Today, the two parties represent not only different sections of the country, but also, in effect, different editions of the country. Along many key measures, the Republican coalition mirrors what all of American society looked like decades ago. Across those same measures, the Democratic coalition represents what America might become in decades ahead. The parties’ ever-escalating conflict represents not only an ideological and partisan stalemate. It also encapsulates our collective failure to find common cause between what America has been, and what it is becoming.
The two different Americas embodied by the parties are outlined by race.
In 2012, whites accounted for about 90 percent of both the ballots cast in the Republican presidential primaries and the votes Mitt Romney received in the general election. The last time whites represented 90 percent of the total American population was 1960. Ethnic groups now equal just over 37 percent of Americans. But voters of color accounted for nearly 45 percent of President Obama’s votes in 2012. Ethnic minorities likely won’t equal that much of the total population for about another 15 years.
Religion also reinforces the parties’ contrasting Americas.
White Christians account for 69 percent of all adults who identify as Republicans, according to the Pew Research Center’s massive religious-landscape survey. The last time white Christians equaled that much of America’s total population was 1984—the year of Ronald Reagan’s landslide reelection. Today, white Christians have fallen below majority status, to just 46 percent of the adult population. The change is even more pronounced among Democrats, less than one-third of whom are white Christians. Another third of Democrats are nonwhite Christians.