Thursday, November 17, 2011

Don't rely on history when it comes to assessing the possibilities in the electoral map

There was a time that I remember well when much of the talk about national elections focused on the challenge the Democrats traditionally faced in their inability to gain traction in the South. Remember how it was assumed that in order to win the White House Democrats would have to choose either a presidential or vice-presidential candidate from that region of the country? Folks thought there was no other path to victory for the Democrats. I actually found it rather amusing.

Then along came Obama/Biden.

Sure, they won North Carolina. But they would have managed a decisive victory even without it.

Now those folks who are so in love with conventional wisdom talk all the time about how Democrats can't win without the "Rust Belt" - states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. There's probably some truth to that. Its hard to imagine a win if President Obama loses all three of those states.

But we also need to remember that the political landscape is I talked about that a bit yesterday when it comes to the rural areas of the Great Plains. And now, as the Obama campaign has been suggesting all along, states like Arizona might be in play. That's a result of both demographic changes and a possible backlash to their draconian immigration law (the history in California for Republican Governor Pete Wilson and Prop 187 might have been instructive).

I myself have been watching for over a year now for signs that my home state of Texas might turn blue. They are now the 4th state in the country to have a minority white population (following Hawaii, California and New Mexico). Its precisely why Gov. Perry got himself into so much hot water with national Republicans for having to provide in-state tuition to immigrant students in order to win a tight election in that state.

We're going to see more and more transitions like that as the demographic changes take hold. Its not going to be pretty - the old white guard is going to fight back with a vengeance. But that's simply because they know their days are numbered.


  1. Texas just needs Telemundo to run the GOP primary debates on a constant loop. The republicans from majority white states don't mask their hate even slightly!

  2. There's another demographic transition happening which could be even more significant in the long run -- the population, especially the young, is becoming steadily less religious (the number claiming no religion has roughly doubled over the last ten years, and there's a broad mushy middle which calls itself Christian but knows or cares little for dogmatism). The Christian Right, which seems to have firmly established itself as the Republicans' voting base to which they must pander, is a shrinking and increasingly out-of-step minority.

    Even among Evangelicals under 30, anti-gay fanaticism is much less popular than among their elders.

    The Republicans have shackled themselves to a group which increasingly looks alien and threatening to the rest of the country.

  3. The Republican base is getting older and older. They really don't have a lot of the younger generation. As time goes on, they aren't replacing their base. By excessively pandering to the existing base, by playing on the fears - and outright bigotry - they've alienated large groups of people. Latinos are a good example of a demographic which, not more than 10 years ago was thought to be one which would swing Republican. They're on a course to lose that demographic entirely. In the more moderate - or "traditional" - conservatives, they've been alienating quite a few as well. I doubt that the agricultural sectors among others will be quite as anxious to vote Republican this time around, after the events in Alabama and Georgia.