Demographics aren't destiny for Democrats

Story highlights

  • Christopher Barron: For Democrats, demographics might not be destiny so much as a mirage
  • Democrats are mistaken if they believe that working-class minorities are permanent residents in their coalition, he says

Christopher R. Barron is a conservative strategist based in Washington, the co-founder of the LGBT advocacy group GOProud, and an LGBT for Trump organizer. The views expressed are his own.

(CNN)In the wake of Donald Trump's stunning upset victory over Hillary Clinton, Democrats are scrambling to make sense of what happened. Many on the left think Trump's win was an aberration -- the last gasp of angry white voters.

They point, for example, to demographic changes in this country, in particular the rising number of Latino voters, and confidently predict that Democrats are on the cusp of a permanent majority in this country. They also point to rising numbers of Latino voters in states like Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas and Arizona as proof that it is only a matter of time before the Trump-led GOP becomes relegated to the ash heap of history.
    Christopher Barron
    It is the argument that "demographics are destiny" for Democrats. But they are wrong. Indeed, for Democrats, demographics might not be destiny so much as a mirage.
    Just a few decades ago, working-class white voters were the base of the Democratic Party. Yet Trump's victory was fueled in large part by the en masse desertion of these voters from the Democratic nominee.
    Working-class whites rallying to the Trump campaign not only allowed him to overcome the predicted Clinton "Latino surge" in Florida, Arizona and North Carolina; but also enabled him to break through Clinton's Rust Belt "blue wall" on the way to securing stunning victories in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and likely Michigan.
    Democrats are right when they point out that future Republican nominees cannot count on the over-performance of working-class white voters to save the day for them. But they are mistaken if they believe that working-class Latinos, African-Americans and Asian-Americans are permanent residents in their electoral coalition.
    The warning signs for Democrats are already there. Despite Trump's hard-line stance on illegal immigration, and in spite of Clinton's attempt to demonize Trump as anti-immigrant, Clinton actually did worse among Latino voters in 2016 (65% of Latino voters) than Obama did in 2012 (71% of Latino voters) and Trump did slightly better (29% of Latino voters) than Romney (27% of Latino voters).
    A closer look is even more disconcerting for Democrats: 1-in-3 Latino males cast votes for Trump.
    And it is not just Latinos, Clinton underperformed with African-American voters, too. Clinton received 88% of African-American votes, down from Obama's 93% in 2012. Trump also received 8% of African-American votes, up from Romney's 6% in 2012. Again, Clinton did even worse among African-American males, among whom one-in-five said they either voted for Trump or refused to say who they voted for.
    These numbers should be chilling to Democrats.
    The truth is that working-class voters of all races and ethnic backgrounds have more in common with each other than they do with the college-educated liberal elites who are now the driving force within the Democratic Party.
    Working-class voters of all races and ethnic backgrounds face many similar economic challenges. They have all been disproportionately harmed by globalism and unfettered free trade. Working-class voters, regardless of their skin color, also tend to be more religious than secular progressives.
    With this in mind, Trump has an opportunity to capitalize on one of the biggest strategic mistakes the Clinton campaign made: turning the presidential election into a class-based culture war.
    If Trump follows through on his promise to put Americans back to work through a massive investment in our infrastructure, then it will be all working-class Americans who benefit.
    If Trump follows through on his promise to fight for better and fairer trade deals, it will be all working-class Americans who benefit.
    If Trump follows through on his promise to end the oversized influence of Wall Street and the special interests, then it will be all working-class Americans who benefit.
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    And if Trump halts the flow of illegal low-wage workers it will be all working-class Americans who benefit.
    Trump, the "blue collar billionaire," has the opportunity to do in four years what it took the GOP decades to do and permanently win over working-class voters of all races and ethnic backgrounds. If he does, it will be Republicans -- not Democrats -- who will enjoy a generation of electoral dominance.