Trump is up against a demographic time bomb

Stone, Medium, Jun 29, 2018

President is alienating future voters who will hold power in the next election
Photo by
Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty

In March
2018, the United States saw teenagers
take to the streets
to protest against a political generation that
refuses to take steps that would stop them from being shot at school. Then, in
the past month, we saw Latino and South American migrants and refugees treated
as they crossed the Mexican border into the United States.
Trump’s actions caused both crises—the first by refusing to ban or limit the
sale of guns, the second by calling for zero tolerance on illegal migration,
which translated into state-sponsored cruelty against families. In both cases,
the victims were children.
These two
episodes are examples of how Trump is effectively legislating himself out of
power. Demographic trends show he is ruling for a base that will soon be an
electoral minority, while alienating a demographic that will soon hold the
balance of power. Trump and his acolytes are facing a demographic time bomb,
and the more he does to alienate everyone except his base, the worse it will
get for everyone. The United States is governed today by a generation of
politicians who are at the end of their careers and reflect a political era
that is drawing to a close. In them, we are seeing the last gasps of 1950s
America, as the baby boomers come to the end of an era in which they were the
political majority and in control of industry.
In the
2016 election, a majority of
young voters
(people under 50) and Hispanic
voted against Trump. That’s not including the current wave
of teenagers
who are organizing a political movement in response to
mass shootings in schools, many of whom will be voters by the next election.
In the
United States, around 2.7
people who are old enough to vote die every year, and around
3.8 million
to 4 million
people turn 18. In the last presidential election
and research since then suggests that this trend
will continue
younger people were more likely to
vote for Democrats, and older people were more likely to vote Republican. It is
than that in detail, but the basic trend
is there. This means that by age alone, between the 2016 and 2018 elections,
more potential non-Trump voters will join the electorate, while more potential
Trump voters, or non-Democrat voters, will depart from it.
changing demographic balances of the electorate already manifested in the 2016
election, when millennials and Gen Xers outvoted the
baby boomers
for the first time, but only by a small margin. That
margin will grow in the midterms and become a clear lead
by the next general election.
Hispanic and Black voters are more likely
to support
a non-Trump or Democratic candidate. They are also
becoming an electoral
. A 2015 study by the National
Center for Health Statistics
showed that “the Hispanic population in
the United States has lower overall mortality and higher life expectancy at
birth than the non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black populations.” This
gives Hispanics what is called a “mortality advantage,” which translates into a
demographic, and electoral, advantage over time.
specifically, white Americans will become a minority over time, starting with
younger generations as demographic balance changes through both births and
minorities as a group are younger than whites, the minority white tipping point
comes earlier for younger age groups. The new census projections indicate that
for youth under 18—the post-millennial population—minorities will outnumber
whites in 2020. For those ages 18 to 29—members of the younger labor force and
voting age populations—the tipping point will occur in 2027.
has some lessons about all this. When a country is run by a tiny minority of
rich and powerful people who demonstrate little care for the rest of the
population, they are overthrown. Look at pre-revolution France and Russia. Both
were run by a small, fantastically wealthy aristocracy who were totally cut off
from the rest of society. Both fell to violent revolutions. The oppressed
masses always rise up in the end.
pre-revolution France and Russia, the United States now sustains a class of
rich people who are inconceivably
. Their wealth no longer makes sense in a human context—they
have amassed more money than they and their entire extended families for
centuries ahead could ever spend. This becomes wealth for the sake of wealth
or wealth for the sake of power. That power is
working, evident in the tax breaks
Trump just granted billionaires, especially for inheritance. When a country has
people that wealthy living alongside people who are mortally poor,
it has never ended well.
also shows that countries and societies cannot stave off large-scale societal
change. Societies, cultures, and languages are always in a constant state of
transformation. This is the state of humankind, and trying to stop it is like
trying to stop time. Many ruling cultures have fought against their demise, and
they’ve always lost. Look at the white minority rule of apartheid South Africa.
Look at the horrendous death rattle of the racial purists in 1940s Europe.
The truth
is that Trump’s base essentially represents an older, English-speaking, white,
evangelical Christian society whose supremacy is in its final throes. Soon
these people will be outnumbered by Spanish-speaking Latinos, and they will be
pushed aside politically by younger whites who are less
religious and more liberal
. They will be a minority in a country in
which they were born the dominant culture. That is hard, and the pain and fear
such a transition creates should not be dismissed.
entire campaign reflects that fear: Build a wall to stop the Hispanics from
migrating to the United States; gerrymander
electoral boundaries
to stop Democrats from voting out old-school
Republicans; try to consolidate
to manage the message; suppress
who will vote against you. All of this is about trying to
preserve a status quo against the inextricable tide of change. The more they
are losing the historical fight, the dirtier that fight will become.
The big
question is not how it will end, but how it will play out. How bad will the
battle be, and how much damage will Trump and his base do before they lose?
Every time a small group of people have run a country just for their personal
gain, they have been kicked out, and every time a diminishing minority has
turned to nationalism and populism to fight against their inevitable demise,
they have lost. It’s just a matter of how and when.
United States will become a more multiethnic country. Trump may delay it a bit,
but he can’t stop it. He may manage to stall the change during his presidential
term, but in the end, he and his supporters will be seen not only as the
losers, but as having been on the wrong side of history. In the meantime, Trump
will continue to rule for a dwindling minority of Americans, angering more and
more of the growing majority who will, by the next election, hold the balance
of power.