Tribal Voting Behavior Means The Republican Party Could Go The Way Of the Whigs
November 14, 2012 - 10:12 am
When I first moved to Old Town Alexandria, Virginia in 1980 there was a sign on a small office building that said National Headquarters for Veterans of World War I. Driving by that building always left me wondering when this distinguished organization would cease to exist.
Sure enough one day the sign was gone, replaced by a shiny new plaque for a law firm.
After the 2012 election results, I wonder if the Republican Party will suffer a similar fate?
Possibly, and here are two reasons why: tribal behavior and demographics with tribal behavior the more devastating of the two.
On November 13th in The New York Times under a subhead that read “MIND”, Richard A. Friedman, M.D. penned a piece entitled, Primal Emotions Come to Fore in Politics. Here, he describes the psychology behind group voting patterns. He says whether you vote for a Republican or a Democrat is NOT based on ideas alone.
Most people do not choose a political party by carefully analyzing its policies or even its track record for competence. Instead, some social scientists argue that people select their political party in early adulthood the way they choose their friends or social groups: They go for the party that has people who resemble themselves.
Once you’ve selected your party, you are likely to retrofit your beliefs and philosophy to align with it. In this sense, political parties are like tribes; membership in the tribe shapes your values and powerfully influences your allegiance to the group.
So strong is the social and emotional bond among members of a political tribe that they are likely to remain loyal to their party even when they give it low marks for performance. Yankees fans don’t jump ship when their team loses any more than Republicans switch parties when they lose an election.
Here is a personal example of Dr. Friedman’s theory in action. Recently I asked my 86-year-old mother why she voted Democrat her entire life and her explanation was rather simple, “Everyone I knew voted Democrat and I was always one who went along with the crowd.”
My mother’s reasoning also explains why there is so much continuing loyalty to the Democrat Party within the African-American community.
Tribal voting patterns are also prevalent among younger voters.
Within my extended family that is spread across the nation, those in their thirties or younger would not dare vote for Romney or any Republican. They know it is not cool to vote for a party that wants to turn back the clock. Democrats after all are young and hip. This sums up what Dr. Friedman wrote: They go for the party that has people who resemble themselves.
Certainty this phenomenon has been prevalent among Jewish voters, teachers, gays and union members for decades. Now even Asian-American voters went 73% tribal for Obama.
But none of this “voter group think” compares with how Hispanic demographics will surely land the Republican Party next to the Whig Party in the history books, considering that 50,000 Hispanics will turn 18 every month for the next two decades.
With Obama last week garnering 75% of the Hispanic vote, you can be sure that Team Obama (or its successor) will know their names, where they live and will be at their doorstep with a birthday cupcake and a voter registration form.
It is painfully obvious that Democrats fully embrace the sheer strength and pull of tribal politics and there is not much Republicans can do about it.
If you want to call me a naysayer then go right ahead, but before you do, read what newly elected Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz told Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker:
In not too many years, Texas could switch from being all Republican to all Democrat…If that happens, no Republican will ever again win the White House. New York and California are for the foreseeable future unalterably Democrat. If Texas turns bright blue, the Electoral College math is simple. We won’t be talking about Ohio, we won’t be talking about Florida or Virginia, because it won’t matter. If Texas is bright blue, you can’t get to two-seventy electoral votes. The Republican Party would cease to exist. We would become like the Whig Party. Our kids and grandkids would study how this used to be a national political party. ‘They had Conventions, they nominated Presidential candidates. They don’t exist anymore.’
If you are looking to me for any explanations about how the GOP can save itself I do not have any. But I do know that Bible based principles, the basis for more traditional thinking on social issues WILL NOT CHANGE and neither will Republican beliefs that less government, lower taxes and more personal responsibility is better for our nation’s future.
So unless there is a dramatic shift in our nation’s tribal voting behavior you can expect that shiny brass sign on the Republican National Committee headquarters to eventually be replaced by a law firm with either all Asian or Hispanic partners.