Does the Grand Old Party Have a Future?

In my earlier prediction of what would happen in the Electoral College, I missed two states—Virginia and Florida. I picked both of them to go to Romney, but that turned out to be wrong. I wasn’t surprised by Virginia going blue again, but I have to say that I was stunned by Florida. I saw how close the polls were beforehand, but I thought surely Florida would be red this year. This loss is a big deal for the Grand Old Party. The GOP will not win another presidential election if it can’t win Florida (and other states like it). The party will be dead in the water.

That is why the conversations have already begun in earnest about what the GOP has to do in order to be successful at running a national campaign again. There are some conservatives who are blaming Tuesday’s loss on Chris Christie, the Black Panthers, or even Romney himself. I have a hunch that those folks are not looking in the right place to identify the problem.

In 2004, President Bush won 44% of the Hispanic vote. In 2008, Senator McCain garnered 31%. In 2012, Governor Romney only carried 27%. It’s pretty clear what is happening. As the Hispanic voter base has grown, the GOP’s percentage of that vote has decreased. That is a recipe for electoral disaster, and that’s what happened on Tuesday. If Governor Romney had won the same percentage that McCain won in 2008, Romney would now be president-elect.

Here’s the bottom line. The country is becoming more and more racially diverse, and the GOP has a diversity problem. If the party is to have a future, it will have to learn how to listen to all minority voters, especially Hispanics. The demographics are what they are, and there is no future for the party without recognizing this reality.

What does that mean for evangelical voters and the social causes they care about most? It’s good for the country for there to be at least one major party that supports the pro-life position, the sanctity of marriage, and religious liberty. I wish that both parties supported those issues, but right now there’s only one. And that party should not have to kick those issues to the curb if enough minority voters who share those concerns can be brought in to the coalition.

The challenge for the GOP over the coming months and years will be trying to figure out how to do that. It’s doable. And conservatives will have to figure out a sensible policy on immigration to make it happen. Social conservatives who don’t like the idea of revisiting the immigration issue are going to have to figure out what their priorities are. I have opinions about fiscal policy, about the scope and size of government, about national security, immigration, and a whole host of other issues. But my priorities are life, marriage, and religious liberty. I’d be willing to give a little on issues of lesser concern in order to advance my priorities. I’m hoping that other social conservatives would be willing to do the same.

This conversation has only just begun, and we’ll be paying close attention.

P.S. Joe Scarborough addressed the GOP’s diversity problem on “Morning Joe” earlier today. His analysis is right on the mark in my view. See the video here.

P.P.S. I’m not buying the argument from Yuval Levin and others that says Romney lost because he didn’t turn out traditional GOP voters in great enough numbers. That is ignoring the fact that this country is fast becoming a majority minority nation. Turning out the old traditional base is a losing strategy for the future. The base must be broadened, and I am hopeful it can be done in a principled way.


  • Johnny Mason

    this article makes some great points:

    I think there is a little too much navel gazing over this loss. A more simple explanation is that conservatives simply did not show up. Whether that is because Romney is a moderate republican, or his mormonism hurt him, or something else.

    2004 is very similar to what happened on Tuesday. Everybody said the Democrats need to change their platform. That Republican dominance was going to last for decades and we see how that turned out.

    • Denny Burk

      Thanks for the link. But I have to say that I think that article misses the larger point. It doesn’t matter how many traditional GOP voters stayed home in the last election. The issue is how many of those voters will there be in future elections. The percentage of traditional GOP voters is declining as minority populations increase. This is just a basic demographic reality that the GOP has not yet fully reckoned with. But they are going to have to if they are to have a future.

  • Tim Guthrie

    Great post and a great comment from Johnny. My thoughts are that the message is right, the way the message is delivered is wrong. We need a new day of compassionate conservatism and we need it quickly. Only that will draw in the people groups that are currently siding with the Dems.

  • Michael

    Denny is exactly right about this. With the rising Hispanic population, the electoral college math doesn’t add up for Republicans. New Mexico is gone from the GOP camp, Nevada and Colorado are heading that way, and Florida is at best a jump ball. Virginia is now purple because of northern Virginia’s influx of more liberal voters. Something has to change.

    If conservatives don’t give a bit on immigration, then they’re going to lose on every other issue, because they’re not going to take back the White House. It’s all about priorities. For me, life, marriage and religious liberty are the top 3. Immigration isn’t a priority of mine.

    Rubio 2016.

      • Johnny Mason

        here’s the problem. Hispanics dont vote Democratic because of immigration issues. They vote for them because they like big government.

        “And a strong reason for that support for big government is that so many Hispanics use government programs. U.S.-born Hispanic households in California use welfare programs at twice the rate of native-born non-Hispanic households”


        I do agree that the Republican party needs to appeal to all demographics, but it is a much harder slog when the very thing that would appeal to hispanics is anathema to their platform.

        • Miguel

          Johny, not all Hispanics support big government. Some of the staunchest republicans in this country are the Cuban-Americans in South Florida. They have experienced big (no, huge!) government and they want nothing to do with it. They are also generally conservative on ethical issues.

  • Dan Bruce

    The Republican Party lost the election because more Americans liked what the Democratic Party was offering. That’s what an election is about. The Republican Party needs to ask why, but they don’t need to ask themselves. They need to ask the people who did not vote for them. If Republicans do not seek answers outside of their echo chamber, they will not learn the lesson offered the huge election defeat they have just suffered, and they will not prevail again. This may eventually present a dilemma for Christian Republicans, since the adjustments that must be made by putting together an electoral majority in the future may not be compatible with Christian priorities. The next year or two will be interesting as Republicans and the Christian Right try to come to grips with their rejection. Disclaimer: I am a Bible-believing Christian, raised Southern Baptist, but in secular politics I am a Democrat, not a Republican. Why am I interested in what happens to the Republican Party? Simple. I think this country works best when we have two viable middle-of-the-road political parties.

  • Mike Bird

    Denny, from my outsider perspective, I think you’re right. GOP candidates seem to look a lot like old rich white guys with southern backers. They need to put some mocca in the family latte. I reckon Rubio in 2016 will be the best option with Rice as his VP! Rubio spoke well at the GOP convention, cleary auditioning for 2016!

  • joerigney

    Two thoughts.

    1) First, I don’t think that the reason that minorities vote predominantly for Democrats is because the GOP is the party of old rich white guys. Rubio, Allen West (who unfortunately lost), Susana Martinez (who spoke right before Romney at the convention), Mia Love, Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz, et all are well-respected and highly touted among Republicans. And that’s not to mention other women who are embraced by the GOP (Palin, Bachmann, etc). The idea that the GOP doesn’t embrace minorities or women because of their race or gender is crazy. The difference is almost always beliefs, values, policy, and ideology.

    2) On the question of appealing to Hispanics, here’s a post that challenges the idea that moderating on immigration will win over Hispanic voters. The gist is that Hispanics support Democrats in large measure because of policy issues; they like “a more generous safety net, strong government intervention in the economy, and progressive taxation.” Just like African Americans tend to oppose gay marriage and abortion, but still vote overwhelmingly Democratic, the social issues just don’t drive those groups in the way that other considerations do. And a limited government, flatter-tax platform with a path to legalization of immigrants just won’t be enough to swing those voters our way.


    I don’t have a particular solution, but I think that we’re barking up the wrong tree.

  • Steve Martin

    I think it’s basically over. What the Founders envisioned and set up has been slowly and steadily dismantled. And now we have gone past the tipping point. Eur-America, here we come.

    I think God that I am not a young man anymore. It’s going to be ugly. Very ugly.

  • Akash JOnathan

    I live in NZ and it seems America has chosen that kind of country.

    If people are voting democrats because of the race of their candidates and their gender, this country is extremely racist and sexist

    • James Stanton

      I think you are misreading our politics. Mitt Romney won at least 60% of the white vote and and white people made up 88% of his voters according to the exit polls.

      Barack Obama won 90+% of blacks. John Kerry, Al Gore, and Bill Clinton all did nearly as well with that group.

      90% of whites in the south, in states like Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana, voted for Romney.

      It may be about race or gender for a small number of people on both sides but mostly its about policies and values.

  • Andy Orlovsky

    I’m not buying the Romney wasn’t conservative enough argument. I’m guessing the people who stayed home were just politically apathetic and did not want to miss their favorite TV show in order to come vote. I don’t think they were all a bunch of political nerds who closely analyzed Romney’s history and determined he did not pass their conservative purity test.

    I sorry to disappoint a lot of people, but I do think the GOP will have to become more moderate. As a Christian, I can accept the Republicans being more open to amnesty for illegals or for more environmental protection. But I have a sneaking feeling the media will just concentrate convincing Republicans to flip on abortion and gay marriage and that is something I just cannot accept.

    Most minorities are actually conservative on abortion and gay marriage. That fact is something the media does not want people to know.

  • T. Webb

    As George Will said, a party that couldn’t bead an incumbent president during a time of recession and rampant unemployment should look for another job. The only way forward for the GOP is to appeal to younger voters – voters for whom abortion, gay marriage, etc., are no-brainers. The GOP isn’t some great moral party – they want to win, so they will adapt.

  • Mark Nenadov

    Reagan had a very open-minded stance on immigration and ridiculed the idea of building a fence between the US and Mexico… he got elected.

    George W. Bush, in 2000, criticized the Clinton/Gore militarism and foreign adventures and nation building and got 50% of the hispanic vote in 2004… he got elected twice.

    Romney praised building a fence between US and their southern neighbor. He talked about “self deportation”. He got 20-something percent of the hispanic vote. He made EVEN hawkish drone-loving Obama look like a Dove.

    And then people wonder why Romney didn’t get elected.

    If the GOP would field a candidate who had sane views on foreign policy and immigration, you might even find independent and libertarianish Republicans more likely to put aside differences in other social areas and vote Republican.

    Until the GOP fields a candidate who is as open minded as Reagan was on immigration and less or comparably hawkish than the Democrat candidate, good luck on getting a GOP candidate elected! It just won’t happen!

    • Akash JOnathan

      Embrace everyone , sure, but the fact that society believes to get the black vote and Latino vote you need to have those people has the heads of the party is racist in itself.

      Political pundits especially now seem to think that to win an election you can never put a white person in a position of power.

      Compromise on social issues??, really??

      This has happened in all other western countries and frankly those countries on average are more immoral and Godless than America.

      At least in America you guys can use the word God in public, do not even try to do that in a place like New Zealand!

  • James Stanton

    I think the idea that simply nominating Rubio for President in 2016 will lead to electoral victory underestimates the intelligence of those voters Republicans might be targeting.

    I remember looking at my facebook page in the aftermath of Obama’s election win and seeing a number of posters blame the loss on all those people on food stamps and welfare who just want free stuff. I see some of those ideas reflected in one or two comments here.

    What minority voters want, and really all people, is respect. The reason that many minorities vote for Democrats in spite of their beliefs about social issues is due to that perceived lack of respect. For this you can blame the hard-right conservatives who dominate talk radio and the effect they have on their listeners.

    The good thing for the Republican party is that they really only need to be competitive with the Latino vote. I think they would not have to moderate much at all if their candidates could reliably receive 40% of the Latino vote like George W. Bush received.

  • David Rogers

    At the risk of coming across as overly naive, I do not believe there is any way forward with regard to the moral concerns we share as Evangelicals by way of political coalition-forming. That ship has sailed. The way forward is to preach the gospel and to make disciples. Anything else will fall flat. At the same time, we must avoid preaching the gospel and making disciples as a political strategy. It is not a political strategy. It is a kingdom strategy.

    As Evangelicals, and as Christian disciples, we will continue to have biblical convictions that will bleed over into political stances on various issues. We should continue to vote according to our convictions. But politics, at the core, involves compromise, and this is antithetical, from the start, to radical discipleship. We must obey God, nothing more, nothing less, and leave the results to him. Regretfully, since the advent of the Moral Majority, we have lost much credibility in the eyes of the world for not following this line of action.

    At the same time, I do agree that White Evangelicals need to do all we can to reach out to and form greater bonds of friendship with Black and Latino Evangelicals, both on an individual basis, as well as on a collective basis. But this should not be motivated by political expediency, but rather by gospel faithfulness. By the same token, we need to put more emphasis on compassion and justice. The role of government as a tool for achieving these aims are up for debate–among Evangelicals, and among others as well. But the need to have a heartfelt commitment to the needs and rights of underprivileged and marginalized is not just an option for us as Christians. But, once again, not as a political strategy, but rather as a gospel conviction.

    Will this lead to greater success in the future at the polls? Perhaps not. But, then again, I don’t think the Lord is going to ask us about our political effectiveness when He brings us to account at the Final Judgment.

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