Liberals’ focus on race ignores what really drives voter behavior.
The sluggish economy favors a Republican presidential win come November, but some on the left argue that votes from a growing minority population will put President Obama over the top in the race for 270 electoral-college votes. Further, as the argument goes, these long-term demographic shifts could usher in a permanent left-of-center majority.
Exhibit one in this argument is the recent Center for American Progress monograph, “The Path to 270: Demographics versus Economics in the 2012 Presidential Election.”
Authors Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin acknowledge that the Tea Party wave in the 2010 elections suggests that the American people reacted poorly to the explosion of spending, the loss of jobs, and the extremely weak recovery under Obama. But they argue nonetheless that the growing number of minority voters—and thus declining percentage of white voters—will allow Obama to win re-election.
The study looks at national numbers, but also at the 50 state-by-state electoral-college contests. Teixeira and Halpin write, “The heart of the Obama coalition is the minority vote. In 2008, Obama received 80 percent support from communities of color, who made up 26 percent of all voters.” However, those numbers are changing:
The 2010 minority share of the population was 36 percent, up more than five percentage points over 2000. That’s a rate of increase of around half a point a year over the decade. Applying that rate to the four years between 2008 and 2012 indicates that the minority share of voters should be about 28 percent in 2012, up from 26 percent in 2008.
It’s true that some demographic changes are baked into the cake. And just as one cannot step twice into the same stream, candidates must be prepared to appeal to a new electorate every two, four, and six years.
Republicans interested in winning elections have noticed that Hispanics have grown from 3.8 percent of voters in 1992, to 5.4 percent in 2000, and 7.4 percent in 2008. Of the 4 million children born in the United States last year, fully 25 percent were Hispanic. (Which means that 17 years from now, a quarter of newly eligible voters will be Hispanic.)
But the demographics that truly matter are those that drive voting decisions, and, unlike race, many of them are mutable. Indeed they can be changed by politicians changing laws. One can, over time, recreate the electorate one faces each election year.
Second Amendment Voters: Half of American households own guns. Almost 20 million Americans hunt. Since 1987, when Florida passed its “shall issue” concealed carry law, which bars the government from withholding carry permits from individuals who meet the requirements, fully 41 states have adopted similar rules. As a result, an estimated 7 million Americans now have concealed carry permits. Concealed carry laws have changed the electorate and created more voters—gun voters—who are increasingly sensitive of their Second Amendment rights.
The left understood this process years ago. They passed restrictions on hunting that have driven a decline in the number of hunters with each generation. The NRA response has been to push for legislation making it easier for first time hunters and expanding hunting opportunities. Each team understands it is struggling to create an electorate in its image years and decades from now.
Home-Schoolers: Twenty years ago home-schooling was illegal almost everywhere, but today it is legal and mainstream in all 50 states. Mike Farris, who helped organize this grassroots movement through the Home School Legal Defense Association and the Parental Rights Organization, estimates there are 2.5 million home-schooled children and 1.4 million home-schooling parents. Over the past 20 years, about 4 million parents have home-schooled some portion of their kids’ educations. Ten million voting adults were home-schooled at some point.
Just like concealed carry, the home-schooling movement needed, first, legal recognition and protection and, second, peer approval to grow. The more Americans who know a friend or family member who has home-schooled, the more likely they are to do so as well.
Charter Schoolers: The parents of the 10 percent of American students who attend private schools or charter schools know that the Democrat party is owned by the public-school teachers unions. No surprise then that one of President Obama’s first acts was to destroy the fledgling school-choice voucher system used by 3,000 students in Washington, D.C. While he sent his two daughters to the fancy and expensive ($32,000 a year) Sidwell Friends School, he crushed the law passed by Republicans that allowed low-income, predominantly black parents in the district to leave the failing—and expensive to taxpayers ($27,000 per year)—public schools.
It is no coincidence, comrade, that states with Republican governors and legislators are, step by step, expanding parental choice. A handful of states have programs that allow businesses and individuals to receive tax credits for funding school-choice scholarships, which now benefit tens of thousands of students. Direct vouchers are available, though limited in terms of family eligibility, in 11 states. Last year, Indiana’s Mitch Daniels signed into law the nation’s largest voucher program, making around 55 percent of Hoosiers eligible. The number of vouchers is limited to 7,500 the first year, and 15,000 the second, but the limit is completely removed in year three. Also last year, Wisconsin increased the cap on its voucher program in Milwaukee and extended it to Racine.
In March, the Arizona legislature approved the expansion of its education savings accounts—currently available to special-needs students—to those in failing public schools, children of U.S. military members, and gifted students. Meanwhile, the Louisiana House passed Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposal establishing a voucher program for low- and middle-income families in underperforming public schools—fully 70 percent of all public schools. It is expected to pass the Senate, and might have done so already by the time you are reading this magazine.
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