So the Republicans lost a perfectly winnable presidential race. As they assess the cause of their failure, one feature stands out - the changing demographics in the US. Americans are becoming less white; more brown and black. A significant portion of this change is occurring due to immigration from non-European countries. These immigrants tend not to vote Republican, even when the immigrant is conservative. Why? There are many reasons.
- R&R (race and religion). The Republican Party appears as a conclave of angry white men. More specifically, angry white older evangelical men. Anyone who does not fit that profile feels excluded. Go to any Republican gathering, or take a look at the Republicans in the House or Senate. What do you see? Sure there are exceptions such as Bobby Jindal in Louisiana or Nikki Haley in South Carolina (both of whom converted to Christianity - naturally), but the vast majority is true to form. Until the Republicans embrace other ethnic and religious groups, they will be unpalatable to most immigrants. Let's see more brown, black and orientals in there. Let's see Hindus and Buddhists in positions of responsibility.
- Culture Wars. While the Republicans are still fixated on abortion, gay rights, and gun control, these issues do not resonate with immigrants. Immigrants come from diverse backgrounds and to most, these issues are personal matters, not public policy. The Catholics that come from Latin America are less fixated on these issues too - they tend to be sympathetic to the Republican position but are not driven by it. In any case, abortion has become very rare. Gay rights and marriage has almost become institutionalized. And not even the most fervent Democrat tries to curtail the first amendment anymore. Consequently, these social issues that used to win elections in the past have now become an albatross around the Republican's neck.
- War and peace. Americans are tired of wars, and immigrants even more so. A subliminal thought that probably comes to an immigrant as s/he watches a bunch of angry white evangelical men with guns is that colonialism is back. We want fewer wars. We'd be happier with our troops out of Europe, with the savings going towards better roads and the certitude of retaining electrical power when hit by storms. Yet, what do Republicans campaign on? More wars. John McCain sang about bombing Iran (to the tune of 'Barbara Ann'), and Mitt Romney, who probably would not know the difference between an F-16 and an F-22, followed suit. Hiding behind the military just doesn't work anymore. Besides, Democrats have learnt that trick, and they do it without sounding jingoistic.
- Economics. More and more immigrants are economic immigrants, rather than political or religious. The decline of economic prospects frightens immigrants even more than native-born Americans since immigrants have, by definition, cut the umbilical cord that attached them to their former country. Given the current climate, the economy should have been the Republican strong point. Yet, they were not able to capitalize on it. They never gave specifics about how the deficit would be cut, how the budget would be balanced, or social security and Medicare saved, other than the vague "trust me" from the Mitt dream team. Immigrants are not naïve - we can count. And the Republican mathematics just did not add up (not that Obama mathematics did - but if you want to displace a known devil, the onus is on you).
- The Primary Process. Both parties have horribly long primaries, but this time around, the Republicans outdid themselves. The primaries force the candidates into extreme positions as they pander to the base, which makes it harder to appear moderate when it really counts. How a Massachusetts liberal (who ran to the left of Ted Kennedy while running for Senate) metamorphosed into an extreme conservative (to the right of Attila the Hun) while running for president leaves even the most gullible immigrant incredulous. To immigrants, the lack of consistency from the Republicans, vague un-fulfillable promises, and nonsensical repetition that the "best days are ahead of us" just did not ring true. In fact, they reminded us of the untrustworthy politicians we thought we had left behind.
The Republicans have a choice facing them. They can either learn and adapt, or face a dwindling, angrier and older future.