A young up-and-comer in the Georgia Republican Party made headlines recently when he proclaimed that Republicans have a “fertility advantage” and suggested that a core GOP strategy going forward would be, basically, to out-breed the Democrats.
Brant Frost V, who is the second vice chair of the state GOP, told a recent meeting of Oconee County Republicans:
“Christian and conservative women have a 35 percent fertility advantage over Democrat women. And the more conservative a woman is, the more likely she is to be married and have lots of kids – three, four, five, six kids. And the more liberal and leftist a woman is, the less likely she is to even be married and have any children at all …”
I’m not making this up. You can watch the video here. Frost begins his remarks about an hour and seven minutes into the meeting.
As political Hail Marys go, you’ve got to give Frost credit for audacity. I’m not sure it’ll work politically, but it’s bound to have a major impact on the Christian conservative singles-bar scene. (“Hey, Baby, you wanna help save America from socialism?”)
But here’s the thing: Frost has absolutely zeroed in on the Republicans’ political problem.
According to data recently posted by the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), 79 of Georgia’s 159 counties had more deaths than births in 2018.
That’s actually news: it’s a record high, and it extends an alarming trend that started about a decade ago. DPH’s public databases of births and deaths go back to 1994, and for about the first 15 years the number of counties reporting more deaths than births floated between about 10 and 20. But that changed starting in 2010, as this graph shows.
These numbers are politically relevant to Frost’s grand strategy for a couple of reasons. First, 78 of the 79 counties are rural; the only one that’s not is Fayette County, long recognized as a popular redoubt for retirees well past child-bearing age. It’s also dependably Republican.
Second, Georgia’s rural regions have voted overwhelmingly Republican in the recent past. Georgia’s current Republican governor, Brian Kemp, owes his narrow election over Democrat Stacey Abrams last year to extraordinarily high turnout and huge margins in rural Georgia.
And the importance of Frost’s vision – for conservative women to have “three, four, five, six” babies each – becomes even clearer when you drill down into the data and break it down by race. Whites voted three-to-one for Kemp while blacks went more than nine-to-one for Abrams, according to an election-season poll of Georgia voters.
The number of counties reporting more white deaths than births was 104. Eighty-four of those counties voted for Kemp.
These maps should leave little doubt about the vital importance of Frost’s strategy. The first one spotlights the counties that had more white deaths than births in red; the second one shows the counties that went Republican in the 2018 gubernatorial in red and the ones that voted Democratic in blue. It’s obviously not a perfect match, but it’s enough of an overlap that it ought to give your average GOP strategist a little heartburn.
Further, 57 of Kemp’s counties lost population between 2012 and 2017, according to Census Bureau estimates, and most of the Kemp counties that grew did so at rates that lagged the state average and, critically, traditionally Democratic urban areas.
That’s not the end of Frost’s political math problems. At this point, there’s a fair body of polling data to suggest that Millennials lean decidedly toward the Democratic Party. Last year Pew Research put the percentage of Millennials who consider themselves “consistently” or “mostly” conservative at 12 percent versus 57 percent who put themselves in a liberal category; the remainder put themselves in a “mixed” category.
The picture may be a little better for conservatives among Millennials who are actually registered to vote: Pew put that split at 59-32 in favor of Team Blue. But it also found a gender divide that may impact the Frost strategy. Some 41 percent of Millennial males tilted Republican, while only 23 percent of Millennial females did so.
For the sake of what I know is a dubious illustration, let’s say that all the Millennial women in counties that went for Kemp are the type of good Christian conservative women Frost has in mind and that the Millennial women in the Abrams counties are all godless Commies.
As the actual math on this works out, the women in the Kemp counties already have a consistently higher birth rate than the ones in the Abrams county; in 2018, the Millennial birth rate in the Kemp counties was 79.8 births per 1,000 women versus 72.7 in the Abrams counties.
The problem is, the Kemp women are badly outnumbered.
In 2018, 647,492 Millennial women in the Kemp counties gave birth to 51,687 babies (who, in this scenario, will all grow up to be good Republican voters). The 886,215 Millennial women in the Abrams counties delivered 64,453 baby Democrats.
To close that gap of nearly 13,000, Millennial women in the Kemp counties will have to up their game; just matching the Democratic output would require them to raise their annual birth rate to just under 100 births per 1,000 women. This arithmetic is admittedly (shall we say) speculative, but it seems clear that the good Christian women in Frost’s political fantasies will have their work cut out for them.
Now, it turns out there may be a silver lining for Republicans in all this data. The same Pew research that found that conservatives had a surplus of men also found that liberals had more women and might not have enough men to go around. This creates an opportunity for those extra conservative males to try their luck with liberal women (friendly pro tip: leave the MAGA cap in the pick-up).
Of course, such a development might create an entirely new classification problem for the Department of Public Health. DPH keeps track of all the state’s births and deaths and classifies them in different ways – including ethnicity and race (white, black, multiracial). If a Republican cross-pollination initiative works, DPH might have to add a political classification – Republican, Democrat, or Multi-partisan.