Rebuilding The Coalition

Rebuilding The Coalition

by digby

Ron Brownstein points out that a large majority of white people voted Republican in the last election and says this means that he may need a new coalition:
Fully 60 percent of whites nationwide backed Republican candidates for the House of Representatives; only 37 percent supported Democrats, according to the National Election Poll exit poll conducted by Edison Research. Not even in Republicans' 1994 congressional landslide did they win that high a percentage of the white vote.

That's of people who actually voted, which means that it was also skewed older --- which explains a lot. And I'm afraid Adam Serwer's going to get a wag of the finger for suggesting that the Republicans have been exploiting "white" anxiety for nefarious purposes. But he's right:
If you're curious as to why we spent the late summer discussing the New Black Panther Party, the so-called Ground Zero Mosque, Shirley Sherrod, and birthright citizenship, I think you have your answer. Ever since the first genuine race pseudo-scandal, Barack Obama suggesting the the Cambridge Police acted "stupidly" in arresting Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. in his own home -- Republicans sensed an opportunity in exploiting the anxieties of white voters.

So it's no surprise that formula -- blowing a minor incident out of proportion to suggest the president has, as Glenn Beck put it, "a deep-seated hatred for white people," has been replicated over and over again ever since. Republicans characterized the Affordable Care Act as "reparations" and Finreg as "racial quotas." With few opportunities for future legislation in the new Congress, Republicans have already signaled their interest in investigating the NBPP case and the Pigford Settlement, which Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has compared to reparations for slavery (It actually involves USDA discrimination against black farmers in the 1980s and 1990s.)

It's not that this is the only thing they used to get out their vote, of course. The "socialism" and "Muslim" tags were just as potent. Still, this is one of their base strategies designed for the mid-terms and the Tea Partiers newfound obsession with "voter fraud" indicates that they're not done yet.

Brownstein also thinks that the exodus of these white voters from the Democratic Party may not be temporary, but rather a genuine ideological defection. (Why only white people had an ideological conversion is unexplained.) But this is very interesting:

That resistance could, in turn, increase the pressure on Obama to accelerate the generation-long transformation of the Democratic electoral coalition that he pushed forward in 2008. With so much of the white electorate, especially working-class whites, dubious about the president’s direction, to win a second term he will likely need to increase turnout and improve his showing among the groups that keyed his 2008 victory—minorities, young people, and white-collar white voters, especially women. In 2012, Obama may be forced to build his Electoral College map more around swing states where those voters are plentiful (such as Colorado, North Carolina, and even Arizona) and less on predominantly blue-collar and white states such as Ohio and Indiana that he captured in 2008.

David Axelrod, Obama’s chief political strategist, said in an interview that “it would be a mistake to take exit polls from a midterm election and extrapolate too far” toward 2012. Conditions—and the composition of the electorate—will change a great deal by then, he said. But he acknowledged that Obama must “reset” the public perception about his view of government’s role. Axelrod, who plans to return to Chicago next month to help direct the president’s reelection campaign, also made it clear that he sees as a “particularly instructive” model for 2012 the case of Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in Colorado, who won his contest last fall by mobilizing enough minorities, young people, and socially liberal, well-educated white women to overcome a sharp turn toward the GOP among most of the other white voters in his state.

Hmmm. How does that square with what seems to be an open embrace of the center right by the administration and the Villagers' insistence that he must fight for those "independents" who want austerity and tax cuts more than anything else in the whole wide world, I wonder? I'm guessing that they believe that "success" however it's defined will be what brings over all those "minorities, young people and socially liberal, well-educated white women." And it might. That's probably a group that is generally still idealistic about Obama and inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. But I don't think this is a given --- Obamamania can't be replicated. (And I have to point out that these are people who are more likely to be influenced by the grumpy professional left than anyone else.)

This is very interesting if true and we may see something different than the predicted re-election strategy if it is. Stay tuned.

Update: Atrios is absolutely right that the older (white) skew in this last election was as much a result of the elderly being manipulated into thinking that Obama was going to turn them into Soylent Green as it was about race. (I do expect that for some of them, the fact that it was a black man trying to turn them into Soylent Green was what made it believable.)

And it's certainly true that if they want to get back any of these voters, talking up social security cuts isn't going to get it done. The GOP proved in the last election that they have no problem marshaling Independent Expenditure groups to shamelessly lie outright to this demographic to scare them into voting their way. It won't matter at all if the cuts only affect people who were born after the year 2000 --- they will be easily convinced that Obama is throwing them into the streets immediately. He is, after all, a scary black man.