Zakaria: The Republican Party’s demographics problem
March 20th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

Zakaria: The Republican Party’s demographics problem

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

The Republicans have a powerful case to make in the general election: The economy remains bad; the recovery is weak; unemployment is very high. Republican candidates for president could make the argument that Barack Obama has been in charge of this economy for three years and that the slow economy is his responsibility.

They could also make the argument that Obama’s vision of the role of government in the economy is wrong - that their approach would be much more friendly to the private sector and to business.

These are all very plausible arguments and, as an experienced businessman, Mitt Romney is the perfect candidate to make them.

But I see a demographic problem for the Republicans. They are alienating too many large groups to be viable - at least in the long run. A recent Pew poll shows Obama with an 18-point advantage over Mitt Romney with women because of the recent discussions about contraception and abortion.  Polls show Latinos supporting President Obama 6-to-1 over Mitt Romney. African Americans poll something like 9-to-1 in Obama’s favor.

So if you lose blacks, women, Latinos (and Republicans have probably already lost Arab and Muslim Americas), what are you left with? You can’t win a general election with the angry, white, male vote.  That’s clearly a core vote for the Republican Party but it’s not going to be enough.

Serious people within the Republican Party like Jeb Bush have made this point repeatedly. Yet the dynamics of the Republican Party are driving it in that direction.

Part of the reason for this is that the party is increasingly a Southern party reflecting the region’s concerns and passions. It is also, increasingly, a party run by the grassroots and not by the establishment.  So maybe this is an unstoppable phenomenon, but when you look at long-term demographics, it’s tough to see how you construct a majority adopting this policy.

soundoff (525 Responses)
  1. Tex71

    The GOP doesn't even have the angry white male vote tied up. I am a white man and I am angry at what the Tea Party-Limbaugh-GOP has done to democracy in the USA. I will be voting for President Obama and for any non-GOP candidate for Congress.

    March 20, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Canadianguy

      It's people like you who are what's great about America, I meet your type of angry white male more often than the ones on TV at repub events, we share the same views for the most part when I travel to the States, I salute you Sir

      March 20, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  2. sarah l.

    This man comes across as being very simple-minded and prejudice. I am a woman. I have had two abortions. I can no longer carry to term. Doctors believe that it is partially due to my past abortions. So when I MAN automatically assumes that I must be liberal and a democrat simply because they are pro-abortion, he proves himself to be a fool and truly unaware of women's needs and thought-process. I am not 100% against abortion; however, I do believe that abortion and contraception require some serious thought. After MUCH serious thought on the issue, I can no longer side with a candidiate solely because of where they stand on this issue. Does that make me less of a woman; or even worse, does that make me an "angry white man"???

    March 20, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Nicko

      Nobody ever said they are PRO abortion. Its woman's rights that were granted by the supreme court in the 1970's.

      March 20, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
      • sarah l.

        Allow me to pro-abortion, I mean pro-abortion rights.

        March 20, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Nicko

      Nobody ever said they are PRO abortion. So that's your own damn fault for doing that to your body. The supreme court made the decision and you made a choice, just like all of the smokers in the country. Its deadly, yet people still do it. But Its the republican army that is so gung ho on packing the courts to repeal this and stop the advancement of gay rights.

      March 20, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
      • no comment have some anger issues? You're right, it is my fault that I did that to my body. I would love to be able to educate other women on it. If somebody wants to pass laws, because they believe that they are doing it to protect women, then I get that. My point was simply that not all women are liberal. Furthermore, not all women who are against abortion are conservative. The author's views are too simple. That's all, nothing more. I don't intend to attack anyone's set of beliefs, liberal or conservative.

        March 20, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
      • no comment

        In addition, I believe that there are more liberals trying to pass dietary and smoking laws that restrict your liberty in those areas. With that said, your point is void.

        March 20, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  3. no comment

    Why is the only male that is represented in the picture a white skinhead that looks angry?

    March 20, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  4. Ron Grimmberg

    [typo, Fareed: Americas –> Americans]

    But why give them (I refuse to say GOP because of the G) such wisdom?
    Let the angry white males enjoy 'mutual acids' in the bar.
    It makes them happy and the elections less risky.

    March 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  5. Nicko

    But they have a solution......cut education...ban contraceptives...make more stupid people...more GOP voters. Pure genius!

    March 20, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Michael Chapel Hill

      It is the Liberals war against traditional family and paying for alternative life style that created a generation of under achievers.

      March 20, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  6. Jt_flyer

    The majority of the american polilation are women
    The majority of college students are women.
    The majority of the college graduate students are women.
    The majority of the medical school students are women.
    The majority of the law students are women. Etc, etc, etc.

    Yet the republican party wants to alienate the female population by attacking them and requiring them to fight for basic human rights... Like birth control. This can't to a sensible strategic plan.

    March 20, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Jt_flyer


      March 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Michael Chapel Hill

      Let them pay for it and get it not at the cost of others.

      March 20, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
      • Think2010

        What are you, slow? Women are not asking for free contraceptives, they are simply asking that they be covered under the healthcare plans for which they are paying in full or in part depending their employers percentage of participation (Also, don't forget, employers who pay 50% or more of the cost of their employee healthcare plans receive a tax break for doing so.) Woman very reasonably expect full reproductive healthcare coverage (including for prescription contraceptives) as their reproductive systems are such a major part of their bodies and have a greater impact on their overall health than men's. The impact of reproduction on males amounts to little more than vigorous exercise every now and then compared to the impact of reproduction on females and it rarely results in any risk of death or major long-term or permanent damage to their health. If you really had any idea how heavily a woman's reproductive system impacts her body, you would not make such a stupid and flippant comment (unless you are a total j3rk).

        March 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  7. Bob Dole

    Bob Dole 1988

    March 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Bob Dole

      I'm Bob Dole and Bob Dole approves of this message.

      March 20, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  8. no comment

    On the other hand why are the women in the pictured represented by a white woman, a black woman and an asian-hispanic looking woman who are all happy? CNN get a life.

    March 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  9. DoubleEM

    Funniest part that you indeed can’t win a general election with the angry, white, male vote, but you can't keep USA from falling apart into third world country without angry, white, males... Go figure...

    March 20, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Michael Chapel Hill

      Majority of our fighting and Women and Men are white. It is no secret. Even the President chickened out while he could have been in the services. In quite a few minority churches preachers preach against enlisting because it is... man's army. Only those who do not go to church or those who know what they preach, go and enlist.

      March 20, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
      • Randy

        Where'd you get your numbers? The latest KKK meeting?

        The fact that the majority ethnicity is also the majority in the military doesn't mean a higher percentage of whites serve. The opposite is true. 30% of the US population is considered 'minority' while 37% of the military are of that group. In other words, it's exactly the opposite of what you claim. Fewer whites by percentage serve in the military than minorities. Black people are about 13% of the US population while they make up 20% of our armed forces.

        I'm sure that after reading this and (hopefully) looking up the Department of Defense numbers on it you'll correct your mistake and stop repeating those racist lies.

        March 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
      • JoeT

        I was in a while ago, but noticed that blacks and Hispanics were disproportionately represented in the military– higher % in uniform than part of the general population.

        March 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  10. grantcv1

    Generally I agree with Fareed's take but this time I must disagree. The Reqpublican's do not have very many plausible points to make. It was their policies that tanked the economy – relying on the Bush tax cuts without cuts in government spending to pump artificial money into the economy and relying on a housing bubble to add yet more artificial money allowed them to put off a correction by hiding the underlying damage being wrought by business friendly policies that shifted too much work offshore and which thus caused a massive money drain to pay for imports. That is fundamentally what is wrong with our economy – too much consumption and not enough production. The Bush years exacerbated the problem whilst hiding it behind a monumental bubble.

    That the Republicans are responding to the challenge by trying to pin their mess on Obama, while alienating woman voters (contraception), hispanic voters (immigration), black voters (food stamp president, birther issues, etc.), muslim voters (anti-muslim rhetoric), gay voters (marriage inequality), labor union voters (anti-labor rhetoric), and educated voters (what snobs) is more than a demographic problem, it is a party that has come off the rails and is now careening into the abyss of irrelevence.

    After the election of 2012, I am going to predict that the GOP will crumble. This is a party that is setting itself up for a dramatic defeat. And the nasty tone of their rhetoric foretells how they will react to the defeat. Rather than internalizing what they did wrong, these are a people that will lash out – at everyone and everything they can. They will demonize Romney for being a weak imperfect candidate. They will attack Ron Paul for not playing to the party ideology. They will blame the liberal media for distorting the countries values. They will criticize Obama for making the economy look better than it really is. They will blame everyone but themselves for the historic defeat they are going to suffer.

    And that will be the end of the Republican Party as we know it. The Reagan coalition that awkwardly bound religious extremists, fiscal conservatives, and the "I want my gun more than anything else" southern whites together will come to an end. A new collection of parties will emergy to represent these groups, but I don't see a new Republican Party emerging. That is where the demographics will bite – the values of the conservative movement are becoming part of the fringe and won't be a part of American fabric in the future.

    March 20, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  11. marv213

    how does Zakaria even have a forum...everything he writes or says is stupid

    March 20, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Norris

      He looks kind of smart, especially when he wrinkles his forehead and starts talking very slowly.

      March 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Eric (Austin)

      You might as well be Beavis or Butthead critiquing Newton's calculus. Probably holding the book upside down too.

      March 20, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  12. Bob L

    Right now Romney is doing what he needs to do to win the primary. He's a slick politician, so he will move to the center and tell independents and Latinos populist lies to get their vote after he wins the primary. At that point he doesn't have to worry about the extreme right.

    March 20, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  13. setnommarih

    Not worth commenting on this site, everyone has already drank the Obama kool-aid and therfore are oblivious to anything remotely related to questioning the man.

    March 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  14. phretbuzz

    The Republicans don't have to prove anything... Obama has proved himself to be incompetent... he is with the economy, he is as a WORLD leader, he was with the oil spill... we need a President who can lead... and Obama can't... Remember anybody but Bush... we'll it's become anybody but Obama... and any intelligent American sees it.

    March 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  15. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    Mr. Zakaria is at his usual game again he says " Republicans have probably already lost Arab and Muslim Americas"

    Should that be a factor at all?

    Shouldn't our focus be just on SAFEGUARDING AMERICA's SECURITY and NOT wooing any community that refuses to fully co-operate and uses America's own freedoms to prevent law enforcement from doing their job?

    March 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Randy

      Wow. Voting in elections if you're Muslim is "refusing to fully co-operate?" Racism makes people say the darndest things.

      March 20, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
      • phretbuzz

        I love the way you guys throw around the race card... you do realize that you continue to cheapin' it more and more every time you do it!

        March 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  16. Allen

    Republican does not have a demographic problem. CNN and Zakaria has been promoting minority previlige during the past decade, in their effort to secure minority viewership. CNN has been so obsessed with racial issues. Look at Zakaria, Anderson, the pretty Erin, all their daily jobs are to promoting social division in the US, making up, exaggerating racial discrimination, promoting minority previlige. However, all of CNN efforts only favor the Blacks. Where is CNN stance on the politically enforced cap on percentage of Asian college students? Because they are Asian, so they are limited to go to good universities, public or private? Because Blacks are not doing very weel in high school, so they are admited to colleges at the expense of other minorities. Should college admission especially private schools be solely based on merit, not ethnic background?

    March 20, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • phretbuzz

      Amen! You got that right brother!

      March 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  17. Don

    That is exactly what they are left with, angry, ignorant, extreme white men. Hmmm reminds me of the KKK party. Tea Party, Birther party, Klan party, what is the difference.

    March 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  18. Sophia

    The Republican party has become a collection of special interest groups with little or nothing in common. The NRA, the evangelical Christian, big business, large military, small government, low taxes...these different groups often have conflicting interests and the republican party emphasizes these conflicts and divides their party.

    March 20, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  19. gary

    GOPers are well aware which is why there are so many efforts to suppress the vote by limiting those that can vote (voter ID laws in particular). And GOPers don't have anything to say except lower taxes and historically low taxes did nothing to stop the meltdown under President Bush.

    March 20, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  20. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    Mr. Zakaria says “Republicans have probably already lost Arab and Muslim AMERICAS”

    Firstly is it Muslim Americans or Muslim America?

    If it’s a DELIBERATE omission by Mr. Zakaria, he needs to know that America is a secular country and THERE’s NO NEED TO PANDER TO ANY RELIGIOUS GROUP and surely NOT a minority religion much against our dominant Christian ethos!

    I say this being a Minority Hindu American myself.

    March 20, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  21. S-Rob

    The south being all white Republican won;t be accurate much longer. Keeping demographics in mind, the northeast and midwest will become more Republican and the west/south more liberal as time goes on. The red/blue map will be completely flopped in 15 years.

    March 20, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  22. sarcasmic1

    So, to recap... Democrat GOOD, Republican BAD. Who say's americans are stupid?

    March 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • phretbuzz

      CNN does!

      March 20, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Coflyboy

      GOP says Americans are stupid... who else?

      March 20, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  23. jt

    I agree completely with this assessment. The republican party is doomed in the long term. Likely what will happen is the democrats will have several rounds of major victories claiming both houses. The republican party will become such a minority party as to become irrelevant in any government decision. This will drive all moderate republicans into the democrats camp. As their numbers grow there will be an increasing party schism within the democrats for control of the leadership ulitmately resulting in a split which will dominate politics for decades. This will place increasing burden on the primary system which effectively will become the election. In states that don't allow non partisans to participate in the primary there will be a massive voter disenfranchisement until these people join The Party. By 2100 there will likely be no Republican party but a formal split of Liberal vs. Conservative Democrats.

    March 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • phretbuzz

      Ah ya... right. Look at the polls dude! People have seen what liberalism is and they have rejected it... And CNN is doing everything in their power to ignore it!

      March 20, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • TommyD

      now thats funny...well i think just the opposite will happen...latinos are slowly coming back to the GOP, and will be for good. The libs have destroyed the Dem party. Oh yea, get used to Marco Rubio...gonna hold a high office for many yrs to come

      March 20, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Ron

      Jt, you are in the delusional bubble the leftys live in, hahaha. Wait till November, then we'll see. Unfortunitely, we will have to then clean up your poopy mess, like in the Jimmy Carter days. History will repeat itself again.

      Then Jt, you and the rest, can crawl back to your hole and ponder how off base you are and maybe wake up and understand that it was the capitalist way which made America great. Maybe you will get a job and get off unemployment...actually work and produce something.

      Move to Europe if you don't like America. It's a socialistic hotbed and look what's happening there now.

      The Republicans out there are way higher than you think and you will learn soon.

      See you back here in Novemeber, but then you won't come...

      March 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  24. TommyD

    and BTW Zakaria...I vote GOP and I'm white....and I have zero apologies for being white!

    March 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Coflyboy

      ...and what is your excuse for voting treason?

      March 20, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  25. rep

    I'm expecting Romney to eventually get the nomination and then to up his pandering game to try to win back the voting demographics he's lost. I know, I know, it seems impossible to pander any more after getting the wrong artist to sing "sweet Home Alabama" in Alabama, talking about cheesy grits in the South, and complimenting the height of the trees in Michigan. But just you wait.

    For one, he will likely nominate a Latino VP. Rubio is my guess for a top pick. I really think he'll want to get a high-ranking, conservative Latina for this post, but after the Sarah Palin debacle a few years ago, his campaign may be too shy to go that far. Another top pick might be an African-American woman for the post (Condi Rice?). Other possibles are Gov. Bobby Jindal and Rep. Alan West. Alan West would be a strong conservative to help lock in his base, but West had has issues with women too and he has poor impulse control. Bobby Jindal is a wild card but will probably be in the top 10. Make no mistake, to try to win back women and minorities, he will have to have high-ranking minorities and women standing shoulder to shoulder with him.

    Then things will get *really* amusing. Romney will make speeches to African-American audiences and say he always liked soul food and loved "the Motown sound". He'll give speeches to female audiences and say he used to be a woman! Ok, maybe he won't go that far, but you get the idea. Grab your popcorn folks. It's gonna be a great show!

    March 20, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • mgrey

      What a politician 'say's' during a campaign isn't as important as what he/she will 'do'. Romney can and has balanced a state budget into a surplus. Obama has never done this and neither have the other candidate. This is all that really matters at the end of the day.

      If your country has no money, we can't have healthcare, a military, education, roads etc. We can't continue to borrow our way to success. Americans should have learned this by watching the mortgage crisis.

      March 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
      • rep

        And how do you suppose you can know what a politician will DO if you're not basing it on what he SAYS?
        I know Romney says one thing and then says another depending on whatever he thinks his audience wants to do.
        I know Romney is wealthy and is out of touch with the poor and middle class and SAYS this every chance he tries to "be himself".
        I know Romney proposes to balance the budget by giving himself and just rich buddies tax breaks (after paying just 14.9% effective tax rate himself) and by cutting the safety net for the poor he says he would fix.
        I know he DID implement a healthcare in MA that (they now love) and he SAID it should be a model for the nation and yet now he SAYS he never said that and SAYS he will the ACA.

        All we really know about Romney is that he wants to be POTUS and that he'll say whatever he has to to make that happen. But we know his actual plan is severely lacking. There is little or nothing in there that hasn't been tried before so the rest is wishful thinking.

        March 20, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  26. MC in TX

    In general I agree with this assessment, though I'm not sure I entirely agree that it is a party run by the grass roots. The influence in the party seems to be coming from a very odd coalition of true grassroots and rich special interests, and one can debate which side is really pulling the strings.

    The interesting thing Zakaria is not pointing out, though, is that the fact that the GOP is hewing so close to the interests of the angry white males is not entirely accidental or coincidental. IMHO it is the increasing power of minorities and women in recent decades (Obama's election being a prime example) that has created a backlash among the class traditionally in power in this country. That backlash is currently what is driving the GOP (what is saddest to see is some women and minorities actually supporting that backlash because they do not understand that it is against them). One can see this as one of a series of movements to preserve the traditional power structure in this country: the rise of the Jim Crow laws and the ejection of blacks from the GOP following the Civil War, the rise of the KKK during the Great Depression, the attacks on the Civil Rights leaders in the 50s and 60s.

    Mind you this is not to say that every Republican is motivated by bigotry or an interest in preserving the power of white males. Certainly that is not the case at all. But it is scary to see how openly many in the GOP associate themselves with these viewpoints and how careful GOP politicians today are today not to appear overly sympathetic to the interests of women and minorities.

    March 20, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  27. Pat

    They are going to get the majority of male while vote also. White males who Catholic, Jewish or below 40 will vote for Obama. The GOPwill only get the old white male protestant vote.

    March 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  28. Kathryn

    OMG! Mr. Zakaria is right on the money! The Republican Party is so Old South. I live in the south but my no one in my family, including the white males, subscribe to their nonsense. However, I am surrounded by a sea of idiots in the state that I reside in. Maybe it's time to move.

    March 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Coflyboy

      Yeah! to another country. The GOP wants smart, educated people (a.k.a "liberals") to move away so they can run their regime over the ignorants who voted for them.

      March 20, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
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