Event Date: September 24, 2019
Do the United States’ “enormous demographic shifts” predetermine election results in coming decades? They definitely appear to be changing the playing field to the advantage of Democrats over Republicans, Richard Baehr, co-founder of the American Thinker and the website’s chief political correspondent told a Jewish Policy Center conference call on September 24.
But there is “not any straight line” from election to election, Baehr said. So “candidates and messages matter,” meaning savvy Republican candidates still can win.
“In 1988, 85 percent of all voters were whites,” Baehr noted. The Republican presidential candidate, Vice President George H. W. Bush, won the white vote by a 20 percent margin. The Democratic presidential hopeful, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, took 80 percent of ballots cast by minority voters. The result? Bush won the presidency by eight percent of the popular vote over Dukakis.
In the 2004 presidential election, Republican President George W. Bush defeated Democratic Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), 50.7 percent of the popular vote (62 million) to 48.3 percent (59 million). But “there was a 12.5 million vote shift between 2004 and 2008,” Baehr said. “Half of that was due to a shift of black voters, from 10 percent to 13 percent of the electorate, and from 88 percent Democratic [in 2004] to 96 percent” for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the first major party black presidential nominee. Obama defeated Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) with 53 percent of the popular vote (69.5 million) to McCain’s 46 percent (60 million).
By election night of the 2016 presidential contest, between the Democratic nominee, former secretary of state and former Sen. Hillary Clinton, and Republican real estate developer and former reality television star Donald Trump, “everyone in television news expected Clinton to win.” That was because “newscasters were privy to exit polls, showing her winning the popular vote by four percent,” Baehr said.
In fact, the Democrat won the popular vote by only two percent, 48 to 46 (65.9 million to 63 million total votes). Losing by small margins in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, Clinton saw Trump triumph in the Electoral College 304 to 227 and thereby gain the White House.
Underneath such results, Baehr stressed, the composition of the electorate continues to change. The white voter majority Republicans have relied on decreases approximately 0.5 percent annually. Within that group, those without college degrees, who tended to back Trump disproportionately, declines as well.
Today the U.S. population is roughly 330 million, Baehr noted. Its ethnic/racial breakdown is approximately 62 percent white, 18 percent Hispanic, 12.5 percent black, six percent Asians and one percent native American Indians.
“By 2050, the population is expected to stabilize at 440 million, with the white share at 47 percent, Hispanics at 29, blacks still 12.5, and Asians 10 percent.”
However, contrary to identity politics, racial-ethnic identifications are in part “social constructs.” Between 1870 and 1910, approximately 25 million Greeks, other peoples from the Balkans, Poles, Hungarians, Italians and Jews immigrated to the United States. On arrival, they often were considered of low intelligence, criminally disposed and definitely not “white.” Today they are, as are Asians—for purposes of affirmative action—applying to elite universities.
Baehr told JPC staff that more than half of Hispanic Americans identify as white on census forms.
So, the size and composition of tomorrow’s ethnic communities may diverge from today’s extrapolations.
Meanwhile, driving current shifts are declining fertility rates for every group—all have lower than the 2.1 births for each woman between 15 and 44 necessary for replacement—plus high levels of immigration, legal and illegal. “There are 43 million foreign-born residents living legally in the United States now,” Baehr said. “That’s about 13 percent, nearly as high as the record, 15 percent in 1910.” And approximately one million legal immigrants arrive annually, he noted.
The Department of Homeland Security estimated illegal aliens at 12 million in January, 2015.
“About half the current foreign-born in the United States are Hispanic, about one-quarter Asian.” The latter include those from Pakistan, India, China, Vietnam, Korea and elsewhere.
In contrast to other immigrant destinations like Canada and Australia, which emphasize mostly “skill-based” immigration, U.S. policy focuses on family networks, Baehr noted.
He suspects today’s “enormous emphasis on race consciousness in America” results in part from apprehension over potential political and cultural displacement. “Blacks historically have been the minority” in the United States. But demographic shifts underway—Hispanic immigration, twice as many births among Hispanics compared to African Americans—increasingly challenge that perception. Hence, “the campaign to raise race consciousness.”
Republicans sometimes argue that blacks and Hispanics, with communities that emphasize family, hard work, religion and education, are culturally conservative and therefore should be receptive to GOP messages. Baehr said this misses that reality that “both groups are more comfortable with big government than whites” who tend to vote Republican.
Members of minority groups do not vote en bloc, he said. For example, Mexican Americans in Texas, who are more likely to be entrepreneurs, vote differently than Mexican Americans in California. “Puerto Ricans in New York do not vote like Cubans in Florida.”
Demographic changes also are taking place among the states, Baehr said. “About four percent of American families move annually” from one state to another. They tend to leave “high tax, bankrupt, colder states” and move states with lower taxes and warmer climates.
Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and California are among states losing population, according to Baehr. And there’s a trend of African Americans leaving northern cities for southern states including Georgia, South Carolina and Florida—which could make them more competitive for Democrats.
Religious affiliation, and lack of it, also influence voting patterns, he noted. “The Republican share rises among those [voters] more often in church, synagogue or even the mosque,” Baehr said. But this sort of “family environment” is shrinking in the United States, with a growing minority of voters reporting lower religious affiliation rates.
Among American Jews, “still more liberal than any other white group,” something else may be happening, Baehr said. While Orthodox Jews, who tend to vote more conservatively, constitute only 10 to 15 percent of U.S. Jewry, 25 percent or more under 18 may be Orthodox.
Bill Clinton took an estimated 90 percent of the Jewish vote on his way to the presidency in 1992, Baehr noted. But former First Lady Hillary Clinton only won around 70 percent.
In a 2002 book, John Judis and Ruy Teixeira forecast The Emerging Democratic Majority. The Republicans’ “wave” congressional victory in 2014 caused Judis to reconsider, Baehr noted. Trumps’ defeat of Clinton in 2016 also contradicted the Judis-Teixeira prediction.
They “probably were right,” Baehr said. “But it’s taking longer than they expected.”