Republicans face political obscurity

Last updated 05:00 11/11/2012

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Barack Obama's presidential election victory marked a new era in American politics.

Obama's victory and the Democrats retention of the Senate majority did not indicate the triumph of liberalism in American politics but the triumph of American demographics in favour of the Democratic party.

White American voters were 74 per cent of the voting population and they voted for Mitt Romney.

Latino voters hit double digits for the first time in US Election history and 71 per cent of Latinos voted for Barack Obama.

Ninety-six per cent of African Americans voted for him, too.

You add to this electoral math the changing demographics in Texas and what they will likely do to its 38 electoral votes, and it is quite clear that the Republic Party faces political obscurity if it doesn't evolve and adapt to the new environment.

Over the past four years the more extreme conservative aspects of the political party became more vocal and more visible.

Republican party leadership followed suit hoping that the energising its more conservative base would see its supporters come out in droves to vote out the 'divisive' Obama and elect a conservative presidential candidate who could be trusted to guide the sputtering economy out of recession by getting the Government out of the way of private enterprise.

The problem for Republicans was that although the base was energised, the total size of the base was simply not large enough to overcome the colourful political coalition of racial minorities, women, and youth that Obama had built. As has been stated repeatedly in the North American media, Republicans have a tough mountain to climb because Latinos simply feel unwelcome.

The Republican party will likely undergo some soul searching over the next week to try and understand how they were unable to unseat a man who presided over an economy with unemployment hovering around 8 per cent.

The task that the Republican party faces is larger than they could imagine. The Democratic party will build on their momentum within the Latino community by proposing comprehensive immigration reform that will force the Republican party to either grant President Obama a significant victory or appear to resist immigration reform, building further distrust with the fastest growing demographic in the US.

The greatest challenge is the internal fight over the heart of the party. The United States' use of political primaries allows rank and file Republican party members to elect House, Senate and presidential candidates to compete in the upcoming mid-terms.

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A repeat performance in Indiana where six-term Republican Senator Richard Lugar was unseated by Richard Mourdock, a Tea Party candidate who was gaffe-prone and made unsettling claims about rape and abortion, led to Democrat Joe Donnelly taking a previously safe Republican seat. Since 2010 the Tea Party has cumulatively cost Republicans six seats in the Senate. So can the Republican party change?

This election confirmed that the Republican party needed to become more centrist, more moderate and, most importantly, become more inclusive of racial minorities.

First of all, leaders within the Republican party need to change the tenor of the party and reform the party's platform so that it no longer relies on white middle class males. But, most importantly they need to convince rank and file members that this is necessary for the survival of the party.

If they fail the next Republican presidential candidate will be forced to tact sharply to the right allowing Democrats to frame the next candidate in the same way that Mitt Romney was framed as a capitalist extremist so early.

So perhaps this election and the demographic change it revealed will stop gridlock in US politics by forcing Republicans to become more accommodating. Then again, maybe it won't...

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