As Demographics Shift, Democrats Look to Win the South
Policy + Politics

As Demographics Shift, Democrats Look to Win the South

Reuters/The Fiscal Times

Republicans from southern states have given the GOP enormous power in the House of Representatives, allowing opposition lawmakers to mount potent and effective campaigns against President Obama’s agenda.

But the Republican grip on the south, and the strong standing that this grip affords the party, might be weakening. Dramatic demographic shifts in a number of southern states are underway, potentially ushering in a new Democratic majority and ending the Republican reign over the south.

States that were once firmly red are now turning blue: Virginia has voted for the Democratic candidate in the last two presidential elections. As the liberal voting base in the northern part of the state grows, Republicans in Virginia’s statehouse pushed through legislation to limit growing Democratic influence by changing how presidential electoral college votes are awarded. 

But it’s not just states close to the Mason-Dixon line that are trending Democratic. North Carolina, Texas and Florida are all adding voters that tend to vote for Democrats. If these trends continue, the GOP could be chased out of its last national stronghold, making the party less and less relevant to national politics.

“All the research in my field shows that once young people form a party attachment most people hold it for life or for many decades,” said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “Right now, young voters in these states identify as Democrats.”

In Charlotte, North Carolina’s biggest city, the number of Latinos has grown to nearly 100,000 today from 5,571 in 1990. In Texas, Latinos now make up 38 percent of the population, and will make up the majority of Texans by 2030. Of the 1.6 million Latinos in Florida, 39 percent are registered Democrats, compared to 29 percent Republican. Compare that to 2006 when 37 percent of Latinos in Florida were registered Republicans while just 33 percent were registered Democrats

These trends are especially dangerous given how unpopular Republicans are with Latino voters, who are turned off by the GOP rhetoric used to describe them. Only 27 percent of Latinos voted Republican in the last election, down from 44 percent in 2004.

According to Sabato, Republicans are in danger of seeing these trends spread to other states if they do not improve their Latino outreach.

“If the Republicans don’t change their tune Arizona and Georgia could be in play,” he said. “The Republican leadership recognizes [Latino alienation], the rank and file recognize it as well but they doesn’t seem to care.”