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The Future of the Republican Party

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The symbols for crisis in Chinese are made up of two words: Wei ji: "Wei" means danger/peril and "ji" means opportunity/crucial point. So taken together literally wei plus ji means "danger" with "opportunity."

These Chinese symbols express the situation in which the Republican Party finds itself after the 2012 elections. If the Party does not manage its policy and political choices wisely in the next twelve months, it may find itself largely as a minority, opposition party for the next decade or longer.

Exit polls indicate that a key to President Obama's re-election victory was winning 93% of the African-American vote, 71% of the Hispanic vote, and 73% of the Asian vote.

Romney garnered 59% of the white vote: A greater percentage than the 56% that Ronald Reagan received in 1980 and the same as George H.W Bush did in 1988 (59%). Romney's margin among white voters almost tied the record 60% that Dwight Eisenhower received in 1952. And still it was not enough nor will it ever be enough because of seismic demographic shifts that are transforming the US.

The Democratic Party hold on the African-American vote has been strong and seemingly unshakeable. But the Republican Party demonstrated an ability to compete for the Hispanic vote: In 2000 President George W. Bush received 35% of the Hispanic vote and then in 2004 increased his margin to 44%.

In contrast, Mitt Romney, who espoused hard-line immigration measures, received a smaller margin of Hispanic votes than any presidential candidate in the past 16 years. It also was a particularly dramatic departure from the 44% received by President Bush in 2004 after he embraced immigration reform.

Opposition to the "Dream Act" by many Republicans made it almost impossible for the party to appeal to young, Hispanic voters. The Dream Act sought to allow immigrants brought to the United States by undocumented parents as children to find a path to citizenship and to continue their education into college and beyond.

It is the most innocuous form of immigration reform and yet the Republican Party rejected it. The vitriolic anti-immigrant rhetoric of many prominent Republicans is undoubtedly alienating several important and growing voting blocs.

The 2010 Census estimated that 50.5 million Hispanics live in the United States. Hispanics account for 16.3% of the total U.S. population. This population, which numbered 35.3 million in 2000, grew by 43% over the decade. The U.S. population as a whole grew by only 9.7% in that period of time consequently, the Hispanic population growth accounted for most of the nation's overall growth (56%) from 2000 to 2010.

Geographically, most Hispanics still live in nine states that have large, long-standing Latino communities -- Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York and Texas -- but the share living in other states, including swing states, has been growing. Eight states (California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Arizona, New Jersey, and Colorado) have a Hispanic population of a million or more.

Hispanics constituted 10 percent of the voters who went to the polls in 2012. In key swing states, the margins of Hispanics voting in favor of the President were overwhelming: 58% to 40% in Florida; 87% to 10% in Colorado; 80% to 17% in Nevada; and 66% to 31% in Virginia. If Governor Romney had received the 44 percent of the Hispanic vote that George W. Bush obtained in 2004, the outcome of the election may have been dramatically different, especially if the Republican Party had performed well among another significant demographic: Asians.

Between the 2000 Census and 2010 Census, the number of people identifying as Asian or Asian plus another race rose 45.6%: A total of 17.3 million people or 5.6% of the US population. Four million respondents identified as Chinese or Chinese in combination with another race or ethnicity, forming the largest single ethnic group. In second place were Filipinos, with 3.4 million. There were 3.2 million Asian Indian respondents, and Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese respondents each numbered one million or more.

The New York City metropolitan area, including Northern New Jersey, had the highest number of Asians in the US, with 1.1 million. The New York Metro's most numerous Asian ethnicities were Asian Indian and Chinese. Next largest came Los Angeles (484,000, with Chinese and Filipino forming the biggest subgroups) and San Jose, California (327,000, the most of whom were Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino or Vietnamese).

Asian Americans made the most dramatic shift in support for President Obama: An 11-point increase from 62% in 2008 to 73% in 2012. Asians accounted for 3% of the electorate – up from 2% in 2008 – but in 2012 they voted as a block and this made them a key component of the Democratic Party coalition, especially in swing states like Virginia, Florida and Colorado.

The GOP will not be able to breach the Democrats electoral blue wall without appealing to Hispanic and Asian voters. The blue wall encompasses the states from Maryland to Maine; the three West Coast states; and Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, and Hawaii (plus the District of Columbia). These states (18) and the District of Columbia have voted for the Democratic nominee in the last five presidential elections. This "blue wall" is worth 248 electoral votes -- 90% of the 270 it takes to win the White House.

Together Hispanics and Asians constitute almost 68 million people or almost 22% of the population of the US. These two groups have been growing at an almost 50% rate every 10 years. The US population as a whole has been growing by approximately 10% each decade (with Asians and Hispanics contributing about 60% of the overall growth).

If the GOP cannot find a voice with which to speak to this demographic, the Democratic Party electoral blue wall could become a Great Wall of China that Republicans will be unable to breach for decades to come. That would be unfortunate because the Republican Party has many good ideas and candidates to offer our nation.

An icon of conservatism, Adam Smith, laid the foundations for modern economics with the assumption that an individual's actions are motivated by self-interest. In other words, individuals are rational economic beings whose actions are driven by incentives or rewards which should not leave them worse off in the end.

In 2012, Hispanics and Asians behaved according to their rational self-interest. As a committed Republican, I will continue to vote for the party and to toil in the vineyards for its candidates. All I ask of the GOP is to give Latino and Asian Republicans the policies and the message with which to fight the good fight.

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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