Contrary to those who argue that demographics are political destiny, social trends are transforming identity categories of race, gender, and youth - all of which provide rich opportunities for Republicans to create a new majority. To accomplish this, Republicans will need imagination and political acumen if they are to win over those constituencies that have become the base of the Democratic Party: minorities, young women, and millennials. Behind the reality of current voting patterns, which without doubt presents a gloomy future for the Republican Party, social trends and a deeper analysis of political attitudes reveal there is much room for Republican optimism.
In this critical, data-driven book, Future Right, Donald Critchlow explores strategies for the right that will help them succeed where Democrats are floundering: how to speak to the new population of a rising and successful minority class and how to reform the salacious alliance between the government and the one percent.
It is time for Republicans to adapt to societal trends for the creation of a new, transformative politics that will not only help them win the future elections, but revive a system long overrun by outmoded, top-heavy politics.
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About the Author
Donald Critchlow, professor of History and Director of the Center for Political Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University, is the author and editor of twenty books. He has been a frequent guest regularly on NPR, British Broadcasting Corporation Radio, and many talk radio programs throughout the U.S.
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Forging A New Republican Majority
By Donald T. Critchlow
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Donald T. Critchlow
All rights reserved.
While Republicans have made great gains among female white voters, the gender gap has grown among nonwhite female voters and younger female voters. Democrats have encouraged this gap by accusing Republicans of waging a "war on women." If the GOP is to become a majority party, Republicans need to overcome the gender identity politics that has played so well for Democrats. How is this to be done?
The changing role of women in the American economy and the workplace will make identity politics increasingly dated. As more women graduate from college with undergraduate and advanced degrees, which they are already doing, they will make tremendous advances in the workplace.
These advances will be accelerated as the boomer generation retires. Labor scarcity will create a demand for female workers with higher educational attainment.
Already the gender gap is closing as white women, especially married women, are voting Republican.
After the disasters in the 2012 elections, Republicans have learned how to handle Democratic "war on women" attacks.
The Democratic mantra of a "war on women" belies the fact that women are not uniform in their voting patterns or in their socioeconomic status. Republicans continue to fare well among married women, although this demographic group is dwindling given the decline of marriage in America. Democrats have fared well with single women in the past. But as more young women enter college, attain good jobs, rise in the ranks, and begin to replace retiring white male baby boomers, the female vote is going to be up for grabs. Socioeconomic differences among women will prove to be a greater factor in voting than gender.
As women in the twenty-first century make huge gains in the workplace and increase their wealth and status, the "war on women" charge will ring increasingly hollow. The women's vote is going to become increasingly parsed by socioeconomic status and not necessarily dominated by specific "women's issues."
Even today, the "war on women" accusation does not always play well with female voters. It has not worked with married women, and it backfired in the 2014 midterm elections. Pandering did not work because voters — male and female — were more concerned about the economy and jobs, education, healthcare, and, let's be frank, candidate competency. For example, in the Texas governor's race, Wendy Davis, who had gained national attention for her antiabortion filibuster in the state senate, was thumped by her Republican opponent, Greg Abbott. In his victory speech, Abbott said to Texas voters, "You voted for hope over fear — for unity over division."
A similar story of misfire came in the Colorado U.S. Senate race in 2014. Mark Udall, the incumbent U.S. senator, made "the war on women" theme a cornerstone of his campaign. Polling showed that few voters thought Udall's theme was important, and those who did were already strong Democrats. By campaigning this way, Udall alienated Independents, who were key to the vote. He lost to Cory Gardner, an evangelical Christian who espoused "family values." The "war on women" strategy also failed in Senate races in Kentucky and North Carolina, and it reached absurd heights in the race for the U.S. Senate seat in Iowa when Democrat Bruce Braley accused his Republican opponent, military veteran Joni Ernst, of being anti-woman.
Talk of "gendered America" and the conflict between white male privilege and women dominates current liberal political rhetoric today. Democrats might be behind the curve on this issue, however, if social trends are any indication. "Gendered America" is breaking down as women become increasingly divided into the married and the unmarried; the educated and the undereducated; and those women who fit into the new global economy and those who do not.
The key to Republicans winning the female vote is keeping and extending their base of married and single white women voters, while not inflaming those women who give high priority to reproductive rights and abortion issues with fiery language that has the unintended consequence of turning them out on Election Day. Republicans can win female voters — white, nonwhite, single, and married — on the economic issues. As with males, both white and nonwhite women are concerned about jobs and the economy. Many women, especially nonwhite women, consider women's issues a high priority in voting. These women's issues include legalized abortion, federal funding and access to contraception, equal pay for women, and equal opportunity.
The Democratic "war on women" strategy uses these issues to mobilize women. This strategy worked in 2012, but it failed in the 2014 midterm elections because Republican candidates did not fall into the trap and instead shifted the debate to the economy, healthcare, and national security. As women move up the economic ladder, gender issues will remain but will become less important than issues that play to Republican strengths — the economy, making government more efficient, and ensuring a strong national defense.
A LOOK AT THE NEW REPUBLICAN WOMAN
Jessica P., a tall, attractive woman in her late thirties, serves as vice president of governmental relations for a major energy company. Her career projects a model for women in the coming decades. Born in Brazil and raised in Honduras, she came to America when she was fifteen years old. Her first language was Portuguese, but she worked hard at learning English. Later she hired a speech therapist to overcome her accent. She graduated from college with a degree in Portuguese and a minor in economics. "After college," she observes, "I did not have much in the way of job skills. I took the first job I could get."
Her first job was in customer service. "I worked many jobs in this area. Often I was making coffee for bosses." Her first step up came when she got to head a team in the call center. "It gave me frontline experience that I carried into the rest of my career." After this post, she moved into government relations. "In college," she says, "I was not terribly interested in politics. Just slightly. In college, I was not paying too much attention to who voted." In her new job, she became interested in and began to learn about business and government.
Jessica's skills led her to take a job as a lobbyist for the state chamber of commerce, and then she worked for a public interest firm. Her first direct involvement in a political campaign came in 2008, when she went to work for John McCain's presidential effort. After McCain lost, she returned to the energy company where she had begun her career. She worked with charitable, public interest, and urban groups. In 2010 she moved to government affairs, where she became the youngest VP in her company's history. As she was moving up the corporate ladder, she married, had three children, and divorced. She makes time for her children, often freeing Saturdays to make sure she can attend school events.
She realizes her good fortune. She is thankful for the support from male colleagues who have helped advance her career. They appreciated, she observes, her hard work. She is adamant in her belief that hard work pays off, but that women need to be given opportunities to succeed. "Too many men," she said, "don't understand the issues of women having a career and trying to raise a family at the same time."
She is deeply involved in Republican politics. One of her major concerns is that Republicans are not bringing young women into the party as candidates or voters. She believes that the major focus for the Republican Party to attract women should be on returning dignity to individuals. To do this, she argues, the party should return to core issues about the importance of opportunity and work. "We should celebrate all work. Not everyone can go to college. But all jobs have dignity. Republicans tend to disparage certain kinds of jobs. Not everyone is middle class or rich. What Republicans should praise is that every job has dignity and going to a job and doing a full day's work brings dignity to the individual."
Democrats, she maintains, treat women as if they cannot think for themselves. Women need to be encouraged to think for themselves, and Republicans cannot appear to be just a party of "old white guys talking about birth control. This turns people off.
"As a single mom in the workforce," she adds, "I want my children to make sure that they have choices. I want them to have choice as to where they go to school, where they go to college, and I want to make sure I can afford them." For Hispanic women, "it is all about family. They are family focused. Work is about bettering their own lives and bettering the lives of their children." They want choice and opportunities. "The Hispanic women I know," she says, "want jobs and they fear government assistance. They want dignity."
Jessica is convinced that if Republicans are going to succeed in winning Hispanics and women to the party, the party needs to speak with a different voice. It is not just the message, but the messenger. Hispanics and women need to be brought to the table, but Republicans cannot do this if white men tell women what to believe on birth control, abortion, and gay marriage. While Jessica has no interest in running for office, she believes Republicans need women to emerge as leaders in the party. But these female candidates, she notes, should be prepared to have the press ask them questions about their families and their children, and for pundits to make snide comments about their dress and makeup.
She concludes that the best thing that can happen to the party is for new leadership to step forward. We have huge challenges ahead of us as a nation, she believes. The party needs to focus on core issues. "We have spent too much time explaining," she says, "telling people what we are against as a party. Let's tell them what we are for." Talk of family values, she notes, is important, but many women don't have kids. Republicans need leaders who understand and can speak for the new generation. "Americans are an optimistic people. They believe in American exceptionalism. They love this country. They are concerned about national security and they want opportunities and dignity as individuals. This should be our message. Offering choice, real dignity, real opportunity for all Americans."
Jessica expresses the view of a woman who has built a career, risen in the corporate ranks, but struggled to achieve what she has. Although she would not describe herself as a feminist, there is no doubt that her opinions are shaped largely by her role as a woman in a corporate world, as a single woman, and as a woman concerned with career advancement, her children, and the state of the nation and the world. She emphasizes the importance of "choice" that extends beyond birth control, abortion, or whom one marries. Her view of choice is expansive. It includes school choice, career choice, job choice, and choice in how one achieves economic well-being.
GENDERED AMERICA: PAST AND FUTURE
Gender politics is not new to America. Social issues related to contraception and reproductive rights have intensified political polarization in today's politics. The role of women in American politics is also by no means new. In antebellum America, women were actively engaged in public life, serving on local community and school boards and working as active reformers in the temperance and abolition movements. European visitors to pre–Civil War America, male and female alike, commented on the privileged status and independence of American women. While noting that women did not have the right to vote in America, Alexis de Tocqueville observed in the second volume of Democracy in America (1840), "I have recorded so many considerable achievements of Americans, if anyone asks me what I think the chief cause of the singular prosperity and growing power of this people, I should answer that it is due to the superiority of their women."
After a long struggle, women achieved the right to vote with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. Further progress toward equality came in the 1960s and 1970s with the enactment of the Equal Pay Act (1963) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1964); equal opportunity found expression in the Equal Employment Act (1972); educational opportunity for women was ensured by Title IX of the Education Amendment Act (1972); a woman's right to abortion became a constitutional right with the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade (1973); and credit protection for women was further guaranteed in the Depository Institution Amendment Act of 1974.
With clear advancements for women — but by no means have all issues been resolved — American politics remains full of talk about "the war on women" and women's inequality. Much of this rhetoric has come over the abortion issue, but the imputation is that great social inequality continues to exist. While not denying gender inequality, the picture of women's status today and in the future indicates great benefits for many women and growing inequality for others.
By the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, women accounted for nearly half the workforce in America. This trend toward greater female participation in the workforce coincided with increased educational achievement as more and more women entered and graduated from college.
The future will present great opportunities for women for a simple reason: labor scarcity created by the retirement of white male baby boomers and the slow rate of population growth, even with immigration. In every area — management, law, medicine, education — the demand for skilled knowledge workers, combined with labor scarcity, is going to open doors for women in unprecedented ways. Complaints about unequal pay, closed doors in certain occupations, and glass ceilings are going to by drowned out by the rush of women becoming middle managers, CEOs of large corporations, doctors, lawyers, judges, and U.S. senators. As American society experiences this unprecedented social transformation, those political parties that welcome and adjust to these changes by representing the "new American woman" will benefit. Successful candidates will have to carefully appeal to the successful woman, while addressing the concerns of women left behind in an economy reliant on skilled knowledge workers.
Educated women will be the greatest beneficiaries of a changed workforce, just as white males benefited in a booming post–World War II economy. Many in the white workforce are now retiring, and there won't be enough white males to replace them. White male privilege will be replaced by female workers "privileged" to have received post–high school, college, and postgraduate educations.
Baby boomers, those born in the years 1946–64, account for a large part of the workforce today. They number about 48 million full-time workers in a total workforce of 134 million. Boomer retirement will have a disproportionate impact on the top tier of the workforce. When today's baby boomers retire, new opportunities will be created for ethnic minorities and young women. Women in particular should gain from the boomer exodus, but so should minority groups. Whites, male and female, comprise about 62 percent of the age group just entering the workforce. This opens the door to well-educated minority groups to find opportunities for occupational and professional advancement.
Labor scarcity will characterize the new economy. Not only are there not enough white males to replace the current white male workforce, but the birthrate is not enough to replace the existing workforce. Falling marriage rates and later-age marriage have contributed to declining population growth. The overall birthrate is the lowest in American history, falling to 63.2 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age. This is down from the peak in 1957 of 122.7 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age. In just the period between 2007 and 2010, the overall birthrate fell 8 percent, with the largest drop, of 14 percent, among foreign-born immigrant women. Mexican immigrant birthrates dropped an extraordinary 23 percent.
The decline in fertility rates means declining rates of population growth. The fertility rate needed to maintain the current U.S. population is 2.1 children born per woman of childbearing age. Today the fertility rate is 1.9 children and falling. This decline in the rate of population growth has major implications for the economy, investment markets, and Social Security and Medicare, which rely on young workers paying taxes to support them.
Education and income are decisive factors in how people vote. It is evident that there will be increasing divisions among women voters, and these divisions will be more evident among Hispanics and African Americans, as minority women advance financially and socially.
Declining population growth will mean fewer available workers in the future. Labor scarcity, historically, has resulted in higher wages and technological innovation. In the late nineteenth century, as the economy boomed and the demand for labor rose even as immigrants flooded into the country, real wages and technology increased to make for more efficient production. Today, America remains a technological leader. Computers, machine tools, and robots provide cognitive and manual tasks once performed by low-skilled labor. The number of U.S. manufacturing jobs has declined as a proportion of the workforce, while the number of highly skilled jobs has increased. Global competition has also encouraged technical innovation. Technological exports from the United States as a percentage of total exports trail only those of Korea and Ireland.
Excerpted from Future Right by Donald T. Critchlow. Copyright © 2016 Donald T. Critchlow. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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Table of Contents
1 Women 17
2 Minorities 51
3 Millennials 85
4 Boomers 113
5 Middle Class 143
6 Religious Voters 177
7 Polarized Electorate 205