There are many theories on what's going on with our elections. Special interests, gerrymandering, low voter turnout, campaign finance. Slate has taken a big whack at demographics. Yes, 'white people are getting older', but there's much more going on. And the very future of our democracy is at stake. Click through for the unabridged, read on for the key points: The Disunited States of America http://www.slate.com/articles/news_...y_demographics_republican_obstructionism.html The people who just elected a Republican majority in the Senate are a narrow, unrepresentative slice of voting-age Americans. Theyre older, whiter, wealthier, and much more conservative than the public at large. Put another way, the midterm electorate that chose this Republican Congress is itself a Republican electorate drawn from a subset of Republican voters. With this seesaw of Democratic presidents and GOP congresses, we may be facing more than gridlock. We may be on the cusp of a generation of political stagnation that will be hardwired into our democracy by our countrys shifting demographics and the unwillingness of the Republican Party to compromise with those with whom they disagree. The Demographic Divide Were at a point where one electoratemade up of young people and minoritieselects presidents and the occasional Senate majority while anothermade up of older people, mostly whiteelects the House of Representatives, with an occasional Senate majority as well. This is important. In the 1990s, a substantial number of older votersif not most older votersbelonged to the Greatest Generation, the men and women who grew up in the Depression and fought in World War II. They were New Deal Democrats in their formative years, and they kept that affiliation through the rest of the 20th century. Those political ties were evident in how they voted over time. According to a massive survey on the generation gap by the Pew Research Center, voters who turned 18 when Franklin Roosevelt was president were 8 points more Democratic than the average voter in 1994, 1996, and 1998; 11 points more Democratic in 2000; 3 points more Democratic in 2002; and 14 points more Democratic in 2004. By contrast, the next oldest cohort of votersthose who came of age during the Truman and Eisenhower administrationswere substantially more Republican in most years. The generation gap as we know itwhen the oldest voters jumped to the Republican Party and the youngest became solidly Democraticdidnt emerge until the 2004 election. That was partially because of the circumstances of that contestPresident George W. Bush was running a campaign of national unity against foreign threats. It is also explained, again, by demographics. The Greatest Generation had shrunk and was in the process of being replaced by senior citizens who were much friendlier to Republican politicians. As we entered the 2000s then, we had several trends coming together at once. The overall voting population was getting younger and browner, and these new voters were more Democratic; older voters, however, were still whiter and becoming more Republican. And young people continued to vote in presidential elections and largely ignore the midterms, while the older generation was consistent, voting in almost every election. Its a simple dynamic that leaves us with vastly divergent electorates. In midterm elections, it doesnt matter that Democrats run the table with young people, single women, and minoritiestheyre outvoted by the older, whiter voters who actually turn out. And while we had a fleeting moment where Republican dominance with white voters was decisive in presidential electionsthe 2004 contestits no longer the case. Democrats are so strong with the so-called coalition of the ascendant that they can win with fewer whites than ever before: just 39 percent in the last presidential election. To put it in a sound bite, Democrats dont have enough white voters to consistently hold the Senate or win the House, and Republicans dont have enough minorities to win the presidency Theres still a lifetime of politics before the 2016 presidential election. But its fair to say that our demographics will continue along this path, giving us a baseline that favors Democrats and the eventual Democratic nominee. Which means that for the next two years, and the two years after thatand the two years after thatwe should expect divided government. The Roots of Dysfunction The problem for our present politics isnt ideological division; its that the Republican and Democratic parties arent ideological in the same way. The Republican Party isnt just more conservative and more polarized, its polarized against basic norms of compromise. Part of this was strategy. GOP Senate leaders like incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell understood that voters dont care about congressional squabbles and exact lines of responsibility. The public judges the president on conditions like economic growth and heuristics like bipartisan cooperation. If Congress isnt working togetherif Washington seems polarizedvoters dont blame the responsible party as much as they blame the president. But part of it was also pressure from the older, white base of the Republican Party, which demanded full opposition to the president. The summer of 2009 was marked by vitriolic town halls where Democratic lawmakers faced a furious backlash from voters angry over the comprehensive health care bill. This angerand these votersgave the GOP a series of electoral wins, beginning with Sen. Scott Browns election in Massachusetts and ending with a Republican House majority in the 112th Congress. The Democracy Corps survey, published in 2013, found a GOP base that was fearful of demographic change and eager for a more confrontational Republican Party. Its a remarkable document, in large part because it shows a deep awareness of the generational divide. These people know younger voters are more liberal and more diverse, and they want to do everything they can to protect their prerogatives before Democrats can capitalize on their demographic advantage. Theres so much of the electorate in those groups that Democrats are going to take every time because theyve been on the rolls of the government their entire lives. They dont know better, said one man from Raleigh, North Carolina. Another from Roanoke, Virginia, said: I thank God theres enough people getting angry now and it will have to stop. I think people realize that were going to have to rise up and take control. You can see this on a broader scale in a 2014 report from the Pew Research Center on political polarization. Among consistently conservative voters, 63 percent wanted Republicans to stick to their positions, compared with just 14 percent of consistently liberal voters who said the same about the Democratic Party. Across the board, conservatives opposed compromise, leading New York magazines Jonathan Chait to quip that conservatives Hate all deals. This attitude is how we got the now-infamous scene from the 2012 Republican presidential primaries, where a whole suite of candidates refused to endorse a fiscal deal weighted in their favor, where Democrats offered $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in new taxes. And its also responsible for former House Majority Leader Eric Cantors stunning loss to an obscure challenger in the 2014 congressional Republican primaries. His opponent, libertarian Dave Brat, had a single charge: Cantor was too friendly with Democrats. It worked. All of this is to say one thing: The GOP is broken. And with its dominance in midterm elections, its poised to break American government for the foreseeable future. The 2013 shutdownwhen House Republicans shuttered the government over the Affordable Care Actis just the beginning. Indeed, theres a good chance the 2014 midterm election results will worsen the ideas and factions that brought us to the brink. For extremist Republican figures like Sen. Ted Cruz (and now Sens. Joni Ernst and Tom Cotton), the confrontations of the past two years were a success. They vindicate a stance of implacable opposition. Far from cooperation, we should expect two years of even worse dysfunction. The Republican Remedy Lets do a quick forecast of the next few election cycles. In 2016, if the economy is growing and the electorate is more diverse, we can expector at least, fairly predicta Democratic win for the White House. And since thats the year Republicans are defending Senate seats in blue states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire, we can also expect a Democratic Senate. In 2018, however, the picture flips. Not only will the Republican electorate return en masse, but Democrats will be defending 25 Senate seatsseveral in red stateswhile Republicans will be defending just eight. Well likely get another Republican Senate, leading into another presidential election, where the incumbent Democratic president has a good chance of winning re-election and bringing a Democratic Senate with her. This whole time, because of the size of the Republican House majority and its base in the rural and exurban parts of the country, the House will remain in GOP hands. This past year, frustration with congressional inaction on immigrationand public pressure from immigration activistspushed the White House to float the possibility of taking unilateral action to create a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants. The result was a primal scream from conservatives, who accused the president of flouting the Constitution. Even more moderate Republicans, like Ross Douthat of the New York Times, warned of presidential Caesarism. And while the Obama proposal fell within the presidents authority, its also true that Republicans werent completely wrong. There is a point at which presidential action violates congressional prerogatives. Which is to say that divided dysfunctional government can have other, more dangerous consequences. Next year, Republicans will have a duly elected congressional majority. But Barack Obama will still be president and will still have the legitimacy of a presidential election. Lets say Republicans refuse to fix a legislative problemlike a fatal wound to the Affordable Care Act, inflicted by the Supreme Courtand President Obama decides to fix it unilaterally, with executive authority, rather than let his namesake law fall to pieces. By the letter of the law, this is illegitimate. But the Republican majority wasnt elected by a clear majority of the American people, Obama was. And the president is committed to preventing an insurance death spiral or broken exchanges that could result from a full attack on the law. Whose authority is more legitimate? I dont expect this to happen in Obamas final two years in office, but its not an idle question. If a new Republican majority stymies a Democratic president in 2019refusing to, for example, confirm a Supreme Court nomineewe could find ourselves in a constitutional crisis, as the president acts despite Congress. The longer the Republican Party stays on its path of anti-compromise, the more likely these scenarios become. Theres a chance this predicament will solve itself. Twenty years from now, midterm electorates might be so diversefilled with people who cut their political teeth during the Bush and Obama yearsthat Democrats regain the momentum in these off-year elections as well. But I wouldnt make that bet. To take us off this path, someoneand I mean the Republican Partywill have to take action. One choice is to abandon the norm against deals, or marginalize the anti-deal makers in the Republican Party. This happened beforeduring the 1980s and 1990sand it can happen again. After all, the anti-compromise norm isnt universal among conservatives. Often, trends dont change political parties, individuals do. And they do so with the heft of the White House as leverageif you follow me, I can win us the presidency. That is how Bill Clinton transformed the Democratic Party in the 1990s, and its how a future Republican could transform the GOP and bring it into the 21st century. A person whothrough ambition for national officeuses power, patronage, charm, and coercion to modernize the Republican Party and steer it from its most destructive urges. The other option is for Democrats just to win. Again, however, that requires substantial turnout from groups that dont vote in midterm elections. For now and the near futureabsent an unlikely major institutional change, like automatic voter registrationthe Democrats are simply the party of occasional voters. In some sense, our divergent electorates are just another barrier. Which means liberals will have to find some way to account for them. Whether its through institutional changea national voting holiday, for instanceor something else, we have to change the dynamics of American politics. Otherwise, we can look forward to a future of dysfunction where our government will fail to do the most basic tasks. And while we can muddle through for a little while, its not a condition we can survive for a generation.