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Moulitsas: Sun Belt ripe for Dem gains

Toward the end of the last decade, it was trendy to talk about problems Democrats would face after the end-of-decade reapportionment. With early projections showing a continuing population shift away from the Democratic Rust Belt to the Republican South, conservatives were gleeful. 

“[A] growing Sunbelt means a growing GOP coalition,” crowed The Weekly Standard. Over at the Washington Times, the joy was palpable: “Migration from liberal bastions in the Northeast and Midwest to the Sun Belt states will boost Republican electoral strength in the coming decade, making it tougher than ever for Democrats to win the presidency.” Another conservative at Real Clear Politics wrote, “The 2010 census report coming out Tuesday will include a boatload of good political news for Republicans and grim data for Democrats.” 

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And it wasn’t just partisans. As a headline at The Christian Science Monitor proclaimed, “Census 2010 results: Republicans’ second big win of the year?”

On paper, conservative optimism appeared somewhat justified. When the dust cleared, Texas had picked up four electoral votes, Florida two, and Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina and Utah one each, for a total of eight more electoral votes in solidly red states, two in blue states and two in swingy Florida.

Furthermore, the states losing electoral votes were predominantly Democratic: Illinois lost one, Iowa lost one, Massachusetts lost one, Michigan lost one, New Jersey lost one, New York lost two, Ohio lost two and Pennsylvania lost one. 

The only red states to lose electoral votes were Arkansas and Louisiana, which both lost one. 

While the net overall shift — plus six for Republicans — wasn’t overly dramatic, conservatives were fixated on the long-term trends. And yes, Sun Belt states are continuing to grow at the expense of Northern states. That should be good news for the GOP. But it’s not.

Amid the celebratory high-fives, few pondered why those states were gaining electoral votes. And no, the answer wasn’t an explosion in the growth of Rush-Limbaugh-listening angry white males. Rather, their population boom was fueled by exactly the kind of people Republicans have spent decades demonizing: African-Americans, Latinos and Asians. 

In Georgia, 81 percent of the state’s growth over the past decade was nonwhite. In Texas, that number was 88 percent. A Houston Chronicle analysis of Census trends found that, based on population growth alone, Texas should be a purple state by 2024 — and that’s assuming that currently abysmal nonwhite voter participation rates don’t improve. 

A majority of Texas’s population is already nonwhite. Georgia is projected to hit that point in 2018, Florida in 2021 and Arizona in 2022. And the longer-term future looks even worse for Republicans. In Texas, just 31 percent of toddlers (under the age of 5) are white. In Arizona, it’s 39 percent. In Georgia, it’s 43 percent. Even in Mississippi it’s just 47.4 percent. Heck, in 2012, more white people died than were born in the United States. 

In other words, all of our nation’s net population growth is now nonwhite. 

In short, conservatives shouldn’t be excited about the Sun Belt’s growth. They should be terrified. Their two biggest and most reliable states will be competitive within the decade, and the rest won’t be far behind. And the only answer Republicans seem to have is to double down on the hateful rhetoric that alienated the new Sun Belt voters in the first place. 

If the GOP wants to claim that population growth is a means toward electoral dominance, it make sure the new voters actually buy what it’s selling. 

 

Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.