consistently shown in the final days of the campaign. It looks more likely than not that he will lose independents, and it’s possible he will get a lower percentage of white voters than George W. Bush got of Hispanic voters in 2000.

A broad mandate this is not.

Right. The popular choice of all racial minorities, unmarried women and urban whites of of all ages isn’t a mandate. It doesn’t include enough of the right kind of votes. You know, the best kind. The older, rural, married white kind. Also known as “Republicans.”

Michael Medved, at least, understands the GOP’s demographic challenge, even as he foolishly discounts the salience of issues that directly affect half the population, regardless of race or age. He counsels the Republicans to forget women and work harder to attract racial minorities. Here’s a tip, free of charge: A good first step would be to stop talking about their votes as if they aren’t quite as valuable as white votes.

Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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