Repub­li­can fail­ure comes down to eco­nom­ics

“Call it the tyranny of the crosstab: Republicans look at the polls that show a group vot­ing against them, and then take the men­tal short­cut of as­sum­ing it's mainly be­cause of some is­sue dis- tinc­tive to that group.”

The Pak Banker - - Front Page - Ramesh Pon­nuru

REPUBLICANS are en­gaged in some pub­lic "soul-search­ing," which is what we usu­ally call it when mem­bers of a de­feated party ex­plain that the party went wrong by not tak­ing the ad­vice they've been giv­ing all along. One of the most com­mon ar­gu­ments at the mo­ment is that de­mog­ra­phy has be­come doom for Republicans. The party is wor­ried pri­mar­ily about three groups: His­pan­ics, women and young peo­ple. To court His­pan­ics, many Republicans think they need to change their poli­cies on im­mi­gra­tion. For women, it's their ap­proach to abor­tion and con­tra­cep­tion. For young peo­ple, same-sex mar­riage.

While there is some­thing to each of these ar­gu­ments, Republicans are mak­ing a mis­take by think­ing about vot­ers in these cat­e­gories.

The root of the party's elec­toral chal­lenge isn't de­mo­graph­ics: It's eco­nom­ics. Call it the tyranny of the cross-tab: Republicans look at the polls that show a group vot­ing against them, and then take the men­tal short­cut of as­sum­ing it's mainly be­cause of some is­sue dis­tinc­tive to that group.

One re­sult is to over­sim­plify re­al­ity: to ob­scure the facts that mar­ried women tend to vote Repub­li­can, for ex­am­ple, as do young evangelical Chris­tians. Race, sex and age influence but don't de­ter­mine how peo­ple will vote -- and the influence is of­ten sub­tler than gen­er­ally as­sumed.

Repub­li­can views on im­mi­gra­tion, and the way they ex­press those views, must play a role in how poorly Republicans do with His­pan­ics. Republicans haven't found a way to re­as­sure con­ser­va­tive vot­ers that the coun­try will re­spect the rule of law with­out also mak­ing His­pan­ics think that the party is hos­tile to them. A way out of this predica­ment doesn't im­me­di­ately sug­gest it­self.

Even if a so­lu­tion were found, though, the grow­ing num­ber of His­panic vot­ers would continue to mean trou­ble for Republicans. His­pan­ics are dis­pro­por­tion­ately poor and unin­sured. And like peo­ple of other races in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions, they tend to have views on eco­nomic pol­icy that align with the Democrats. In Cal­i­for­nia, for ex­am­ple, His­pan­ics helped get Demo­cratic Gover­nor Jerry Brown's tax in­creases ap­proved on Elec­tion Day. A Repub­li­can Party that is as­so­ci­ated with re­peal­ing Obama's health-care leg­is­la­tion -- and not with any al­ter­na­tive plan to get peo­ple health in­sur­ance -- is go­ing to get trounced among these vot­ers.

Pub­lic sup­port for same-sex mar­riage has risen a lot, among young peo­ple es­pe­cially, and the Repub­li­can Party will have to soften its op­po­si­tion to it. Again, though, there is an eco­nomic di­men­sion to the party's trou­ble. Young peo­ple are also less eco­nom­i­cally se­cure than the mid­dleaged and the re­tired who vote Repub­li­can more fre­quently. That has to play a role in the way they vote. What have Republicans up and down the ticket of­fered to ad­dress the con­cerns of eco­nom­i­cally stressed young peo­ple? A vague prom­ise to cre­ate more jobs; an en­ti­tle­ment re­form that, even viewed char­i­ta­bly, would do noth­ing for them here and now.

There aren't many Republicans who think it's smart for can­di­dates to let op­po­si­tion to abor­tion in cases of rape be­come a ma­jor is­sue in cam­paigns. That stance is un­pop­u­lar among women and men alike (slightly more among men, ac­cord­ing to a Gallup Poll). Elec­tions have gen­er­ally shown that even Repub­li­can politi­cians who fa­vor le­gal abor­tion do worse among women than among men. Se­na­tor Scott Brown of Mas­sachusetts, one of those Republicans, did 12 points worse as he was de­feated. (Mitt Rom­ney did only 8 points worse.)

Al­though polls don't find dif­fer­ences be­tween men and women on what ev­ery­one calls "women's is­sues," they do find dif­fer­ences on pol­icy is­sues we don't usu­ally con­sider in terms of gen­der.

Women are more lib­eral on health care, on de­fense spend­ing and on an­tipoverty pro­grams. A smarter ap­proach to abor­tion, how­ever nec­es­sary for Republicans, won't change that. The com­mon theme here is that the cur­rent Repub­li­can eco­nomic mes­sage isn't very com­pelling to any of these groups. If Republicans ad­dressed that prob­lem, they would find their num­bers im­prov­ing in all of these groups, and out­side them too. White, work­ing-class vot­ers, who sup­ported Rom­ney for pres­i­dent but seem to have had low turnout, might have shown up in greater num­bers if Republicans had re­tooled on eco­nom­ics.

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