As minorities grow as a share of the U.S. population — they are expected to represent more than half of Americans by 2044 — so will the potential for the politics of fear. Most of the states that have sued the president over his recent executive order offering protections to some undocumented immigrants are those with relatively small but climbing immigrant populations, such as Nebraska and West Virginia.
Democrats cannot make the politics of fear go away simply by courting the young-adult and minority voting blocs. While it is true that the supersize turnout and support of those groups helped elect President Obama twice, the white portion of the electorate, which votes strongly Republican, underperformed in support of John McCain in 2008, and white turnout was down in 2012. Rhetoric playing to the fears of older Americans could change that pattern and draw more white voters to the polls in 2016.
While racial minorities now account for 95 percent of U.S. population growth and represent 38 percent of the population, as reported by the Census Bureau last month, there is a sharp lag in diversity between the overall population and the portion that turns out on Election Day. A disproportionate number of Hispanics and Asians are either too young to vote, are not citizens or are not registered, qualities that will not change for several more election cycles. Even in 2012, with strong minority turnout, whites made up 74 percent of all voters. And within the white voting bloc, it is the older electorate — those most greatly fearing change — that will be gaining as baby boomers continue to age.