A new analysis explains the impact of something we already knew: As the Democratic Party grew more diverse, white voters left and started voting Republican. And they left because of pure racism.
Whites have slowly but consistently moved away from the Democratic Party. These recent losses are on top of Democrats’ losses among Southern whites during the 1960s and 1970s after Democrats’ support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The analysis finds that white voters, as the party moved to the left, found themselves to the right of the Democrats on economic issues if not necessarily social issues:
As the ratio of nonwhites to whites has increased, an increasing proportion of whites are now “right of center” on economic issues and “left of center” on social issues. The growth of the nonwhite population has pulled the overall median away from the median white citizen’s position — on both social and economic issues.
Taking advantage of these demographic changes, the Democratic Party has courted and won more votes from ethnic and racial minority groups. However, at the same time, in response to these demographic changes, more whites have shifted rightward on economic issues.
That would suggest that, aha!, "economic anxiety" was the motivating factor all along. Just one problem with that line of thought, however...
I used the American National Election Study data to show that many whites view the Democratic Party as moving further away from their own positions. This is true both when whites are asked to assess the positions of the parties generally and on a variety of specific issues such as government-sponsored health care and the government’s role in providing employment. (emphasis mine)
White Republican voters are not upset about the Democrats keeping fossil fuel companies from pouring coal ash into our drinking water. They screech about it because Fox News tells them to but if Trump slapped the Koch brothers with a billion dollar fine and tackled climate change, they'd carve his face into Mt. Rushmore. That's the tribal "all or nothing" crap they buy into. The real economic issues conservatives have are about who the government spends money on.
If you listen to a white conservative rant about the economy for more than 5 minutes, it's always the same; you will inevitably hear them complaining about how "their" money is being used to let "Those People" collect welfare instead of getting a job.
Never forget that white Republican voters despise all forms of government aid for the sole reason that non-white people have access to it. Back in the good ol' days when only white people could collect unemployment or disability, "economic conservatives" thought welfare was the greatest thing ever. Once Those People were included? Just awful! Theft of the white man's hard earned money!
So naturally, as their racism took over, their resentment of the government grew as well. Especially since Republicans spent the last 60 years linking the social safety net to racial resentment.
And just to make it clear that racism is the core issue here, it (unsurprisingly) turns out that whites with college educations are more likely to vote Democratic. The link between low education/intelligence and bigotry is well documented and well understood. This, by the way, is why Republicans have spent decades destroying the public education system; an undereducated population is more likely to vote Republican or stay home. It's also why they demonize higher education. They don't want white Republican voters sending their children to colleges that might expose them to critical thinking and diversity. That's the shortest route to losing a lifelong right wing voter.
This growing loss of racist white voters may or may not become a problem in presidential elections:
These changes have altered the Democratic Party’s prospects in presidential elections. While Democrats might be winning more college-educated whites, members of that group often live in states that are already heavily tilted toward Democrats. Whites without college degrees make up a large proportion of voters in many critical swing states in the Upper Midwest — the very states Trump was able to flip from blue to red in 2016.
On the other hand, with the steady browning of a number of southern states like Florida, North Carolina, and, yes, even Texas, this may not make much of a difference. There's only so much voter suppression and election tampering the GOP can get away with (for now). And without Trump to motivate them, it's unlikely white Republican voters will swarm to the polls to vote their hate in the same numbers.
Even as Republicans double and triple down on white nationalism as their electoral strategy, the future is bleak for them. There's simply not enough mindless racists being born to keep them going for much longer. Sooner or later, they'll have to move to the center, cease to exist as a national power, or attempt to overthrow our democracy and install themselves as permanent ruling party.
Right now, I'm pretty sure they're leaning towards option #3.