Democracy Journal has a series of essays by a number of people answering the question of what the political parties will look like in 2024 as a result of shifting demographics. Ruy Teixeira, an expert on demographics, argues that the growth of the Latino vote and other shifts in the population will force the Republican party to take more moderate positions on a number of issues.
In sum, then, the electorate of 2024 will be marked by a substantial increase in the share of minority voters, who lean strongly Democratic, and significant shifts within the declining white population that should serve to liberalize that population. This casts considerable doubt on the viability of current GOP strategy that cedes the minority vote to the Democrats and relies on squeezing an ever-higher share of votes from whites. Indeed, this approach seems a perfect candidate for Stein’s Law: If something can’t go on forever, it won’t.
Republicans will eventually—and very reluctantly—bow to electoral reality. They will compete much more vigorously for minority, particularly Hispanic, votes, and they will seek to broaden their appeal to younger and more moderate white voters. This will involve not just moving away from hard-line positions on social issues like immigration and gay marriage but also jettisoning a reflexive opposition to social spending and the tax increases that will be necessary to support it. Expect more David Frum and less Grover Norquist.
Frum himself has an essay on the same subject and his conclusions are fairly similar:
For Republicans, the trends pose a coalition-management question. Throughout the Obama years, Republicans built a powerful coalition of the rich and the old. The coalition was built on two principles: militant rejection of any and all new taxes, and unyielding defense of existing government benefits for those at or near retirement age.
But as Medicare costs rise, the no-new-taxes/no-cuts-in-Medicare combination will become increasingly difficult to sustain. Already, polls show that Republican voters (as opposed to activists) prefer tax increases on upper-income earners to Medicare cuts. So long as the choice between taxes and Medicare cuts remains latent, the preferences of rank-and-file Republicans may not matter much. But as budget gaps widen, that tension will surely come to the fore…
If the fiscal squeeze tightens enough, Republicans will be forced to choose between their limited government ideology and their older voting base. If they choose their ideology, they will need to locate some new voters in upper-income America. They will need to draw back to the Grand Old Party the kind of voters who defected to Barack Obama in 2008: affluent professionals, especially women, in major urban centers. This was the kind of Republicanism practiced in the 1990s by governors like Christine Todd Whitman, John Engler, Tommy Thompson, and George Pataki. Such a Republicanism would not need to jettison its pro-life message, just de-emphasize it, as Democrats have, for example, de-emphasized their message on gun control.
At the beginning of the Tea Party era, there was much talk that Republicans might switch to a more economic, less culturally exclusive message. That talk came to nothing. Instead, Republicans infused cultural exclusion into their economics, drawing a sharp distinction between the “earned” benefit of Medicare and Social Security and other programs that serve supposedly less deserving populations: food stamps, unemployment insurance, and Medicaid.
Yet it does not have to be this way. The GOP can remain a culturally conservative party without needing to endorse vaginal inspections of women or miring itself in fights over birth control. The coming generational shift within the GOP on gay rights points the way to such future change.
But the real problem here is the hard right. How does the GOP move to the middle and moderate its stances on immigration, abortion, and gay rights without losing at least a portion of its religious right base and sparking real interest in a conservative third party?