Paul Adair is a 21-year Germantown resident, retired scientist, writer, and lecturer.
Geographical political allegiances are in constant flux. Texas was once Democratic but is now heavily Republican. Colorado was recently a reliably GOP state. Long-time red Detroit suburban counties gave majorities to Obama. No area remains politically static forever. We should not expect Germantown to stay unchanged, either.
By any measure, Germantown is currently very Republican. In the 2012 presidential election, only 31.3 % of village voters cast their ballots for President Obama. However, there are a number of ongoing demographic, legislative, and political trends that could change all that.
Increasingly extreme Republican policies
Until recently, the Republican Party has been a reasonably centrist party- one that was willing to work with Democrats for the good of the country. That has changed in the last few years. Those in control of the party are driving it into radically extreme and destructive positions. Elected officials are more interested in obstruction than in governing. A significant fraction of Congressional Republicans support a traitorous and economy-wrecking government shutdown. This intransigence has been frustrating for the public, leading to worst-ever approval ratings for Congress.
The party has been re-fighting the culture wars, pushing a social agenda of Big Government intrusion into our private lives. They are using unconstitutional tactics to end legal abortions. They have been fighting a reactionary battle against gay rights, women's rights, and voting rights. These battles have turned-off many moderate and independent voters.
Older voters, once a mainstay of the party, are also getting fed-up. Largely due to Paul Ryan's crusade to dismantle Medicare, GOP popularity among seniors is dropping like a stone. In an August poll only 28% of seniors rate the party favorably, compared to a 40% favorable rating for the Democrats. Between the 2000 and 2010 census, Germantown's own over-65 population took a big jump from 9.4% to 13.4% of the total. Seniors are angry and they vote.
With an almost complete party take-over by the radical right, moderate Republicans have no safe haven. Their party has left them. According to a July poll, a hefty 40% of Republicans want their party to move in a more moderate direction. Many are reexamining their party affiliation. Those with moderate political outlooks will continue to leave the party as GOP politicians increasingly cater to the most bat-feces crazy elements of their party.
Increased ethnic and racial diversity in Germantown
In the 2012 election, President Obama carried 93% of black voters, 71% of the Hispanic vote, and 73% of the Asian-American vote. The situation was deemed so dire for the GOP that Chairman Reince Priebus announced a new post-election strategy of outreach to minority groups.
Despite the fanfare of Priebus' “ixnay on the igotrybay” outreach plan, recent GOP actions will only turn minority voters more strongly against Republicans. Changes in state voting laws make the intent of suppressing the urban vote all too clear. The stalling of immigration reform and outrageously racist statements by Tea Party politicians are undoing any inroads into the Hispanic vote made during the Bush years.
The minority population in Germantown has been slowly increasing. In the 2000 census, 95.83% of Germantown residents were self-identified as white. In 2010, that number decreased to 92.6%. During the same time, the Hispanic population increased from 1.12% to 2.03%. The percentage of minority voters will only get larger with time. Barring dramatic Republican policy shifts, these trends will help to gradually increase Democratic percentages in Germantown.
Residency requirements dropped
As part of the new state budget, the residency requirements for Milwaukee employees were dropped. Four years after abandoning its own city residency requirement, fully 28.5% of Cleveland public employees lived outside of the city. Having a similar percentage of public workers leave Milwaukee for the inner suburbs, including Germantown, could have a large impact on our political make-up. Just think of all of those firefighters, teachers, and other public employees moving into our village and voting their pocketbooks ! Think of all of those new Democratic-leaning citizens !
72 county strategy
The Wisconsin Democratic Party announced a 72 County strategy earlier this year. This initiative will ignore no county, even the reddest in the state (Washington Co.). With more party attention, funding, and ward-by-ward GOTV efforts, the number of Democratic votes in future Germantown elections will only increase.
There are several ongoing trends that will gradually change Germantown from an overwhelmingly safe Republican bastion to a politically competitive battleground. This change has already started and can be seen by comparing the Democratic share of Germantown Presidential votes in 2000 and 2004 (30.7% and 30.1%) with those of 2008 and 2012 (36.0 % and 31.3%).
The Republican sprint to extreme and divisive policies is repellent to moderate and independent voters. With continued demographic shifts, the change of Milwaukee residency rules, and increased attention to the Milwaukee suburbs by the state Democratic Party, we may, within our lifetimes, see a blue Germantown.