Is it Math or Principles?

If I were cynical, I'd see most of the hot-button issues merely as political maneuvering, and I'd put no stock in ideology or principles. I'd believe that everyone with a political bias (myself included) was busy doing the math to determine where the advantages lie.  I'd put a lot of credibility in the math sense of politicians and hacks of all stripes.

Each of us would be busily doing these calculations in our heads before taking positions on the major arguments of the day.  Here's what the basic data looks like, based on the results of the last election..

2012 Presidential Election Votes

On Immigration

Most who think "immigration" are thinking Mexicans.  The fear of waves of Hispanics crossing the Rio Grande to take our jobs and join gangs drives some of the panic over immigrants. But is much of it calculated? Take a look at the election results for Latino men and women. With only a third of men and a quarter of women voting for the GOP candidate, no wonder they fear the growing influence of Hispanics. 
Stemming the projected growth of Hispanic voters makes mathematical sense to Republicans. For Democrats, Hispanic voters are critical to victories.  Encouraging citizenship and enfranchisement will pay off down the road.

On Religion

Protestants and Mormons tend to vote Republican while Catholics, Jews, Muslims, atheists and agnostics support Democrats.  Appeals to evangelicals and other Protestants by Republicans are pervasive, ensuring a prominent place for the nation's dominant religion and manufacturing a "war on religion" to stir up the faithful.  Democrats appeal to a more multi-faceted religious electorate, advocating for minority views and a more secular society. Catholics and other religious minorities have often been concerned with separation of church and state.  Why? Because when government favors religion, it favors Protestants.

2012 presidential election exit polls and analysis

On Voter Purges and Voting Restrictions

Voter purges and recent restrictions on voting -- from voter ID laws to ending early voting -- reduce the numbers of minorities and youth voting in elections.  The research is quite clear on how such laws impact the electorate:
     According to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, as many as 16 percent of Latinos and 25 percent of African Americans may not have government-issued photo IDs. Because these estimates were obtained from a national sample of adults they probably underestimate the impact of photo identification laws on young people of color since younger people tend to hold photo IDs at lower rates compared to older people. For example, a 2005 Wisconsin study found that the rates of having a valid diver’s license varied significantly across racial and ethnic groups of young people. In Wisconsin “statewide, only 22 percent of young African American males and 34 percent of young African American females have a valid license. For young Hispanics, 43 percent of males and only 37 percent of females have a valid license. For whites, 64 percent of males and 75 percent of females have valid licenses.
     The authors of the Wisconsin study suggest that “a large number of licensed drivers have had their licenses suspended or revoked, many for failure to pay fines and forfeitures rather than traffic points violations.” In general, young people who live in urban and/or economically depressed areas are less likely to have driver’s licenses or to have had their license suspended or revoked. Similarly, many young people of color do not have an accurate address on a state-issued id because of their relatively high residential mobility. Finally, some young people of color do not have access to the documentation necessary to receive a state or federal ID card.
Turning Back the Clock on Voting Rights: The Impact of New Photo Identification Requirements on Young People of Color

Since we've seen that minorities and youth vote heavily Democratic, Republicans logically support making voting more difficult for them. For the same reasons, Democrats would support making voting easily accessible to these same voters.

On Abortion Rights

Support for women's rights to choose remains fairly consistent across age groups and gender. Instead, the differences are starkest based on education, religion and political beliefs. And all those Catholic Hispanics? Well, Catholics are more likely pro-choice than pro-life.  But Protestants tip the other direction, preferring to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Since Protestants, Southerners and old white men are most likely to vote Republican, the GOP pushes their issue and challenges abortion rights, over and over ad nauseum.  And the Democrats? Democrats defend abortion rights, courting college students, women and others.

On Race

If you are white, chances are you see our race problem as already resolved.  No need for affirmative action, mixed juries or other remedies. If you are black or Hispanic, you see things rather differently. The George Zimmerman trial brought this home to us. Republicans insisted that race was not a factor; many Democrats disagreed. Evidence that Zimmerman was not an explicit racist was sufficient to convince many whites that he was in no way racist. After all, we're not racist unless we're skinheads or neo-Nazis, right?  The reality for most people of color is something else entirely.

When Republicans talk about race, it's mostly to say "let's stop talking about race".   Democrats look at testimony like the above though and side with those who experience subtle racism daily.  Since most Republican voters are white, there's no reason for Republicans to acknowledge or discuss racial issues. In fact, listen to Fox and you'll believe reverse racism is the real problem. For Democrats, who depend on minority support to win elections, race remains a key issue.


I'm not entirely this cynical. I can see the advantages of pandering to each party's base but also believe that the reasons those in the base support who they do is because they share some common perspectives.  How I wish though that enough politicians in Washington had the cajones to step outside the box once in a while to deal with reality, not platitudes.