Brookings Study: Lack of Diversity Could Boost GOP in Short Term

Sunday, 03 Aug 2014 09:14 PM

By Greg Richter

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While even some within the Republican Party are concerned a lack of diversity could cast the GOP in permanent minority party status, a recently released paper from The Brookings Institution shows otherwise – at least in the short term.

Marisa Abrajano, associate professor of political science at the University of California at San Diego, writes that while increased immigration – both legal and illegal – is changing the political landscape, it is driving some white voters who traditionally voted for Democrats to the Republican Party.

The outlook for Republicans is bleak in the long run if they don't lure more minority voters, Abrajano notes, but solidifying the white vote could actually boost the party short-term.

Despite historically high numbers of new immigrants, native-born whites still account for 63 percent of the population and 75 percent of voters, she says.

What Abrajano describes as a "threat narrative" among conservative politicians and media tend to push white Democrats toward the Repubican Party.

"This narrative emphasizes cultural decline, immigrants’ use of welfare, health, and educational services, their propensity to turn to crime, and their tendency to displace native citizens from jobs," she writes.

The immigration debate has changed the Democratic Party from a primarily white working-class group to a largely black and Hispanic party, she says.

"In American history, the issue of race has traditionally been viewed through the lens of a black-white dichotomy," Abrajano writes. "That is no longer true today."

The conventional view, she says is that dramatic growth among minorities would add to that white working-class base and spell the end of the Republican Party.

"That may be true in the long term. But that prediction ignores the white population and the possibility of a widespread white backlash in the short term," she said.

Chris Cillizza, writing in The Washington Post, says Abrajano may be right. He points out that although Mitt Romney scored horribly among Hispanics in the 2012 presidential election, he hit a near-historic high of the white vote.

Republicans also won the white vote by 23 points in the 2010 midterms.

Republicans such as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, thought to be eyeing a 2016 White House bid, have made efforts to reach minorities. Paul has worked with Democratic New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker on legislation to restore civil rights to nonviolent ex-cons.

Paul also is proposing his own form of "enterprise zones" to revitalize inner cities such as Detroit.

Abrajano's theories suggest Paul's deadline, while still there, may not be as tight as many Republicans fear.

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