Demographic arguments stoke Republican rhetoric

Friday 11/12/2015
Trump is greeted by supporters before speaking at campaign rally

WASHINGTON - The 2016 Republican presi­dential campaign, led by Donald Trump and Ben Carson, has spiralled out of control, with insults and slurs flying in all directions. Muslims have received a lot of it but they are not alone.
First, Trump insulted Latinos by calling immigrants from Mexico and Latin America “rapists” and killers. Then he moved to Muslims, calling for closing mosques in the United States and advocating for a database to register all Muslims in the country. He repeated this argu­ment the day US President Barack Obama addressed the nation about the mass shooting in California. Trump then called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States.
Trump offended others recently by impersonating and mocking a disabled journalist and using ste­reotypes while speaking to Jewish Republicans.
Carson has not refrained from in­sults either. First, he said a Muslim cannot be a president of the United States because Islam in not com­patible with the US constitution. Then he used an unfortunate anal­ogy about “rabid dogs” when dis­cussing Syrian refugees, compared the Obamacare health insurance programme to slavery and fabri­cated items on his résumé.
Despite all this, the polls of Re­publican primary voters showed Trump leading the field with 36% support, followed by US Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at 16% and Car­son in third place at 14%.
In the case of Trump, the more outrageous his statements are the higher his poll ratings seem to rise. Political pundits are baffled as to why two candidates who in the past would have been considered “fringe” elements are together claiming 50% of Republican voters.
A recent Pew Research poll might have some of the answers as to why this election cycle has become so dysfunctional, ugly and unsettled less than two months before the first primaries.
The poll found that for the first time white Christians in America are not a majority, standing at 46% of the population, down from 55% in 2007. And these white Christians overwhelmingly call the Republi­can Party home.
The research showed that seven in ten “white Christians” identify with or lean towards the Repub­licans. Non-white Christians, ac­cording to the poll, who represent 32% of the population, strongly identify with or lean towards Dem­ocrats, as do the vast majority of non-Christian Americans as well as Americans with no religious affilia­tion.
The Pew poll shows that the growing diversity and changing demographics in the United States are changing American politics by making white Christians more in­secure and hardening their politi­cal views. As the report states, as “their numbers dwindle and their influence recede they are mov­ing to the right”. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne wrote: “The country’s changing demography angers and frightens many [Repub­licans].”
In short, the Republican Party is becoming the party of white Chris­tian America, while the Democratic Party more resembles the country’s future demographic make-up.
According to an analysis by the National Journal, this situation “provides Republicans with elec­toral challenges: They face tension between balancing the morally conservative preferences of their religiously devout base, with the deepening instinct towards cul­tural tolerance of a society that is growing more secular, particularly among the young”.
Alternatively, “Democrats must weigh the culturally liberal in­stincts of their now mostly secular wing of upscale whites with the often traditional inclinations of their African-American and Lati­no-American supporters, who are more likely than white Democrats to identify with the Christian faith.”
This election cycle is different be­cause America is different. Trans­formational forces dictated by the changing demographic landscape are giving birth to a new political reality.
The white Christian American Republicans will likely choose a candidate that reflects their fears and anxieties about their status in the country and Trump is at the moment capturing that.
While the leadership of the Re­publican Party remains in denial about Trump’s chances of secur­ing the nomination, 2016 may be the year in which the new America starts to emerge: a rain­bow of American colours, races and beliefs competing for the soul of the nation against a white Christian America that feels in­creasingly besieged and is moving more to the right to protect what it sees as its fleeting political for­tunes.
If this remains the case after the February primaries, we are likely to see another Democrat in the White House.