The Future Has Arrived: Election Reveals America’s New Reality

For years, we’ve been told about America’s coming demographic shift. Election night proved that it’s here. But will a world where white men are no longer the majority force the conservative movement to become more diverse?

YES THEY DID: Supporters of President Barack Obama celebrated his election night victory at the McCormick Place rally in Chicago on Nov. 7, 2012. Obama defeated his Republican challenger Mitt Romney to win a second term in the White House. (Photo: Zhang Jun/Newscom)

Even more than the election that made Barack Obama the first black president, the one that returned him to office for a second term sent an unmistakable signal that the hegemony of the white male in America is over.

The long drive for broader social participation by all Americans reached a turning point in the 2012 election, which is likely to go down as a watershed in the nation’s social and political evolution, and not just because in some states voters approved of same-sex marriage for the first time.

On Tuesday, Obama received the votes of barely one in three white males. That, too, was historic. It almost certainly was an all-time low for the winner of a presidential election that did not include a major third-party candidate.

“We’re not in the ’50s any more,” said William Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer. “This election makes it clear that a single focus directed at white males, or at the white population in general, is not going to do it. And it’s not going to do it when the other party is focusing on energizing everybody else.”

How Obama Won

Exit-poll data, gathered from interviews with voters as they left their polling places, showed that Obama’s support from whites was four percentage points lower than 2008. But he won by drawing on a minority-voter base that was two percentage points larger, as a share of the overall electorate, than four years ago.

The president built his winning coalition on a series of election-year initiatives and issue differences with Republican challenger Mitt Romney. In the months leading up to the election, Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, unilaterally granted a form of limited legalization to young, undocumented immigrants and put abortion rights and contraception at the heart of a brutally effective anti-Romney attack ad campaign.

The result turned out to be an unbeatable combination: virtually universal support from black voters, who turned out as strongly as in 2008, plus decisive backing from members of the younger and fast-growing Latino and Asian-American communities, who chose Obama over Romney by ratios of roughly three-to-one. All of those groups contributed to Obama’s majority among women. (Although a far smaller group, gay voters went for Obama by a 54-point margin.)

“Obama lost a lot of votes among whites,” said Matt Barreto, a University of Washington political scientist. “It was only because of high black turnout and the highest Latino turnout ever for a Democratic president that he won.”

Obama planted his base in an America that is inexorably becoming more diverse. Unchecked by Republicans, these demographic trends would give the Democrats a significant edge in future presidential elections.

But, despite opposition from conservative religious movements, President Obama captured the votes of 30 percent of white evangelicals. What’s more, he once again won the Catholic vote — which some attribute to his strong support among Hispanic Catholics.

The Latino Effect

GOP SAVIOR: The Republican Party is counting on emerging superstars like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida to broaden its base. Rubio is a Latino conservative who supports immigration reform.

Latinos were an essential element of Obama’s victories in the battlegrounds of Nevada and Colorado. States once considered reliably Republican in presidential elections will likely become highly competitive because of burgeoning Latino populations, sometimes in combination with large black populations. North Carolina, where Obama won narrowly in 2008 and came close this time, is one. The Deep South state of Georgia is another. Texas and Arizona in the Southwest are future swing states, by 2020, if not sooner.

Besides demography, Obama had another edge: the superiority of the voter-tracking operation that his campaign built over the last six years, which generated increased turnout on Tuesday among young people and unmarried women.

“That was pure machinery. Hats off to them,” said Republican strategist Sara Fagen, a former Bush White House political aide. “Our party has a lot to learn and needs to invest very serious resources in improving our own machinery.”

But Democrats Have a White Problem

The election was not an unblemished success for Democrats, who face a potentially serious threat from the loss of white votes. “I don’t think you can be a major party and get down to support approaching only a third of the white population,” said demographer Frey. “In some ways, maybe, Obama dodged a bullet here. If the Republicans had made a little bit of an effort toward minorities and kept their focus on whites, they might have won.

Paul Maslin, a Democratic pollster, said that with Obama having run his last race, “we’ll have demographics working for us, but it is not going to be so easy to keep it patched tight. It’s going to fray.”

Without Obama on the ticket, socially conservative black voters might have been more inclined to follow the urgings of their ministers, who asked them to stay home to protest the Democrats’ endorsement of gay marriage.

But the Republican Party’s problems are more immediate, and much tougher to solve. Some GOP strategists have been warning for years about the risks of hitching the party’s fortunes to a shrinking share of the electorate.

What Should Republicans Do?

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who combines a tea-party pedigree with Latino heritage, said in a post-election statement that “the conservative movement should have particular appeal to people in minority and immigrant communities who are trying to make it, and Republicans need to work harder than ever to communicate our beliefs to them.”

Al Cardenas, a leading Republican fundraiser, said his party is “out of step with the demographic challenges of today.” Like Rubio, the Cuban-born Cardenas is close to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has long sought to broaden the party’s appeal to Latino voters and will be a prominent voice in the debate over the party’s future.

Romney’s chances ultimately depended on his ability to turn out a bigger white vote against Obama than Republican nominees received in earlier races. Eight years ago, Bush’s brother, President George W. Bush, defeated Democrat John Kerry by 17 percentage points among white voters and won re-election. Romney took the white vote by 20 percentage points and lost.

The difference: despite an aggressive voter-mobilization effort, the white share of the electorate has fallen to 72 percent, from 74 percent in 2008 and 77 percent in 2004.

What It Means

Viewed narrowly, this week’s election essentially left Washington untouched. A Democratic president will continue to battle a divided Congress. Within the halls of the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-led Senate, the balance of partisan power scarcely budged at all.

But pull back and a very different picture emerges. The civil rights, women’s and gay rights movements, designed to allow others to reach for power previously grasped only by white men, have made a real difference, and the outlines of 21st century America have emerged.

For more on how shifting demographics are changing the church, check out “The Culture Clasher,” our earlier interview with author Soong-Chan Rah, and “The Future Is Mestizo” by Duke Divinity School scholar Chris Rice. 

© 2012 Tribune Co. Distributed by MCT Information Services. Used by arrangement with  Newscom. Maeve Reston of the Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.

  1. Despite all odds, our President prevailed. He still has an uphill battle fighting a Red House which has blocked his every move in an attempt to squash his goals of bringing the Middle Class equal pay, women’s rights, gay rights and affordable healthcare. The Bush Administration drove our economy into a swift nose dive and Obama is still the patsy. Watch conservative hands paint him in Blackface with a visual commentary of how Barack has been bamboozled at

  2. That’s right – it’s Bush’s fault.

    When does the Left take any responsibilty for anything.

    Bush overspent??? Less than 500 billion in his worst year.

    Obama has spend over 1.3 Trillion in EACH year. By the end of his term is will be over 20 Trillion dollars. Do you think that you or your children or your childrens children will ever be able to pay this back. You have mortgaged their futures to have your present.

    Womens rights? So you voted for this countries demise so you could have your $9 birth control pills.

    In the history of earth, women have never had it as good as they have in the U.S.

    Try living in any 3rd world country – hey how about under the taliban. I am sure they have some berkas in terrific colors.

    By in large, they are doing better than men and it is a deeply, deeply dangerous time for women to be a woman in America?

    Everything coming from the Left is either false, hysterical, exaggerated, hate filled, demonizing or just wrong

    1) Many more men vs. women get murdered in the U.S.
    2) Many more men vs. women are in jail
    3) Many more men vs. women drop out of high school
    4) Many more women vs. men get a bachelors degree
    5) Are killed more
    6) Commit more suicides
    7) Take drugs more
    8) Die more
    9) They fail more

    But it is a dangerous time to be a woman.

    The only thing that is more reprehensible than portraying oneself as a victim, is when you’re not a victim and you portray youself as one.

    Any woman who feels oppressed in the U.S. is engaging in a willful act of self victimhood and self pity that is reprehensible.

    The Left is not interested in prosperity. They are interested in equality. If equality means, and it always means, a deeply reduced economic level for everybody so long as they are more or less equal – that is fine.

    Santa Clause has entered the building.

  3. The timetable has been set. Our nation, along with the followers of Christ, is now on the proverbial clock. In a generation of one-year-olds, we see our future and the full circle ramifications of its arrival. America was once a land inhabited by many types of Native Americans of Asian descent. Europeans were the sojourners and the Triangular Slave Trade brought Africans. From the southwest Navajo descendants of the Ancient Pueblo Peoples to the Iroquois of the Great Lakes – America displayed a rich ethnic variety.

    The early church established a Pentecost where the international contingent heard the good news of the gospel in a way that they could understand within their own cultures. The future of the church must be one of true Koinonia, which means “sharing with all things in common.” Bridging social capital is a modern way of describing the early church, especially at Antioch, where the early followers of Christ were first called Christians. This name characterized the union of Jews and Greeks by the bridging of their racial/cultural divide through Christ.

    We must not forget who the original Americans where and are. However, let’s not only remember but may we tare down the walls of division between all and begin “Building the Bridge Together”

    Great Blog Post!

    Kevin Robinson

  4. The problem with “Can’t we all get along” and comprimise and tear down divsions is that that ONLY works if both want to work on it honestly.

    Neither side is perfect here. Do you think you should give up your values? Do you think you should comprimise on what you believe?

    The Right has been portrayed as the party that won’t work on social issues which is absolutely not true. The right has been portrayed as greedy. They give way more than the Left and both money and time. They have been portrayed as sexist because they don’t believe in abortions. They have been portrayed has waging a war against women because they don’t think the government should pay for womens birth control (at about $9) a month – not that they shouldn’t have it just that the government should pay for it. The have been portrayed as racist because they don’t believe in illegal immigration. This is always changed to we don’t believe in immigration which is a lie.

    How do you have an honest discussion when you have this?

    The fact that the Left has convinced 50% of the people that their lies are fact doesn’t mean they are right.

    It is hard to overcome the built in balkanization of the country that the Left has successfully created. Where you don’t appeal to what is best about America and you just say there is a:

    1) War against blacks
    2) War against women
    3) War against hispanics
    4) War against gays
    5) War against young people

    Enough people in those groups then believe it and it is a very difficult hurdle to overcome.

    The Left believes in divide and conquer. They pander to each group and that goup then is concerned with what it wants instead of what is best for the country. Do you really think that $9 is best for the country???? Do you really think that abortion on demand is best for the country?

    This is what we are going to get following the Dems:

    1) You want to be like Europe
    2) You want to undo the American belief that the State should be as small as possible and the individual as important as possible
    3) If you want to push America toward increasing and unsustainable debt.
    4) If you want to divide America into ethnic, racial and gender interest groups.
    5) If you want the Gov’t to dictate more and more of your life
    6) If you want to weaken American military to unprecedented weak levels
    7) If you think that America is no more exceptional than Britain or Greece

    The problem ist that we didn’t get our message out well, which is difficult when half of the country only gets its news from the mainstream media. And our kids are spoon fed Lefttism from our public schools and colleges.

    Nearly half of the Cuban kids in Florida voted for Obama. The kids of the most conservative Latino group in American immigration history are becoming Liberal. And that is because they go to school here. And they watch TV. And they watch MTV. And they go to the movies. And they watch the news. They are as brainwashed as a non Latino.

    They are brainwashed or (to be PC) ideologically converted to Leftism when you attend American schools. This is true for public high schools in large urban centers and for colleges anywhere. The professors in the colleges all got their degrees from Left wing seminaries.

    The parents who know the evil of large government could not keep half of their children in one generation conservative. I want you to know the horrors of the far Left that I experienced in Cuba. Kids response: thanks but I learned in school that Left is correct. I don’t share your values.

    We really have come a long way from “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. And that was from the Democratic president (Kennedy), not a Leftist.

  5. “Do you think you should give up your values?”

    If that value is racism and white skin worship masquerading as Christianity, yes, we need to give up those values…Values represented by the Alumna of the University of Alabama in the following blog: