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Tags: Demographics

What Do Democrats Really Stand For Today?



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The Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt features more on Barney Frank’s surprise retirement, some explosive news out of Iran, and this discussion in the shift in the thinking of the Democratic Party:

Democrats to White Working-Class Voters: Drop Dead

Over in the New York Times, Thomas Edsall says that Obama can lose the white working-class vote and be okay in 2012: “For decades, Democrats have suffered continuous and increasingly severe losses among white voters. But preparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon the white working class. All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand, of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment — professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists — and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.”

At Red State, Moe Lane marvels at the Democrats’ shift in philosophy:

Whether you agreed with the New Deal program or not, you could always actually define it in terms that were internally self-consistent. Broadly speaking, it was a broad agreement among various groups that America’s most pressing problems could be managed and ameliorated on a broad scale through ‘expert’ and judicious government intervention; and that such intervention dampened the uncertainty and anxiety that might otherwise cause societal panics and economic dislocations. Again: you don’t have to agree with that (I don’t) to recognize that it existed as a coherent policy.

But now that has gone by the wayside, to be replaced with a system that… apparently plans to trade support for permanent government dependency programs for minorities, in exchange for legislating the fringe progressive morality of affluent urbanites. Aside from the utter lack of an unifying intellectual or moral framework to such an arrangement, it’s unclear exactly who benefits less from it; while it’s certainly not in minority voters’ long, medium, or short-term interests to become a permanent underclass, it’s not exactly clear that minority voters are even particularly ready to vote for a progressive social policy (as an examination of recent reversals in same-sex marriage movement in California and Maryland will readily attest). But then, that is not really the goal, is it? The goal is to re-elect President Obama – which is something that poor African-American and rich liberal voters both wish to do – and if that is accomplished, then anything else is extra. Which is just as well, because nobody really expects Obama to have much in the way of coat-tails this go-round.

Ah, but look, today’s Democratic party isn’t really about addressing economic opportunity or even dealing with America’s most pressing problems – for starters, many Democrats are not persuaded in the slightest that the annual deficit, accumulating debt, and ticking time bomb of entitlements are pressing problems at all. If Democrats really expected that electing Obama would solve problems, they would be angrier with him than we are. No, for most Democrats, their political party is about a cultural identity. That identity is heavily based on not being one of those people, i.e., Republicans or conservatives.

As far as I can tell, there are three inviolate principles in the modern Democratic Party:

  • Any form of consensual sexual behavior is to be accepted if not celebrated; with that central belief comes the policy abortion on demand for any woman at any age free from parental consent for minors; free contraceptives in schools, gay marriage, and the insistence that Bill Clinton’s lying under oath about Monica Lewinsky didn’t count because it was about sex. Complaining about explicit sexual content in pop culture reaching an audience that isn’t ready for it – i.e., Tipper Gore in the 1980s – is the sign of the square and the prude. As no less an expert political philosopher than Meghan McCain told us, “the GOP doesn’t understand sex” and has “an unhealthy attitude about sex and desire.” (Republicans are supposedly repressed and sexless, even though they generally have more children.)
  • America is a deeply racist country, even though you have to look far and wide to find anyone who openly expresses the belief that one race is superior to others. Everybody recoils when Imus says something snide and obnoxious about the Rutgers womens’ basketball team. Racism is never found in the central tenet of Affirmative Action, that minorities must be judged by a lower standard, or in the until-recently all-white lineup of MSNBC or the claims that Clarence Thomas and Herman Cain are Uncle Toms or in the career of Robert Byrd. The fundamental belief of the Democratic Party is that racism remains a serious problem in America today and that the problem is found entirely in the GOP.
  • Credentials are to be respected, and any scoffing or skepticism at, say, the Ivy Leagues is a sign of anti-intellectualism, ignorance, jealousy and insecurity. Those who go there are indeed the best and the brightest, and undergraduate and graduate degrees from those schools are key indicators of one’s intelligence, good judgment, and overall character. The success of dropouts like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg are strange anomalies, and no serious reevaluation of the higher education system is needed. As Rush Limbaugh observed, Bill Clinton said he wanted a cabinet that “looked like America” and declared he had achieved it after assembling a group that was almost entirely Ivy League-educated lawyers.

Everything else is negotiable. For a while, it appeared that Democrats were organizing themselves around the principle that almost every dispute with every other nation and group can be resolved through “tough, smart diplomacy,” but now President Obama has started killing foreigners left and right and not too many Democrats complain at all. Obama even used a drone to kill an American citizen, Anwar al-Alwaki, with nary a peep. Don’t get me wrong, Alwaki had it coming, but this is precisely the sort of don’t-bother-me-with-legal-details-I’m-fighting-a-war philosophy that Democrats spent seven years denouncing.

You think the Democratic Party cares about wealth? Come on. In their minds, George Soros spending his money to help out his political views is noble, but the Koch Brothers are evil incarnate. Higher taxes are good, but no one will complain if Tim Geithner or Charlie Rangel cut corners on paying them. One might be tempted to argue that the righteousness of unions represent an inviolate principle to Democrats, but in New York, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trimming here and there and living to tell the tale.

No, the party really is about identity politics now; us vs. them. And everybody knows which side they’re on.

The Jammie-Wearing Fool: “Barack Obama 2008: Hope, change and bringing people together. Barack Obama 2012: Screw those stupid white people. Could you imagine the firestorm if Republicans explicitly stated they’re abandoning any effort at winning over  minority voters?”

Tags: Barack Obama , Democratic Party , Demographics

America, a Little Less Diverse Than Some Might Think



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Gallup offers its latest demographic assessments of Republicans, but offers a key point easily overlooked in a political realm where people talk about the Democrats’ lock on the African-American vote, the importance of the Hispanic vote, etc. Gallup’s numbers indicate the composition of U.S. adults — separate from registered voters or likely voters — is 72 percent white, 11 percent black, 13 percent Hispanic.

For all the talk of a rapidly diversifying society, this is still an overwhelmingly white nation. An approval rating in the low 30s among whites — as Obama reached in September — is an extremely ominous indicator for his reelection prospects.

Tags: Demographics

Do 2012’s Demographics Mean an Obama Win?



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I ended last week with an appearance on Hardball, with guest host Chuck Todd, discussing this Ron Brownstein piece on “the changing American electorate” in National Journal.

The general gist of the article is that the rapid growth in America’s minority populations — most notably Hispanics and Asian-Americans — is bad news for the GOP. By their calculations, Obama can do much worse among white Americans in certain key states and still win, because the growth in the share of the electorate by these other groups would counteract that.

I might argue the reverse, that some polling evidence suggests Obama’s support among whites is eroding, and he’ll need greater turnout among minority voters to offset those lost votes.

Obama won 43 percent of the white vote in 2008, and in a lot of the key swing states, Obama was winning percentages ranging from the mid-40s to more than 50 percent.

Obviously, Obama’s current approval rating doesn’t correlate perfectly with his likely share of the vote, but let’s presume that his share of the vote is within a few points of his approval rating. A recent National Journal poll finds, “Obama’s approval rating among whites remained at just 39 percent; it hasn’t cracked 40 percent since September 2009.” Even worse for the president, Quinnipiac’s latest puts Obama’s job approval among whites at 29 percent.

Obama won 43 percent of the white vote in 2008. When National Journal was trying to calculate how little of the white vote Obama could get and still win these states, the lowest swing states were North Carolina and Virginia at 38 percent. But if the publication’s own poll is accurate, Obama is really on the precipice of how little of the white voter support he can enjoy while remaining competitive, and if the Quinnipiac poll is accurate, he’s up a certain creek. (PPP puts his approval rating among whites at 35 percent in North Carolina and 37 percent in Virginia; recall National Journal calculates Obama needs 38 percent with higher minority turnout.)

Among Hispanics, Obama is doing much better, with a 64 percent approval rating according to Pew. In Gallup’s poll, it’s been as low as 54 percent. The organization Latino Decisions did a poll in February that put Obama’s approval rating pretty high — 70 percent — but only 43 percent were certain to vote for him. Obama won 67 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008. If Obama wins a percentage close to those 70 percent who currently approve, he’s home free. If Obama’s level of support is closer to that 43 percent of current certain supporters, he’s in deep trouble.

Of course, one problem with this type of analysis is that we’re looking the numbers in a vacuum, presuming that past voting habits continue. For example, the unemployment rate for blacks is currently 13.7 percent and the unemployment rate among Hispanics is 11.3 percent. For almost all of Obama’s presidency, these troubling numbers have been even higher. Will Obama run as well among those groups if unemployment among them is significantly higher than it was in 2008?

Finally, I would note that in every election, and certainly since 2008, Democrats have counted on minority voters to turn out and support them in large numbers. By and large they have been disappointed, even in states with high Hispanic populations like New Jersey, Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Virginia. Will turnout be up in a presidential year? Sure. But it’s worth noting that in the past two years, some very well-funded campaigns brought President Obama to rallies in places like Cleveland and Norfolk and Newark and Camden, and minority voters haven’t shown up for the Democrats in the numbers they were looking for. Sometimes, the voters just don’t show up.

UPDATE: Some more thoughts on this issue from Michael Barone here.

Tags: 2012 , Barack Obama , Demographics , Polling

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