The GOP’s Demographic Time-Bomb

May 1 2013 @ 3:03pm

Nate Silver’s demographic and immigration reform calculator is worth a look. The graphic below shows what happens if you apply the model’s defaults to the next 35 years:

Demographic Calculator

Silver explains how immigration reform could change these calculations:

Suppose, for example, that the voter population grows in accordance with the defaults assumed in the model. This would produce a net of 6.3 million new votes for Democrats by 2028.

And suppose that 25 percent of the immigrants currently here illegally gain citizenship and vote by 2028. The model calculates that this would provide another 1.2 million votes for Democrats.

But suppose also that, as a result of immigration reform, the Republicans go from winning about 28 percent of the Hispanic vote and 24 percent of the Asian vote (as they did in 2012) to 35 percent of each group by 2028. That would shift about 4.8 million votes back to the G.O.P. — about four times more than it lost from the immigrants becoming citizens and voting predominantly Democratic. However, it wouldn’t be enough to outweigh the Democratic gains from long-term population growth.

Douthat thinks that immigration reform can help the GOP “only if such a reform somehow complemented a new conservative economic agenda rather than posing a substitute for one.” He isn’t holding his breath:

I can imagine an immigration overhaul finding a place in a broader right-of-center vision that’s geared toward reassuring blue-collar whites, enticing middle-income Hispanics, and boosting new immigrants into the middle class.

But that vision doesn’t exist at the moment, and it isn’t likely to emerge in a world where the Congressional G.O.P. can’t even manage to take baby steps toward an Obamacare alternative. And so long as that’s the case, the kind of immigration reform being contemplated is likely to be worse for the G.O.P. politically than a similar bill would have been under George W. Bush. For all his faults, Bush understood that his party couldn’t win over Hispanics — or any economically-vulnerable constituency — without substantive as well as symbolic overtures. Right now, his successors seemed poised to learn that lesson the hard way.