Across these issues, Democrats represent the groups and interests most comfortable with change—what I’ve called a “Coalition of Transformation” revolving around minorities, white-collar whites (especially college-educated and single women), and the millennial generation. Republicans now rely heavily on the groups most unsettled by these trends. This GOP “Coalition of Restoration” centers on older, blue-collar, religiously devout, and nonurban whites.
Those groups display considerably more unease about cultural and demographic change than other voters—even younger and more upscale Republicans. In polling last year by the Pew Research Center, about three-fifths of all Americans agreed that society should accept homosexuality; about the same number said the growing number of immigrants “strengthens American society.” Even most Republicans who are college-educated or younger than 50 endorsed those verdicts. But, in each case, most Republicans who are either blue-collar or 50-plus expressed a negative view about the change. And those voters are increasingly central to the party’s fortunes.
Pence’s struggles powerfully illustrate the difficulty of satisfying that disaffected base without projecting intolerance about big social changes that most Americans now accept. Even as Pence and his legislative allies moved toward a qualified retreat this week, virtually every major 2016 GOP contender felt compelled to support Indiana’s original bill.