One of the most compelling stories of the 2012 election will be the demographic time-bomb that went off in the Republicans' faces. Latinos and African-Americans overperformed in terms of turnout and, once there, voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates. Pundits far and wide raced to analyze what the Republican strategy can possibly be now that they have finally been bitten in the ass by decades of systematically alienating anyone but straight, rich, white males. My answer? They will adapt, and we should be there ahead of them before they do. More after the Orange Rolly-Coasty.
For so long, the Republicans have been regarded as the big brother in our two-party system. They campaigned better, they were more cohesive in terms of message adherence, and they framed that message in ways that made the American people believe them, even if their message dripped with insincerity and falsehood. Then the Tea Party happened to them.
Candidate after candidate began to lose them elections because they were too extreme to be elected by the still-sane general public. Traditional Republican moderates (and even some non-Tea Party wingnuts) were faced with a challenge that they had no idea how to cope with: opponents whose special brand of Crazy actually worked to get them elected. Tea Party candidates like Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle, Todd Akin, and Richard Mourdock cost the Republicans seats because they couldn't keep the Crazy to themselves.
Furthermore, it became apparent to anyone with open minds and open eyes that the Tea Party was a movement that had deep roots in racism. Whether it was birtherism, placards at rallies, or the monochromatic makeup of those rallies, the Tea Party was never able to contain its unjustified White Rage (nor did they want to). Women and persons of color began to notice, and everything boiled over into the catastrophe for them that was the 2102 election.
So, they have righteously (pun intended) painted themselves into a demographic corner. For many cycles to come, I believe that they will struggle to overcome their disadvantage, at first giving us their typical backlash responses ("you're playing the RACE card," etc.), and then accepting that they can't do business as usual and remain electorally relevant. Once they make that acceptance, they will begin to adapt, and they may be dumb, but they are smart about elections. We should not underestimate them.
We Democrats should begin work now to solidify our advantage with the demographic groups that formed our coalition in 2012. This doesn't mean that we pander; on the contrary, we continue our genuine support of things that mean something to these groups (and us): reproductive rights, marriage equality, paths to citizenship, and income equality.
We should push hard for these things, and publicly. We should let everyone that hear us know that we support these measures, and then actually push for them. We have seen time and time again that, when we stay true to our progressive roots, it benefits us electorally. We must break free of the mindset that plagued us during the early GWB years, where we were ourselves afraid of alienating independent voters, and so we tried to become Republican-lite (I'm looking at you, DLC). Independents like our ideas, it's just that before now, Republicans were better at getting out the vote. Thanks to the Obama machine, that is no longer true, not even in the demographic groups that are traditionally the hardest to get to the polls.
In the end, we only need to be ourselves. When the Republicans begin to adapt (and they will), we will be right there to put our collective foot right back on their necks.