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‘Republicans must wake up to a changing electorate’

© AFP

Text by Benjamin DODMAN , Priscille LAFITTE

Latest update : 2012-11-08

Analyst Karlyn Bowman says Republicans must come to terms with America’s changing demographics and make way for a new generation of leaders as they pick up the pieces of a failed campaign to recover the White House and the Senate.

Having failed to retake the White House and squandered an opportunity to capture the Senate, US Republicans awoke Wednesday to an uncertain future in an increasingly diverse country.

Their defeat against an incumbent president beset by high unemployment and a slow economic recovery is likely to lead to a bout of soul-searching and recrimination, as well as calls for new leadership.

Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative thinktank, explains why the Grand Old Party (GOP) is out of step with a changing country, and how a younger generation of Republican leaders can set it on a new course.

FRANCE 24: Is Nov. 6 proof that the Republican Party is out of step with the country’s changing demographics?

Karlyn Bowman: Our electorate is changing very dramatically and yet Republicans are still reliant on the support of white male voters. In 1972, 90% of the electorate was white, but on election day  that figure had shrunk to 72%. Hispanics and Asian Americans are growing at a rapid rate – and both vote heavily Democrat. At the moment, demography is the Democrats’ best friend. This election was a wake-up call for Republicans: they must change their attitude towards minorities.

Does this mean changing their policies on immigration?

Yes, I think it does. And I think the younger generation is ready to do that.

Republicans are also lagging behind in the female vote. How much has this to do with controversial remarks on rape and abortion during the campaign?

This is not about abortion; that issue does not divide the sexes in the US. The real reason why women vote Democratic is because they favour a strong role for government. They are also more risk-averse and less likely to support an aggressive foreign policy. We have a gender gap in our politics: men lean towards the Republican Party, whereas women prefer Democrats. We have an even wider marriage gap, with married couples favouring the GOP and unmarried couples as well as single, divorced and widowed voters overwhelmingly supporting the Democratic camp.

How can Republicans address this gender imbalance without fundamentally altering their core principles on “small government”?

It's a long-term educational process. Republicans have men on their side, now they have to put women forward as well. What you see in the House of Representatives is a bunch of very attractive Republican women coming to the front. They need to be promoted. The GOP needs more spokeswomen who can address the concerns of women made vulnerable by the economic crisis.

Was Mitt Romney the wrong candidate for the presidency?

Romney could have been the right candidate, but he allowed himself to be pulled too far to the right during the primary season. Primaries tend to pull Democrats to the left and Republicans to the right. Both parties will have this problem in 2016.

Is the Tea Party to blame for this rightward shift?

The Tea Party remains a powerful force in the House of Representatives. This time round it could be blamed for fielding some candidates that were not acceptable to the mainstream. But it played a relatively small role during the presidential campaign.

How can the GOP bridge the widening gap between its right wing and the moderates in the party?

Inevitably there will be a phase of recrimination, when they blame each other for the defeat. They will have to get past it very quickly. If you look at the candidates who may be running for the Republican nomination in 2016, they are an incredibly attractive bunch. Not just Paul Ryan, (this year’s nominee for vice president,) but also (former Florida Governor) Jeb Bush, (New Mexico Governor) Susana Martinez and (Florida Senator) Marco Rubio. This “B-Team” is very strong. Already this morning Rubio, a Cuban American, said the party had to reach out more to minorities. The younger generation clearly understands the problem. With them in the lead, 2016 could be a very close race indeed.

Date created : 2012-11-07

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