In his compelling new book R.I.P. GOP: How The New America Is Dooming The Republicans, Stan Greenberg reveals the deep generational, demographic, and ideological trends that are creating a new country where the old ruling dynamics no longer hold. Bringing to bear his decades of experience as pollster, consultant, analyst, and activist — bolstered by his own focus groups and survey data — Greenberg not only tells us why these changes are occurring but where they lead us politically, starting next year. It’s an optimistic message for America: White nationalism is the curse of the past, and multicultural democracy is the wave of the future.
The Republicans’ counter-revolution has been animated by deep worries about America’s rapidly changing demography. Well, it turns out, they were not imagining or exaggerating. They have good reason to believe revolutionary changes are reshaping the country irretrievably.
The most important change is immigration. The globe has witnessed a massive, growing international migration over the last ten years. Migrants in the aftermath of the Syrian civil war ended up primarily in Europe in the most recent count, but before that fully one in five ended up in America, most coming from Mexico, China, India, and the Philippines.
Looking to the states, over a quarter of California’s population is now foreign born, as is over or near 20 percent in New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Nevada. Foreign-born people now comprise about 40 percent of the residents in New York City and Los Angeles and a majority in Miami; at over 20 percent they are a strong presence in Chicago and Seattle.
Immigration is where globalization makes itself felt most directly, impacting the labor markets, demand on public services, and the mean- ing of citizenship. That is why Trump made immigration issue number one in his campaign, resisted any calls to help Dreamers or refugees, and proposed reducing legal immigration quotas.
Nonetheless, after Trump’s first year in office, the percentage of foreign born rose to its highest level since 2010, over 40 percent now from Asia. The number of undocumented immigrants dropped and net migration from Mexico was negative, yet the growing foreignness was just as important to his war on immigrants.
The Republican counterrevolution was also grounded in the decline of rural America and the growing dynamism of the metropolitan areas.
But no number of presidential trips to West Virginia, Montana, and Indiana will stall for a millisecond the growing movement of populations and the younger generations to the metropolitan areas across the country. The suburbs have grown 16 percent since 2000 and the cities by 13 percent, the rural areas by just three percent. Contributing signify to the metropolitan growth was the moving in of foreign-born migrants, five million to the suburbs and seven million to the urban areas.
Major businesses and people are moving into metropolitan areas and even into the inner cities, attracted by the urbanism, universities and research institutions, culture, and the growing immigrant and racial diversity—all the ingredients that stir the GOP’s counter-revolution.
President Trump embraced every emotive policy priority of the GOP’s evangelical base, but none of it would slow America’s growing secularism.
Every religious denomination is coping with drops in the number who are religiously observant, with the exception of the evangelicals. “No religion” is now the fastest growing faith in the religious census. More than one in five Americans identify as secular; they outnumber the mainline Protestants. The traditional family at the heart of the social conservative vision is giving way in the face of profound changes in marriage, child rearing, and women working to produce a growing pluralism of family types. Younger people are delaying marriage, having fewer children, and fewer are getting married at all. Barely half of American adults are married.
Three quarters of women are now in the labor force, and two thirds are the principal or co-breadwinner. Without much help from government for childcare, health care, or parental leave, working women put in a lot more hours than men doing childcare and household work.
White working-class men over the last three decades have struggled to get the jobs that would get them into the middle class, which previous generations could count on. They marry later, some not at all, or get divorced. Their incomes have gone down and many have withdrawn from the labor force—and that is before we get to those who succumb to drugs and have other issues.
So when Fox News commentators ask what family issue tops the public agenda, it is how you ensure pay equity for working women, not how you get back to a patriarchal family.
The triumph of the millennials is the last straw for the conservative agenda, and why it is so urgent the GOP stop the New America from governing. After all, millennials have displaced the baby boomers as the largest generation and will form 36 percent of the eligible voter population in 2020, 45 percent in 2024. And Generation Z, who were born after 1996 and were 13 to 21 years old in 2018, will be larger still, sealing the generational revolution.
If you want to see the changing face of America, look to the millennials. About 40 percent of millennials are racial minorities, and now 17 percent of their new marriages are interracial. Most describe President Obama as mixed race, not African-American or black. They just take for granted America’s multiculturalism. That attitude extends to gay marriage, supported by something near 80 percent of millennials.Two thirds of millennials with a four-year college degree have already moved to one of the 51 largest cities.
So Republican Congressman and white nationalist sympathizer Steve King could have been describing America at large when the new Congress convened in January 2019, the Democratic side of the House including a record number of women, African-Americans, and the first Muslim and Native American women, and he observed, “You look over there and think the Democratic Party is no country for white men.”
The New America Responds
As the GOP’s intensifying battle to keep the New America from governing became unabashedly anti-immigrant, racist, and sexist under President Trump’s leadership, the New America responded in real time.
Soon after Trump’s election, I discovered I could not put Clinton and Trump voters in the same room, because the Clinton, anti-Trump voter had become more vocal and assertive, sometimes disbelieving and rude. The same must have been happening across the country.
By the 70-day mark, the anti-Trump women pushed back against Trump voters in conversation, even when outnumbered in the room. The moderator had to make an effort to bring Trump voters into the conversation to ensure the outnumbered Clinton voters did not dominate the discussion and so the Trump voters could be heard. This turned out to be an unintended test of the strength of their views and resolve to resist.
Amazingly, at the seventy-day mark into the Trump presidency, the anti-Trump voters in these groups were bringing up the off-year elections to be held in 2018. Their doubts about Trump dominated their outlook, and they used words like “flabbergasted,” “devastated,” and “terrified” to describe how they felt about the country right now.
The Trump presidency so invaded the public’s consciousness that it was hard to talk to previously disengaged and unregistered unmarried women, people of color, and millennials without them going right to Trump.
They were being pulled into the political debate by members of their families who wanted them to pick a side. These were people who said they “are not interested in politics” and in the past, some avoided political decisions they didn’t feel informed enough to defend before their more passionate family members. Others, particularly the African-American men and women were “more likely to vote, now, because I hear my mom on my head about voting” (African-American woman, Detroit). The Hispanic women were most likely to say they were sharing information with their families and friends because “we don’t want to make the same mistake twice” (Hispanic millennial woman, Orlando).
This new engagement made itself felt first on immigration, where every Trump outrage increased the proportion of Americans who said, we are an immigrant country.
Voters do want the country to better manage immigration, but this stoking the anti-immigrant fire will end badly for Trump’s GOP. The proportion believing immigrants “strengthen the country with their hard work and talents” surged to 65 percent. Just as Trump was charging that immigrants fueled gangs and included murderers and rapists, the proportion who said immigrants “burden the country by taking jobs, housing, and health care” plummeted to just 26 percent in mid-2017. Three quarters in mid-2018 favored granting permanent legal status to immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children. The country settled these issues. They are not contested.
America believes it is an immigrant country, but Trump’s election as an anti-immigrant candidate and his daily anti-immigrant provocations, unchallenged by his own party, made us all uncertain what Americans really believe. Well, individually, Americans recognize in larger numbers the benefits of immigration and, collectively, they have rushed to airports to protest the Muslim travel ban, to welcome refugees, and to protest babies being separated from their mothers at the Mexican border.
Suddenly, over 60 percent of Americans believe the battle for equal rights is unfinished. In 2014, 63 percent supported affirmative action programs to help blacks and minorities get to a university, but that grew to 71 percent in 2017. Trump’s counterrevolution is producing a counter-clarity for the changed America.
Acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage has reached the level of a norm, surging to 70 percent for homosexuality and 62 percent for gay marriage. Just a quarter of the country believes homosexuality should be “discouraged”—the core conviction of evangelical Republicans.
Three in five Americans consistently believe that stricter environmental regulations are worth the cost, and four in five believe there is “solid evidence that the average temperature on Earth has gotten warmer.” Since the issue of climate change was broached at the beginning of the 2016 presidential election, that belief has jumped 13 points to 92 percent.
Republicans didn’t notice or care that two thirds of Americans believed “the economic system in this country unfairly favors powerful interests” and “economic inequality in the U.S.” is a very big or moderately big problem. Nearly 60 percent thought “business corporations make too much profit.”
Most telling was that at the beginning of 2018, as the Tea Party-dominated GOP made stopping government in its tracks its first mission, the proportion of people who wanted more government surged to its highest point in the twenty years of polling on this question by The Wall Street Journal and NBC News.
The GOP campaign against government has met its match in the New America.
From R.I.P. GOP by Stanley B. Greenberg. Copyright (c) 2019 by the author and reprinted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin’s Press.