The GOP and the electoral coalition it reflects are in a panic. They face an existential crisis. The GOP, and its wealthy backers, are squarely on the path to minority political status in a rapidly changing nation and up against a rising multi-racial democratic movement with huge social transformative potential.
Two new studies of the 2020 election results suggest why the GOP is, in its decay, carrying out, with the connivance of a GOP-dominated U.S. Supreme Court, the biggest assault on democracy since the Civil War.
The GOP is now boxing itself in as a neo-fascist party of insurrection, white nationalism, and climate denialism. Its strategy is two-pronged:
Use virulent racism to mobilize more white voters, even though these voters are a declining share of the electorate. The GOP exploits anxieties and fears many whites have over historic demographic shifts that will result in a majority people of color nation by 2042. They are playing on the fear of loss of racial status, power, and domination by promoting white backlash against racial and social equality gains, claiming whites are the real victims of racism and men the real victims of sexism.
Secondly, suppress the growing mass movement for a multi-racial democracy from expressing its majority will; and restoring unfettered white power by dismantling every advance under the Voting Rights Act, by imposing Jim Crow 2.0 and voter suppression of African Americans, Mexican Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, other voters of color, and youth. Voters from these communities turned out in record numbers in 2020.
The strategy doesn’t come without a considerable cost, beginning with the peril to democracy from the raft of state laws attacking the right to vote and election administration. But the GOP will pay the price too. Its actions have raised a widespread alarm and are energizing the broad democratic coalition that elected Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and the Democratic majority Congress.
Additionally, the GOP extremism turns off a critical section of moderate GOP and independent voters, mainly white suburban voters, that they need to win.
Rightward march of white voters “halted”
Granted, Trump won a majority of white voters in 2020, something every Republican presidential candidate has accomplished since 1968. However, as Roosevelt University professor David Faris notes, “the rightward march of white voters was halted and marginally reversed by Joe Biden in 2020, who did 4 points better with non-college-educated whites than Clinton. Republicans may have already run headlong into a white ceiling.”
Eighty-five percent of Trump’s voters were white, and white working-class voters (which correlates largely to what pollsters call non-college-educated) made up 58% of Trump’s vote. However, overall white working-class voters made up 44% of the 2020 electorate, down from 51% in 2008.
But, as Ruy Teixeira notes, white working-class voters moved away from Trump relative to 2016 when he needed to increase their support to win. Biden won 44% of white voters, up from 41% that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. And white “college educated” voters, particularly women, moved away from Trump and the GOP in even more significant numbers, supporting Biden by 54%.
These developments come as good news because the fight against racism and for full equality will have to be at the center of any electoral coalition that decisively defeats this neo-fascist movement. It requires building the broadest multi-racial coalition possible, including liberating millions of white voters from the smothering fog of racism. And no doubt, many white voters were positively influenced by the largest mass protests in U.S. history following the police murder of George Floyd.
What propelled Biden to victory?
Biden’s victory was possible by assembling the most diverse, multi-racial, multi-generational, majority women, a center-left coalition of voters ever. The electoral alliance included huge majorities of Black (92%), Latino (61%), Asian American (67%), and Native American voters, who had a decisive impact in battleground states and voted at higher than average rates. Altogether, about 39% of Biden’s vote came from people of color, and the remaining 61% split almost evenly between whites with and without college degrees.
The terrifying news for the GOP is that among generational cohorts, the GOP can only count on 75-year-old and older voters for solid support. This fact alone must be keeping GOP strategists up at night.
In contrast, young voters are deeply hostile to the GOP. Biden won 58% of the under 40-year-old vote and 65% of those under 30-years old, and even voters 40–59 years old by 12%. Millennials (ages 24–39) and Generation Z (age 23 and younger) cast 30% of the vote in 2020, up from 23% in 2016. Youth under 30 years old made up 15% of the electorate but 38% of new voters. Party affiliation usually endures over a lifetime, and this could well spell doom to the GOP.
While the gender gap narrowed slightly in 2020, it has held steady and grown, particularly among women of color, over several election cycles. “Women comprise 54% of the electorate overall and an even larger majority of the electorate among Black (59%) and Latino (56%) voters,” said the Catalist study. “Overall, women voters of color supported the Democratic ticket at a rate of 79% while support among white women was 48%.” African American women are the most solid base of Democratic voters at rates that exceed 95%.
Less influence from white Evangelicals
The panic on the right also reflects the declining influence of the white Evangelicals, a critical base of support for the GOP. They are flocking to QAnon conspiracies and Christian fascism.
Evangelical voters made up 34% of Trump’s vote, voting for him by over 80%. But Evangelicals are in stunning decline as a share of the electorate. White evangelicals made up 23% of the population in 2006 and only 14.5% in 2020.
As Michelle Goldberg noted in a recent column, “White evangelicals once saw themselves ‘as the owners of mainstream American culture and morality and values,’ said Robert P. Jones, executive director of the Public Religion Research Institute. ‘Now they are just another subculture.’”
“From this fact derives much of our country’s cultural conflict. It helps explain the rise of Donald Trump and the growth of QAnon and even the escalating conflagration over critical race theory. “It’s hard to overstate the strength of this feeling, among white evangelicals in particular, of America being a white Christian country,” said Jones. “This sense of ownership of America just runs so deep in white evangelical circles.” The feeling that it’s slipping away has created an atmosphere of rage, resentment, and paranoia.
Massive turnout needed in 2022 and 2024
The GOP has failed to turn public opinion against the Biden Administration and its popular agenda and support for response to the Covid-19 pandemic. They, along with the extreme right media propaganda machine, have tried everything: the “stolen election, failed pandemic response, a border crisis, indoctrination with critical race theory, and raising the alarm over Biden’s “radical, socialist agenda” that defunds the police. At the same time, they paint a terrifying picture of crime and chaos engulfing cities.
Further, the GOP is frantically trying to obstruct the passage of the entire Biden and Democrat legislative agenda and then blame Democrats for the resulting failure of government. Taken together with the domination of the GOP domination of the Supreme Court and control of over half of state legislatures, the country faces an ongoing democratic emergency.
“Our backs are to the wall. This is the moment. We can’t litigate our way out. We must have legislation,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. She was, of course, referring to blocking the immediate GOP assault on democracy through abolishment or reform of the filibuster and passage of the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Passage of voting rights legislation is critical to mobilizing a historic voter turnout to defeat the extreme right, neo-fascist and white nationalist movement at the ballot box and shifting the balance of political power. It means continuing to build a decisive majority of voters to reject them in the 2022 and 2024 elections, which builds on the multi-racial diverse coalition that won in 2020 and erodes GOP strength in so-called red states and districts. Some 70 million eligible citizens didn’t vote in 2020 and could be a powerful force if mobilized.
The success of the Biden administration, including passage of the American Jobs Plan, American Families Plan, voting rights, and ProAct legislation, all of which are popular among voters, including Republican voters, is also vital to winning moderate GOP and independent voters and mobilizing the Democratic base.
The more the GOP obstructs, assaults democracy, and continues a slow-going insurrection, the more urgent becomes the defense of democracy. This same alarm drove a record voter turnout in 2020 and can again.
Originally published at https://peoplesworld.org on July 15, 2021.