The Current Situation with the Republican Party

The Republican Party appears to have about maxed out its support in most of its core demographics. There are two groups it has had more support from in the past that it lost in 2020, which is white male college educated voters and white female college educated voters. Still, with Trump taking 74 million votes this last election, they did not leave a whole lot spare lying on the table in their core demographics. In contrast, the Democrat took 81 million votes.

We are discussing Republican Party now because they are the party challenged by the changing demographics situation. Now, I did consider entitling this post “whistling past the grave yard,” but felt that may have been a little too pejorative. But, my sense of the situation for over the last 20 years is that the Republican leadership has been very aware of the demographic clock and changing attitudes towards religion working against them, and has been trying to take action to try adjust to these changes. Many of these efforts have not been supported by many in the party.

There was certainly a “black outreach” effort early in the Bush Jr. presidency, very visibly represented by Colin Powell as Secretary of State and Condoleezza Rice as National Security Advisor. That effort does not seem to have resulted in much change. In 2000 it is estimated that the Republican Party won 9% of the “black vote.” In 2020 it was 12% of the “black vote.” This appears to have been an effort that made at best only limited progress. Certainly people can have a loaded political debate as to why. The prominent Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and left the Republican Party in January 2021.

The other major attempt at outreach was by Bush, Jr. with the “Hispanic” vote. In this case, he was well aware of the subject, having been governor of Texas, which in 2000 was 32% “Hispanic.” He encouraged the Senate to put forward the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 (co-sponsors included Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham). This effort was scuppered by resistance led by Republican Tom Tancredo of Colorado. The bill ended up never being voted into law. Since then no comprehensive immigration reform has been attempted by either party. There is simply not enough agreement on these issues in the last 15 years for anyone to put something together that could actually get majority support.

And then, with the election of Donald Trump and his immigration policy, Republican support among Latinos appears to be have been permanently stagnated. In 2000 Bush Jr. received 35% of the Latino vote. In 2020, Trump received 32% of the Latino vote. Not a strong argument for progress.

Needless to say, the same story exists with many other populations, but these issues have been around for over two decades and the Republican Party has not been able to effectively address them in over two decades. The end result is that they appear to sliding into a permanent political minority role on the national stage.

In 1988 when they won the election, they did so with 53.4% to 45.6% of the popular vote. They did have the advantage of an incumbent (Vice President H. W. Bush) and a growing economy. Since then, the Republican margins have been much less (winner is in bold). In 1992 it was 43.0 (Clinton) to 37.4% (Bush) to 18.9% (Perot). In 1996 it was 49.2% (Clinton) to 40.7% (Dole) to 8.4% (Perot). In 2000 it was 47.9% (Bush) to 48.4% (Gore) to 2.7% (Nader). In 2004 it was 50.7% (Bush) to 48.3% (Kerry). In 2008 it was 52.9% (Obama) to 45.7% (McCain). In 2012 it was 51.1% (Obama) to 47.2% (Romney). In 2016 it was 46.1% (Trump) to 48.2% (Clinton). In 2020 it was 51.3% (Biden) to 46.9% (Trump). In the last eight presidential elections, the Democrats have had more votes in seven of them, and the Republicans only got more than 50% of the vote in one election (and only with the advantage of incumbency and a growing economy).

As I said, they appear to have been whistling past the grave yard.

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
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Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
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His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
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Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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6 Comments

  1. The Republican Party is already split like the Whigs But when the Demos eliminate the key influence of the ‘electoral college’ it will split also – then we will have a European multiparty system based on competing special interest groups having more independent political power.

    • John,

      A scenario I have not really considered. I have not been a strong believer in the narrative that the “Republican party will go the way of the Whigs.” There are a few things that argue for them staying together as one party:

      1. They still control the majority of governorships and the majority of states houses and senates. There is a considerable establish local presence.
      2. There is a funding and donor structure there that matters a lot of modern politics.
      3. There are many people with a life-long identification as a Republican.

      I have not doubt they are going to go through a few rounds of internal debates, and this could drag on for a while. If effect, the Republican Party was at war with itself from 1950 to 1980, fighting for the soul of the party. I think this current fight will be even more intense, and does run the risk of hobbling the party for a decade or two. All of this does reinforce my belief that will are looking at a single party dominating U.S. national politics for a while.

  2. Question from a foreigner point of view: What I do know about Latinos is that they are generally both conservative and religious. Why have the Republicans failed to tap into that?

    Another question is that do Republicans appeal to conservative secularists? I mean basically people who support the conservative interpretation of the constitution including the 2nd amendment, but who find the all-pervasive religious fanaticism oppressive. Think about this: Republican president Eisenhower supported issues like family planning, which today would seemingly be impossible for a Republican candidate.

    • Jukka – FWIW IMO (note: I am not a fan of the modern Republican Party, so don’t take the following as an endorsement)

      Lets start with a different group, as the reasoning is similar. Blacks are the most conservative group, particularly socially, in the Democratic Base. When North Carolina had a gay-marriage amendment a few years ago, that was forgotten, and people were stunned at the crossover vote for “No”, much larger than the Libertarian wing of the Republicans crossing back the other way.

      Blacks don’t vote for Republicans because the modern Republican party has often gone out of its way to insult them. This is done (IMOP unnecessarily) to shore up the white working class/white Southern vote.

      Hispanics are much more diverse, so the reasons they vote Democrat will vary more. But in general, the anti-immigration stance of the Republicans is often done in a way that insults Hispanics as a group, rather than (intelligently) pointing out the (very real) economic impact to the working class.

      IMO Hispanics (who often identify as white) are the easiest group to pick off for the Republicans. The Democrat’s current identity-politics meme does very little to help the working class, and the Democrats have done very little in the way of supporting the working class. Something at least Trump gave lip service to.

    • I pretty much agree with everything Russell said. He also hit on one of the points that I was going to make, which is that there is also a significant “conservative and religious” group among the black voters.

      The Latino community is the U.S. is huge. With 19% self-identifying themselves as “Hispanic”, this is 63 million people. This is close to the population of Italy or France or United Kingdom. We don’t view those countries as a single political monolith. There is a certainly a significant “conservative and religious” group among the Latino community, and this is the community that the Republican Party has been able to tap into in states like Florida (which is a swing state) and Texas (which is on the verge of becoming a swing state). But, for various reasons, the Republican Party has lost the thread on this, and I do think that failure goes back to 2006 and was amped up in 2016.

      As for “conservative secularists” – that is always a struggle. Several years ago at one Republican Party nomination debate where there were over a dozen candidates, one of the moderators asked about evolution. Turns out that a third of the candidate running did not believe in evolution. Does this mirror the beliefs of the rank and file of the party? I have not seen any statistics on it, but I believe so. In the end, the position of “conservative secularists” in the party has always been an awkward one, but they are a significant part of the party. I suspect that the Republican Party will be losing some more membership over the next couple of years, especially among those members who believe that global warming is a valid concern. I think that is part of the reason that the party is being lost to the younger voters

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