— By David Lampo
Contributors to this blog have long stressed the critical need for the Republican Party to adopt a new social tolerance in place of the raw anti-gay bigotry many in the party have promoted for at least several decades. If Republicans are to have a future as a national political party capable of winning the presidency, they must begin to shed the regressive social views promoted by a minority of Republicans as expressed in the party platform, not just about gay rights but also about abortion and immigration.
This political fact was highlighted by Washington Post columnist Dan Balz in a very revealing essay on January 19 entitled “GOP faces uphill climb to 270 votes in 2016,” in which he sets forth the increasingly difficult, if not impossible, math of Republicans winning the Electoral College vote in the next presidential election. He itemizes the states that were once considered toss-ups in the presidential races from 1980 to 2000 and how most of them are now reliably Democrat. Those states now account for 147 electoral votes: “What has happened to those once-contested states highlights the dramatic change that has taken place since, namely a shift of some major states toward the Democrats,” he wrote.
California, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, all states once considered up for grabs, are now considered solid blue states. Five more, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia, are moving toward the Democrats, according to William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution: Obama won all of them except North Carolina. As Balz points out, over the past six presidential elections, Republicans averaged just 211 Electoral College votes, far short of the 270 required to win. Mitt Romney won only 206 votes.
The lesson from this could not be more obvious. With the percentage of pro-gay rights and pro-gay marriage voters growing nationwide, the increasing number of minority voters in key states, and the overwhelming Democratic advantage among younger voters and women, Republican victory in presidential races will require a decisive change in the intolerant and anti-individual rights stance of the Republican Party on gay rights and other major social issues in order to reclaim at least some of the states once considered battlegrounds. Younger Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are all ready on board with social tolerance. The question is: will the party change fast enough to avoid cementing its reputation as the permanent minority party in presidential contests?