In 2012, for the first time ever, the percentage of the nation’s African-Americans who voted outpaced the percentage of whites who voted. It was just another in a series of demographic body blows to a Republican Party that is increasingly out of touch with the 21st century electorate.
Thirteen percent of 2012 voters were African-Americans, who make up 12 percent of the nation’s total population. Meanwhile, 72 percent of the electorate was white, while whites comprise 71.1 percent of the nation’s population.
None of this is breaking news, and even Republicans acknowledged it in the Republican National Committee’s recent “autopsy report,” noting that young voters are “increasingly rolling their eyes” at the GOP and that non-white voters “think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country.” The GOP’s big “rebranding” solution has fared poorly in the months since the report was released. A tiger can’t change its stripes, after all. That’s why conservatives continue to invest in creating artificial electoral advantages, like gerrymandering and voter suppression efforts.
It’s true that the GOP’s demographic disadvantage doesn’t guarantee Democratic success — but it does give the party an unbeatable opportunity. If Democrats act like Democrats, base liberals will turn out. And if base liberals turn out, Democrats will win — even in off-year elections. The 2006 Democratic wave proved that.
How can Democrats deliver for their base? By advocating tirelessly for immigration reform. By beating back voter suppression efforts, especially because the Supreme Court is apparently set on eroding key components of the Voting Rights Act. By opposing conservative efforts to restrict a woman’s right to choose, or everyone’s right to contraception — most Americans fervently believe that no one, not the government and not your employer, should have a say in your reproductive business. By continuing efforts to improve access to healthcare. By fighting for equality in a nation that has enthusiastically endorsed tolerance. By ensuring that all young Americans have access to quality education.
And the base definitely expects Democrats to deliver by standing firm against those who would weaken and destroy our safety net, from Social Security to Medicare.
While the GOP has been undoubtedly hurt by its racist, xenophobic and bigoted rhetoric, it has failed most deeply on policy. A party dedicated to scaling back our social net, giving tax cuts to billionaires and hating on gays and women is going to condemn itself to an existence on the conservative fringe. It’s no wonder brown voters and women are flocking to the Democratic Party, and no wonder millions of white voters sat out 2012.
But before Democratic elites in Washington adopt a triumphal air, they’d do well to remember that Democratic base voters are just as able and willing to sit out an election if they’re not happy. You need only look at 2010 to see proof. The challenge for the Democratic Party is to stay true to its ideals, because the only way Republicans can win in a fair election is if Democrats demoralize their base.
Moulitsas is the publisher and founder of Daily Kos (dailykos.com)