Part of the myopic focus on the presidential race this week has involved pundits and journalists blathering about the dire future of the Republican party. I don’t feel like looking up the links and statistics because I’m feeling lazy on a Saturday and I don’t like linking to speculative pundits anyway, but the basic argument goes like this:
Lots of white people vote Republican. Lots of black people and Hispanic people vote Democrat. The nation’s demographics are changing. In the year 2000 or something, 80% or something of voters were white. In 2004, it was 78%, then 74%, this year it was 72%. Or something like that. It’s gonna keep going down due to population trends. The Democratic base is growing; the Republican base is shrinking. Therefore, the Republicans are either doomed or are going to have to do X, Y, or Z to stay relevant.
I call this theory “Peak Republican.” You know, like peak oil, peak water, peak helium, and all those other things that various people are concerned about running out of due to various trends that indicate that said item is destined for a never-ending downward spiral of availability. So next time you read one of these pundits or hear one on the news talking about demographic trends and political parties, think “Peak Republican.”
Like peak oil and all of those other peak things, I’m skeptical that Peak Republican is a thing that we’ve actually crossed, or ever will. It’s not that I couldn’t see it happening (I suppose we hit Peak Whig in the 1800’s), but the world is a complicated place and anybody who thinks they know what is going to happen in the future probably doesn’t, especially when it has to do with decisions made by millions of other human beings.
Megan McArdle lists a number of speculative reasons why Peak Republican might not happen, and I could think of others, from the mundane (whenever any party gets in power too long, they tend to screw things up, because that’s what people in power tend to do, which tends to increase support for their opponents) to the statistical (if Cuban-American support for Republicans dropped so much this cycle, who’s to say it couldn’t flip back just as strongly next cycle?) to the fantastical (hey, maybe all this legalized marijuana will ruin the Mexican cartels which will make Mexico safer which will make lots of Hispanics want to go there which will change the demographic trends).
I have no idea what’s going to happen, but I reject the despair of some conservatives that we’ve become a nation of takers who are going to keep voting themselves more benefits from the decreasing makers. I don’t believe the caricatures that there are large demographics of people who want to be lazy leeches; I agree with Julian Sanchez that most of them are just “responding rationally to the circumstances of the world they live in.” A lot of people will let Big Government take care of them, but if it fails to take care of them properly, as I think it is destined to do, I think a lot of people will swing back towards responsibility and liberty.
Besides, it’s not like the Republicans are even really “losing” yet. They still won a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. And there’s another way to look at things: Republicans and Democrats have both expanded the size of government in recent decades, but there’s a growing coalition of small-government seats in Congress; some of these candidates even draw support from those on the left who are tired of their party’s hypocritical stances on wars and civil liberties. You might argue that not only is the “freedom” movement not destined to decline and disappear; it might even be increasing.
So who knows. The future will surely be interesting to watch…