Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Much GOP hand-wringing in the election post-mortem necessarily centers on the canyon-sized advantage President Obama and the Democrats have with Latino voters. Having spent a good deal of time in Iowa’s Latino community I can tell you this is deep and real.

At Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s final Iowa event, at Hy-Vee Hall in downtown Des Moines, I scouted the room with a high-powered camera lens for some time, searching for non-white faces. I had forgotten to set my clock back that Sunday for daylight saving time so I had to kill about an extra hour. I counted few people who were clearly minorities out of an estimated crowd of 5,000. I’m not saying that’s scientific, but it was striking.

NBC News exit polling showed Latinos going for Obama about 70 percent to 30 percent nationally.

Republican strategies are already hatched to reach out to Latinos. A Jeb Bush presidential candidacy would go a long way toward that.

There’s no doubt the Latino vote is the dominant trend story in the election. The harsh immigration language coming from conservatives like U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, may secure House seats in certain regions, like northwest Iowa where King captured 83 percent of the vote in Sioux County, 76 percent in Lyon County, 68 percent in Plymouth County and 67 percent in Ida County. But nationally, the GOP has what amounts to a reverse Midas Touch with Latinos.

That considered, there’s another demographic trend with eye-popping consequences for politics as we know it. More of us are single. Many by choice. Many though misfortune. Many because of just plain bad luck. And many more for reasons we’ll never know. I remember reading an advice column many years ago, probably from Dear Abby, in which a single woman talked about how hurtful it was to watch a couple kissing and otherwise engaging in PDA’s two pews in front of her in church. She had just lost her husband.

One lesson I’ve learned entering middle age is to steer clear of judging why people are single, or why they are childless. Republicans, on the other hand, build campaigns on such judgments.

The Republican take on single? Failures. Cultural infidels. After all, one of Iowa conservatives’ leading organizations is called The Family Leader. You hear the disdain for single people from nearly every sentence spoken by Bob Vander Plaats. You feel it from the crowd when Rick Santorum shows up at the Pizza Ranch. Candidates present themselves as if they are trying out for the part of Michael Landon’s ideal father in a remake of “Little House on the Prairie.” Who wants position papers on policy when you can see scrapbook photos, right? Then again, unless you are in 16th century England the birth of a child should not be a political event.

Eric Klinenberg, author of “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone,” tells Smithsonian Magazine that in 1950, there were about 4 million Americans living alone, a little less than 10 percent of all households.

Today, he tells the magazine, there are more than 32 million people living alone — according to the latest census estimates, 32.7 million. That represents about 30 percent of all households.

“This is an enormous change,” Klinenberg says in a compelling Smithsonian Q&A. “Instead of being most common in the West, it’s now most common in big cities, and it’s common in big cities throughout the country. In Seattle, and San Francisco, and Denver, and Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., and Chicago, there are between 35 and 45 percent of the households have just one person. In Manhattan, where I live, about 1 of every 2 households is a one-person household.”

The Republican Party, in substance and style, has a major problem with single people.

And the feeling is mutual. NBC News national exit polling shows that 67 percent of unmarried women said they voted for Obama.

The Republican family values superstructure girding the foundation of the party’s message alienates single people because it is the language of exclusion and intolerance and a thousand judgments, all hurled with insulting assumption of familiarity. Really? You presume to know why I am single? Some people celebrate the single life — as Klinenberg talked about in a recent radio interview. Other people cry themselves to sleep in lonely houses. Republicans rhetoric suggests they know all this about us. Who the hell do they think they are?

The good news for Republicans is that there are opportunities to reach the single demographic. Many of the single, childless women I know are college-educated professionals who classify themselves as fiscally conservative, socially liberal. They built their own lives with no help from the government, thank you. But they don’t want the House Committee of Uninformed Men Posing As Gynecologists preaching to them about how their bodies supernaturally respond to the semen of rapists. And they are offended when male politicians cast wives in diminishing cheerleading roles.

Most of all, they sense that Republicans don’t respect their choices.

A few years ago, when I was a groomsmen in a wedding, an older person approached me and asked, “So when are you going get married?”

“I don’t know,” I replied. “When are you going to die?”

That sums up the response of Single America to the Republican platform and message machine.