Feb. 13, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Civil Rights Act Was Beginning of the End for GOP

“They’re just so ideological, they continue to believe that they need to be more conservative to win elections, where most strategist believe in the Northeast, you need moderate Republicans to appeal to more moderate voters,” he recently told CNN. “So it’s really a question of, do you understand that this is a very big country with different kinds of people in different parts of the country.”

The base of the Republican Party is not only increasingly uni- regional; it is demographically contracting. It is literally dying as we speak. Old white men voting reliably Republican are being replaced by young people of all colors voting reliably Democratic. Even the Republican Cuban fortress in Florida has become a generational trap, with young Cubanos shifting to the Democratic Party and thus delivering the state to Barack Obama in November.

The Hispanic vote is flipping the reliably Republican states of Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona to the Democrats. The surge of minority voters, young voters and college and post-college graduates tilted even two other once solidly Republican states: North Carolina and Virginia. The increasingly diverse Georgia and Texas are probably next on this inevitable demographic shift. The marginalization of the Republican Party is both geographic and demographic.

Why? A central reason is that the Civil Rights Act took the monkey off the Democrats’ back. The party no longer had to be prisoner to the ideology (and often, unfortunately, the racism) of the South. It was free to reach out and surge with minorities, young people, academics and labor.

Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s observation that “demography is destiny” is as true of politics as of anthropology. Between the ideological liberation of the 1964 epiphany and the demographic explosion of progressive constituencies, America appears headed into a prolonged and sustained Democratic era.

Lyndon Johnson was right about the Civil Rights Act and the South, but only in the short term and he seemingly missed the greater significance of that regionalization to the future of American politics. Contrary to the conventional wisdom of a half-century, July 2, 1964, may well be remembered not as the day the Democratic Party died in the South, but rather the day the GOP began to die as a national political party.

Mark Siegel is a partner in Locke Lord Strategies and a former executive director of the Democratic National Committee.

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