Some Numbers

Given the ongoing demographic shift in Colorado, the current GOP is position to lose a lot of ground for the next few elections. The traditional GOP voting block (white evangelicals) is shrinking in proportion to the current DEM coalition of young people and minorities. The state has shifted from strongly red to blue, and much of that shift is explicable through pure demographics. I used some charts from the Census bureau to look into Colorado’s demographic shift, and it doesn’t look good for the GOP. Here’s a look at the biggest shift happening in CO these days, the decline of (as labelled on Census data) “White (non-Hispanic)” voters, and the rise of “Hispanic (of any race)”.

In 2010, people who identified as “White (Non-Hispanic)” made up 79.7% of the CO population, and cast 86.37% of the votes. Voters identifying as “Hispanic (of any race)” made up 13.10% of the CO population, but cast only 7.9% of the vote. The DEMs did pretty well in CO that year, especially compared to the GOP swing nationally. Hickenlooper won his race, as did Michael Bennet (this despite the race being called a tossup, or even favorably GOP).

In 2012, “White (Non-Hispanic)” came in at 79.01% of the population, and accounted for 84.39% of the vote- a drop of almost exactly 2 percentage points. “Hispanic (of any race)”, on the other hand, had risen to 14.02% of the population, and had climbed to 10.38% of the vote- a gain of 2.48 pp. Nationally, Hispanic/Latino voters went for Obama at about 71%– so I’d reckon it that the DEMs picked up roughly 1.75 pp from 2010 to 2012.

We can only estimate the 2014 data, but the general patterns shouldn’t change too much. If we assume the same population shift from 2010-2012 will carry through to 2014 (as most people I’ve found do), then 2014 should see the “White (non-hispanic)” voting population at about 75%, and the “Hispanic (of any race)” voting population at about 19%. The Secretary of State’s office has put out it’s own projections, which indicate an even bigger shift (White <70%, Hispanic ~20%).

Rates of voter participation are a little easier to estimate, because they’re a bit more stable. Going off the last non-presidential cycle (2010), we can guess that the “White (non-hispanic)” share of the vote will be  ~80%, while the “Hispanic (of any race)” vote should make up about 11.5% of total votes cast. If we use Gessler’s population estimates, then the White vote will be down around 75%, while Hispanic votes rise to about 12.5% of the total votes cast. If we assume that this election really brings out the voters, and rates are closer to 2012, then the Hispanic vote could rise up to about 15% of the total electorate.

Even in the conservative estimates, the GOP loses over a percentage point every election, about 2.5 points every 4 year cycle. This is only true, of course, if the states demographic groups continue to vote the way they do. But the current crop of GOP candidates and ideas don’t show much in the way of change, and so I can’t imagine the voting patterns will, either.

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the argument over the argument

Even before Bill Nye and Ken Ham began their Creationism vs. Evolution debate, there was a meta-argument surrounding the whole endeavor. Many scientists and secularists took the position that to even be on the same stage with Ham was a slap in the face to capital “s” Science.  As Slate’s Mark Stern put it “By seriously engaging with Ham at the international home of creationism in front of more than half a million people watching the webcast, Nye legitimized Ham’s creationist lunacy more than any weird and declining museum ever could”. Stern’s not wrong, but I think he’s missing the point, because he misunderstands who will be watching.

When I was in the 7th grade, my biology teacher told me that God had made the world recently (~6,000 yrs ago), but made it look old to test our faith. The scientific establishment was doing the best they could with the data that they had, he said, but The Bible was the best data of all, and without it our scientific knowledge would always fall short. I bought it. My entire support network reaffirmed what I had been told in school, and I can’t remember any dissenting voices in my childhood. It wasn’t until I moved out of Texas that I first heard a reasonable, articulate deconstruction of the myths I’d been sold as fact. I’m pretty sure I could drive a car before I ever heard and grappled with a real challenge to Creationism- and this is why the Bill Nye debate is so vitally important.

Those folks who say this debate shouldn’t have happened seem to be worried that such a debate “legitimized” Ham’s viewpoint. But to who? Who would watch this debate and become convinced that Ham was more logical than they previously thought? I don’t think many people over 20 would have such a conversion (although these things do happen occasionally), and I can’t imagine that anyone with a modicum of scientific literacy would be swayed. I’d submit that the largest relevant audience for this debate is kids raised in creationist communities who have begun thinking for themselves- they’re the only population that would both a) seek out this kind of discussion, and b) be available to change their minds. And to this population, the worry of “legitimization” isn’t valid, because they’ve already been told by their parents, pastors, and teachers that Ham is legitimate. The silence of the scientific establishment doesn’t de-legitimize Ham to these kids, it just lets the creationists pretend that “the scientific establishment is scared of real questioning, they’re the ones operating on faith” (I don’t know how many times I heard and said this particular nugget of bullshit. Probably hundreds). The vast majority of “swing voters” on this topic already find Ham “legitimate”, regardless of what the scientific community says.

dinosaurs probably had feathers, anyways.

If I’m trying to make the utilitarian calculus in this decision, it seems clear to me that many more lives are improved through exposure to a criticism of Ham’s ideology than are harmed through any marginal “legitimization” of such. There’s a 8th grader out there watching this video, hearing challenges to the science of Noah’s Ark for the very first time. That, to me, makes this an obviously worthwhile effort.