It was just over a year ago that Republican Senator Lindsay Graham said "we're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term." He's right. Here are five reasons the Republican Party needs to evolve or implode by 2020.
1. Solar Power
Solar power is expected to achieve price parity with fossil fuels by 2020. If it doesn’t happen then, it will happen within a few years (some expect solar to achieve grid parity in the EU by 2017). Coal has been able to hang on to its place in the market with a combination of lobbying and short term benefits to the economy. Around 2020, it will only have lobbying. Combine that with the environmental difference and solar’s ability to pay for itself over time, and there will be a clear winner in the debate. The question for the Republican Party is whether it can successfully shift to a pro-renewable stance in 7 years. The money in solar might just be enough to do it.
2. Gay Marriage
The GOP already looks old and out of touch on the issue of gay marriage, but if they can’t evolve on the issue by 2020, they are in serious trouble. A majority of Americans now supports gay marriage, but it’s close enough to 50-50, and when you poll the people who actually vote (as opposed to those who can vote), the anti-gay marriage crowd may even be in the majority. However, as positions soften over time, and more and more young people vote, Republicans will find themselves more and more isolated on their anti-gay marriage platform if they can’t make the leap off of it. The challenge for the GOP is that their base is firmly in the homophobic camp.
3. Climate Change
In a similar vein to solar panels, climate change denial is now something every Republican must subscribe to or risk facing a primary challenger. There are whispers that many elected Republican officials recognize that they are wrong about climate change, but they don’t dare say so publicly. So what will change by 2020? The effects of climate change, from droughts to hurricanes, will be all the more obvious, and hopefully there will be a movement in public opinion toward the scientific consensus that humans affect climate change. The Democrats offer a response to climate change. Can the GOP hold the fort with the stance that there is nothing to respond to?
Immigration reform is now in the House of Representatives, where meaningful legislation goes to die these days. White people counted for 72% of the vote in 2012, and that percentage will only go down in the next two presidential elections. Mitt Romney actually beat Obama by a wide margin (59-39) among whites, but got destroyed among African Americans (93-6), Hispanics (71-27) and Asians (73-26). Republicans simply can’t win a presidential election with those ratios. To do that, however, they will need a rapid evolution on immigration policy, and to generally communicate that they want minorities in the country. It’s one of the easier items on the list, but they are failing at it so far.
Support for legalizing marijuana has quietly crept upward in recent years, and polls now show that more than 50% of Americans support legal weed. The same caveat about the voting electorate being more conservative than the population of eligible voters applies, but by 2020, expect more states to have legalized marijuana, and more people to be okay with that. The libertarian wing of the GOP is generally in favor of more lax laws on marijuana. Will they be able to convince the rest of the party in the next seven years?