Dan Walters: Demography may doom California GOP
02/01/2013 12:00 AM
02/26/2013 8:19 PM
If demography is destiny, the California Republican Party may be destined to become nothing more than an asterisk in the history books – unless it can alter its hostile relationship with the state's fast-growing Latino population.
That's not exactly a new conclusion, but its accuracy is confirmed by new demographic projections from the state Department of Finance.
By the middle of this year, demographers believe, Latinos will achieve numerical parity with whites in California's population, at about 39 percent each. Thereafter, the gap between the state's two largest ethnic blocs will widen steadily.
By midcentury, Latinos will be nearing 50 percent of California's population while whites will have declined to near 30 percent.
Putting it another way, the state's population is expected to grow by 15.4 million between 2010 and 2060, and Latinos will account for 11.3 million of that growth.
Or still another way: Overall growth over the 50-year period will be 41 percent, but the Latino population will grow by 80 percent, while that of whites by a minuscule 4 percent.
The generational differential, which benefited the GOP in the 1980s and 1990s as white baby boomers dominated the electorate, also will work against Republicans as whites retire, or die off, in large numbers while much-younger Latinos become the dominant worker bloc and their children fill the schools.
Concurrently, an ever-greater portion of the Latino population will be U.S.-born citizens who will be legally entitled to vote as the role of immigration, legal and illegal, in population growth shrinks.
Finally, there is geography. While California's coastal counties have, for the most part, been strongly Democratic, Republican legislative and congressional candidates have fared relatively well in inland areas, such as Southern California's Inland Empire and the Central Valley.
However, the Latino population surge heavily affects what have been GOP-leaning inland areas. We saw hints of that in the redrawing of legislative and congressional districts after the 2010 census. We'll see more of it in the decades ahead.
For instance, Riverside is expected to be the state's fastest-growing county during the next half-century, expanding by over 2 million persons, or 92 percent, between 2010 and 2060. Two-thirds of that growth is projected to be Latino. Likewise, Latinos are expected to account for three-quarters of Fresno County's growth and two-thirds of Kern County's expansion.
Those numbers bode ill for Republicans, who have already shrunk to less than 30 percent of the state's registered voters, in part because of their perceived hostility to Latinos, especially immigrants.
They'll either do something to repair the relationship, if they can, or become even more irrelevant.
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