2012 Election: The End of the Old Conservative Movement

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, my friends. Thank you so very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I have just called President Obama to congratulate him on his victory. His supporters and his campaign also deserve congratulations. I wish all of them well, but particularly the president, the first lady, and their daughters. This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation.” Mitt Romney, 2012 Presidential Concession Speech


The 2012 Presidential Election wasn’t the late night affair many political pundits anticipated. By 11:14 PM the race was called for President Barack Obama. President Obama became the first president to be elected with the unemployment rate over 7.5% since Franklin Roosevelt and while the national popular vote remains close, President Obama exceled in the swing states giving him a clear Electoral College victory. How was President Obama able to win a historical second term? Demographics! The Demographics of the country is changing quickly and those help demographics propel President Obama to victory.

The country has been growing more diverse for decades and there has been many African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, etc. elected to local, state, and federal offices all over the country, so when I say this election has brought about the end of the old white order what I am saying is that the old conservative base which reached its height with the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s has eroded.

Here is how the NBC News political team summarized the growing demographic changes:

*** Obama’s demographic edge: Yes, the auto bailout mattered in Ohio. Sure, Hurricane Sandy helped the president. And, yes, the economy was the No. 1 issue. But make no mistake: What happened last night was a demographic time bomb that had been ticking and that blew up in GOP faces. As the Obama campaign had assumed more than a year ago, the white portion of the electorate dropped to 72%, and the president won just 39% of that vote. But he carried a whopping 93% of black voters (representing 13% of the electorate), 71% of Latinos (representing 10%), and also 73% of Asians (3%). What’s more, despite all the predictions that youth turnout would be down, voters 18-29 made up 19% of last night’s voting population — up from 18% four years ago — and President Obama took 60% from that group. The trend also played out in the key battleground states: The president won about 70% of the Latino vote in Colorado and Nevada, and he won 60% of it in Florida (a high number given the state’s large GOP-leaning Cuban-American population). On Monday, we wrote that demography could determine destiny. And that’s exactly what happened. While the campaign’s turnout operation deserves all the credit for getting these voters to the polls, the most significant event of this presidential contest might very well have been the 2010 census.

The modern conservative movement got its start in the 1960s when they used white backlash against social/demographic change to get elected to offices. That “Southern Strategy” would reach its height during the 1980s and the Reagan Presidency. Since then the share of the white vote has been on a steady decline. As the country has become more diverse, the Republican Party has become less diverse.

More from NBCs political team:

*** And the GOP’s demographic dilemma: Obama’s demographic edge creates this dilemma for the Republican Party: It can no longer rely on white voters to win national elections anymore, especially in presidential cycles. Indeed, according to the exit poll, 89% of all votes Mitt Romney won last night came from whites (compared with 56% for Obama). So the Republicans are maximizing their share with white voters; they just aren’t getting the rest. And come 2016, the white portion of the electorate will probably drop another couple of points to 70%. Politico’s Martin puts it this way: “Battling a wheezing economy and a deeply motivated opposition, Obama still managed to retain much of his 2008 map because of the GOP’s deficiencies with the voters who are changing the political face of once conservative-leaning Virginia, Florida, Colorado and Nevada. Republicans face a crisis: the country is growing less white and their coalition has become more white in recent years. In 2004, George W. Bush won [about 40 percent] of Hispanics. Four years later, John McCain, the author of an immigration reform bill, took 31 percent of Hispanics. And this year, Romney captured only 27 percent of Hispanics.”

Mitt Romney tried to run one last divisive campaign that played on the social/demographic fears of voters. Romney chose to run ads about the president removing the work requirements from welfare, not true! He said the president’s ideas were “foreign”, not true! His allies have used words to describe the president that has negative historical context like “lazy”, “sleepy”, and “shuck and jive”. Romney’s allies have questioned the president’s citizenship and religion. They sought to portray the president as un-American and declared to “take their country back”, all while Romney said nothing, he never once stood up to the radical elements of the Republican Party.

Romney did not lose solely because of demographics; he lost because he could not connect to average Americans. Romney refused to show his tax returns, he labeled 47% of Americans as being dependent on government, he pledged to roll back women reproductive rights and eliminate Obamacare which will insure millions of the uninsured. Romney tried to be too many things to too many people. He was “severely conservative” during the Republican Primaries and was Moderate Mitt during the presidential debates, Romney has no core political convictions. Romney had been campaigning for 5 years and we still do not know what he believes in.

You can no longer win elections in this country by playing on racial fears, and that’s a great thing! The old Southern Strategy used by Republicans for decades died last night and the old Conservative Movement which reached its height with Ronald Reagan died as well. If the Republican Party wants to survive they have to become more inclusive, the country is getting browner while the Republican Party is getting whiter. The old white order died last night, and a brighter more diverse country awaits.


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