As anyone who has ever seen a Tea Party rally may have already noticed, the Republican Party’s base – that demographic which shows up en masse to vote for the most conservative candidate they can find – is really, really old. And with young people overwhelmingly entering voting age as liberals, those people represent a major problem for a political party that hopes to remain competitive in the coming decades.
Daniel McGraw at Politico noticed the age problem and decided to dig a little deeper. What he found was that the Republican Party is dying off rapidly and has no way to stop it (barring the discovery of the Fountain of Youth).
Since it appears that no political data geek keeps track of voters who die between elections, I took it upon myself to do some basic math. And that quick back-of-the-napkin math shows that the trend could have a real effect in certain states, and make a battleground states like Florida and Ohio even harder for the Republican Party to capture.
By combining presidential election exit polls with mortality rates per age group from the U.S. Census Bureau, I calculated that, of the 61 million who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, about 2.75 million will be dead by the 2016 election. President Barack Obama’s voters, of course, will have died too—about 2.3 million of the 66 million who voted for the president won’t make it to 2016 either. That leaves a big gap in between, a difference of roughly 453,000 in favor of the Democrats.
500,000 votes may not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but remember Al Gore (may have) lost Florida to George W. Bush by less than 500 votes. Not 500,000, 500.
As the nation continues to become more partisan, swing states are increasingly important. A Democratic candidate may never win Alabama by attrition, but in the close races that matter, it could mean everything.
And it isn’t just age.
Republicans aren’t just really old, they’re also really white. America is diversifying, but you wouldn’t know it by attending the 2016 Republican National Convention. The Grand Old Party has become the textbook definition of putting all your eggs in one basket. If they lose the only real demographic they appeal to – older white conservatives – they have nobody else that wants anything to do with them.
And nobody could argue they weren’t given opportunities to reach out to other groups, they just didn’t bother. Conservative politicians didn’t mind pandering to the very worst of their (dying) constituents if they thought it would boost their popularity in the short-term, even at the expense of groups that may have helped them become relevant again. In 2014, America watched in stunned horror as conservatives hurled hatred and ugliness at buses full of immigrant children who had come from South and Central America to escape violence.
It would have been a great time for a politician hoping to reach out to the Hispanic community to stand up and defend these children. Instead, prominent Republicans fueled the xenophobic fire by floating ideas that these children were drug dealers, terrorists and disease-ridden.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but those conservative voters blocking the buses in “You’re in America, speak English!” shirts that politicians pandered to? Statistically some of them have already died. Good luck getting their votes in 2016!
So why do Republicans still win elections?
Unable to change their ideology to appeal to more voters, the GOP has instead hoped to change the rules of the game itself. It’s not insignificant that after a record number of minority voters showed up to the polls in 2008 to help propel Barack Obama to the White House, Republicans across the country began a concerted effort to address mythical “voter fraud” that just so happened to disproportionately disenfranchise African-Americans.
It also lies at the bottom of the recent efforts to increase money in politics. If there is one thing that Republicans can be reasonably certain of, it’s that they can convince rich white people to give them lots and lots of money to win. With people like the Koch brothers vowing to donate nearly one billion dollars to ensuring Democrats lose in 2016, who needs a platform that appeals to real people?
However, there is still reason to be optimistic. At best, things like Voter ID laws and Citizens United are stopgap measures meant to stall the inevitable conclusion. With Hillary Clinton already polling at massive leads over any Republican candidate in many of the all-important swing states, there are already whispers that the modern Republican Party may have won its last presidential election with George W. Bush. They just don’t know it yet.
Eventually, the Party will be forced to adapt or die. It’s rabid right-wing base may not like that, but then, at the rate they are dying how many of them will be left to complain?
Feature image via Erica Werner/Twitter