Demographic shift haunts GOP, with eye on Georgia

9:56 PM, Nov 7, 2012   |    comments
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Democrats celebrate Pres. Obama's re-election in Atlanta, November 6, 2012

ATLANTA, GA -- When Bruce LeVell attended the election night party packed with Georgia Republicans, this is what he says he saw: "I saw one particular culture."

Levell is the African American chairman of the Gwinnett Republican party. Tuesday night, he says he a roomful of mostly white Republicans -- and saw a party potentially in danger.

"And I looked over at the Democrat side, and I saw multiculture," LeVell said. "And I said, in order to progress and to move this GOP ahead, this body has to look like that body."

This is the paradox in Georgia: The Republican party has never been more powerful than it is now, controlling state government from top to bottom. Yet the demographics suggest the GOP in Georgia needs to adapt to keep its majority intact. 

Georgia Democrats had very sparing victories Tuesday but still had a good night. President Obama won largely on the strength of his support from women and especially from voters of color.

Although Georgia politics reflect the mostly white makeup of the Republican party, demographic trends show that whites in Georgia will soon be outnumbered by nonwhites.

"This is a wakeup call for the Republican party and the Georgia Republican party is not immune to this," said political science professor Andra Gillespie of Emory University. There's no way that the Republican party anywhere in the country can continue to be viable and ignore the fact that the United States is becoming much more racially and ethnically diverse."

Dr. Gillespie says Georgia Republicans can retain power for perhaps another ten years before nonwhite voters make the Democrats more competitive. LeVell says the GOP needs to act before then.

"You can just sit back and do nothing and preach to the choir. Which, the choir is becoming very limited and smaller. Or you can reach a hand out and say hey, y'all come and sit down at the table," LeVell said.

LeVell and Gillespie says it also means the GOP may have to rethink some of its approaches to issues like immigration in order to appeal to the nonwhite voters who could control Georgia politics a a decade or more from now.

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