Demographic arguments stoke Republican rhetoric
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.