The party never ends.

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Catch of the Day: GOP After White Majority

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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A Catch to Jamelle Bouie at Slate for pointing out why demographic challenges won't destroy the Republican Party.

Bouie, responding to a Politico article about how older Republican voters are dying at higher rates than their Democratic counterparts, understands how this all works: 

In the medium term, Republicans will begin to make up for the death rate of their most loyal supporters. Eventually, the GOP will find a working national majority, even if the country becomes as brown and liberal as some analysts project. Put differently, the real question of Republicans and elderly voters isn’t if the party will die -- the only time a major party “died” is when it was killed by sectional disputes around slavery -- it’s whether a future, younger Republican Party will still have a conservative movement.

Or, looked at a different way, the conservative movement isn’t going away; it is just going to adapt. How? We don’t know! There are too many “it depends” here for anyone to take a guess.  

Political parties are (among other things) conspiracies of interests to control government and enact policies. Parties in the U.S. tend to be permeable. Over time, new groups can join and, by doing so, change what the party wants to do. At the same time, parties tend to be stable, because there are costs for groups in exiting and entering, and because the winners in previous rounds of intraparty conflict have advantages when the next round comes along. Overall, however, the parties are fairly good at integrating new groups, new interests and new ideas. That's how true democracy is made.

We can speculate about the future of many issues. If the Supreme Court makes marriage equality the law of the land, it could quickly die out as a political controversy. Abortion, on the other hand, will remain divisive. Do Christian conservatives stop fighting marriage policy and focus instead on open areas of conflict, maintaining their current position in the Republican Party? Or do they stick to their increasingly unpopular stance on marriage, and wind up as more of a fringe group? We can't know.

But we can predict that over time the Republican Party (and the Democratic Party) will adapt to new demographic trends and emerging issues -- whatever they turn out to be.

The happenstances of electoral politics will matter, too. At some point, a Democratic president will be unpopular (as Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter were), and young people of the time will become Republicans, a shift that will inject new players into the party and change it.

So, on the whole: Nice catch!

  1. And when they fail to do so -- as they did, for example, in locking black citizens out of both parties for decades -- the nation becomes, through that failure, a lot less democratic.

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net