Texas, Arizona and our very own Georgia have cemented themselves in the American collective consciousness as conservative strongholds. However, due to an array of demographic shifts, that reputation is poised to change, and if the Republican Party wishes to survive this societal transition, it will need to alter its policy goals. Instead of doubling down on appealing to the American South, Republicans must drastically modify their economic policy to appeal to moderate working-class voters in the Midwest. Otherwise, they stand to become unelectable and all the other ideals they claim to value may slowly erode by means of liberal governance.
The Republican Party is currently sitting on thin ice with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) carrying the state of Texas by less than three points, Gov. Brian Kemp winning Georgia’s gubernatorial election by only 54,723 votes (despite using some, admittedly, shady tactics) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) becoming the first Democrat to represent Arizona in the Senate in over two decades. Republicans should be seriously worried if they want to retain a presence on the national political stage.
The big question is, of course, why are these former bastions of right-wing ideology turning purple? Three primary factors are contributing to the decline of Republican support in these states: urbanization, proportional growth of racial minority populations in places such as Texas, Arizona and Georgia as well as migration from left-leaning states. These phenomena all serve to bolster the size of the Democratic base within these states given that urbanites, minorities and people from liberal states tend to favor the Democratic Party. Republicans must now compete harder with Democrats to gain votes given that these trends show no sign of slowing down in their core states.
If Texas turns blue, the Republican Party will be in some serious trouble. Without the state’s 38 electoral votes, winning a national election might just be impossible. Conservatives may try to recover the state but that would be incredibly difficult. For one, urbanization and internal migration cannot be effectively curbed through legislation. Even if Republicans were given free rein over immigration policy, as of 2017 liberal-supporting minority populations tend to have higher birth rates than white populations, thus cementing a majority-minority demographic shift. We must accept that Texas, Georgia and many other states like them may become Democratic territory.
If you hold conservative views, then this may come across as demoralizing. But rest assured, there is hope for a Republican resurgence elsewhere. To survive, the party must ditch the near-religious worship of the free market, get out of bed with massive corporations, put our workers first and embrace a policy of economic nationalism to appeal to middle America’s working class. Donald Trump’s performance in the 2016 presidential election, especially in the typically Democratic-leaning Midwest, is evidence of this strategy’s viability. Trump’s success in union-heavy, industrial states like Pennsylvania and Michigan can largely be attributed to his campaign’s unorthodox economic policy. By campaigning to put the American worker above massive corporations through tariffs and protectionist trade deals to “bring back” industry, the president convinced otherwise moderate working-class people to vote for him despite his far-right ideologies. This is a winning formula, as it allows Republicans to retain many of their views while also successfully coping with the challenges presented by a shifting electorate.
Even though many of the demographic trends harming Republicans’ success rates persist in the Midwest, they’re far less pronounced, which makes the region an attractive long-term investment for the party.
Not all conservatives like the idea of government interference in the market, and those concerns might be valid given that Trump’s efforts to combat outsourcing have netted meager returns. That said, Republicans cannot expect to survive as a party if they don’t make concessions to voters outside of their current base. Electability in the face of demographic transition poses an existential threat to the Republican Party. Unless Republicans expand their electorate, which economic populism accomplishes, everything they claim to stand for may suffer a slow, painful death at the hands of the Democratic Party.
As conservatives, we should not be willing to risk the survival of our constitutional rights to ensure that some faceless corporation can turn a slightly larger profit.
Robert Schmad (23C) is from Kennewick, Wash.