For years now, Democrats have believed that the country’s growing diversity will ultimately bolster voting numbers on their behalf at the polls. The idea that marginalized demographics are destined to vote for certain parties has been around for a long time, with the assumption that marginalized voters trends favor Democrats.
But a closer analysis of the 2020 election results calls into doubt that belief. As it turns out, just because the country is becoming more diverse doesn’t mean that it’s becoming more Democratic or liberal.
The idea that a diversifying population favors Democrats has had ample evidence to back it. Republicans have been relying on a shrinking number of white voters, and in particular voters without a college education.
“In the long run, the numbers are against” Republicans, a Los Angeles Times article concluded in 2015.
Once solidly red states like Virginia are now solidly blue, and other Republican-leaning states like Georgia and Arizona are often up for grabs. Meanwhile, elected Republicans are an endangered species in most large metropolitan areas.
Even states that have been out of reach for Democrats, like Texas, no longer seem so.
These changes are driven by demographics. Hispanics and Asian-American voters, two groups that have long trended Democratic, make up an increasing portion of the active electorate.
That’s the good news that the Democrats have relied on. But the bad news is — that demographics only go so far.
Part of the reason is because the growth in diversity across America has been concentrated in places that already lean Democratic. It’s not as if increasing diversity in California will make much of a difference at the margins, since Democrats there already control both houses of the state legislature and the governorship.
In case anyone needed a reminder of the dangers of sweeping generalizations, there’s no need to look further than the Hispanic vote last year in Texas and Florida. If Hispanic voters in those states had voted for Democrats at the same rate as Hispanic voters in other states did, Joe Biden would have carried both states.
Instead, Donald Trump actually made some slight gains among Mexican-Americans in rural Texas and Puerto Rican voters in Florida. That’s in spite of Trump giving those voters plenty of reasons to hate him, from his outright racism to his botched handling of the hurricane in Puerto Rico. Just as the South is more conservative generally, Latino voters there may be as well.
The irony here is that Republicans could make greater inroads with those voters if they weren’t so frightened of them. Right-wing media, led by the likes of Fox News, often relies upon the prejudices of white voters who see themselves being replaced by non-whites — or, to put it differently, they rely upon their oft-unveiled support for white supremacy.
At the same time, Republicans across the nation are doing their best to suppress voting, particularly by minority voters. Doing this may just as well suppress votes that would go to their candidates.
It’s not just minority voters who lean Republican. The restrictions may also make it harder for older voters to cast ballots, and older voters are more likely to be Republicans.
Currently, the electoral system is rigged against Democrats in many ways. The Electoral College gives outsized power to small rural states that are solidly Republican, and Republicans have often gerrymandered voting districts to give their party a guaranteed advantage.
The biggest hope Democrats have had is that the tide was turning in their favor, thanks to demographics. But it turns out, maybe the tide will take a lot longer to come in than they hoped.