Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Romney strategist Stuart Stevens published an op-ed in The Washington Post today defending the campaign's efforts. What Stevens wrote is getting a lot of attention, mostly because he cites the fact that Romney lost non-white voters and voters making less than $50,000 a year as if that's a good thing.

But BooMan focuses on one passage in particular in Stuart's piece, a passage that reads in part:
There was a time not so long ago when the problems of the Democratic Party revolved around being too liberal and too dependent on minorities. Obama turned those problems into advantages and rode that strategy to victory.
In response, BooMan writes:
... after eight years of having a black family in the White House, there has been some reshuffling of the two parties' brands. The GOP is whiter than ever and the Democratic Party is more identified with the changing demographics of the country. Both changes are alienating people and growing the polarization between the parties. It may be that a 2016 campaign by Hillary Clinton will discover that Arkansas doesn't love her family anymore, and that West Virginia and Missouri are not going to come back into the fold. On the other hand, it could be that Obama's race is disguising the true weakness of the Republican Party. It could be that a 2016 Democratic candidate who is seen as a sound bet to continue Obama's policies and solidify his legacy will have no trouble holding onto his coalition, but will also find a much bigger pool of white working class voters willing to give their candidacy a look. Honestly, I suspect that the GOP is only hanging on as well as it is by fueling itself on the fumes of racial fear and resentment.
I think he has a point -- though I think an inspiring white candidate can keep Obama's coalition and win back some lost white voters. But what BooMan writes reminds me that nominating Obama in '08, rather than Hillary Clinton, helped push the Democratic Party to become the party of the new America, and inspired the GOP to become even more the party of the past than it already was.

I don't think things would have happened in quite the same way if Obama had never challenged Hillary, or if she'd beaten him in '08. Hillary went into primary season with strong support among non-white voters, but it's really unlikely that she'd have worked to build the coalition Obama built -- focusing especially on non-whites and young voters -- if she'd won the nomination. I think she'd have tried to run a New Democrat campaign aimed at the kinds of voters who liked the V-chip and school uniforms in the '90s. Non-white voters would have been a significant part of her coalition, but not as much as they are Obama's.

And Obama's coalition -- built on non-whites and on young whites who accept the rainbow-hued nature of the future America -- has made the GOP even more insularly white and suburban/exurban/rural than it already was. The GOP would have demonized Hillary as a bitch and a boomer commie; the attacks on her as a woman would have backfired and broadened the gender gap, but there wouldn't have been the dog-whistle racial line of attack (birtherism, intimations of crypto-Muslim beliefs) that helped drive growing non-white groups into the Democratic camp.

So Obama helped make the GOP less competitive for the future, and made the Democrats more competitive. He pushed the party to embrace the future the way it embraced white ethnic groups a century ago. He made his party stronger. He made the other guys weaker.


Philo Vaihinger said...

I think Bman is mistaken.

So far as race enters into it for any significant number of voters, it's not the race of the candidate that matters but the presumed race of the presumed beneficiaries of his attentions.

Why is anyone speculating about Hillary?

She has repeatedly said she is out and she is almost as old hat as Joe Biden.

A big part of the Obama coalition was enthusiastic youth.

She looks too much like a grandma, these days.

Victor said...

GOP = Graying Old Penises.

And I don't see the Republicans as having much room to maneuver in the future.

I have seen them referred to now as the new Whigs - but this is wrong, since when the Whigs morphed into Repubicans. They were the more progressive, more inclusive, more pro-government party. The Democrats were the party of Rural America, back in the earlier part of the 19th Century.

The Republicans are the new Know Nothing's, dependent on a base of Dominionist Christian Evangelicals, racists, misogynists, xenophobes, and/or homophobes.
The old-school Republicans of old money, and business and corporate wealth, have completely lost control. And the entire party can thank Nixon and their Saint Ronnie for the current mess: "The Silent Majority, and "The Southern Strategy," were followed by the "The Moral Majority," via the welcoming of the Evangelicals.

To become more inclusive, they must reach out to either Blacks, Women, Hispanics and other ethnic minorities, and/or Gays. And by doing so, risk pissing-off one, or more, of their current constituence.

Yesterday, the Republican House majority named 19 committee chairs - all of them white men.

This isn't exactly reaching out - slapping every other group in the country in the face, is no way to reach out.

And all I can say to the Republicans is, "Keep up the good work!"

You are actively planning and participating in your own obsolescence.

aimai said...

I don't have a clue about who could run in 2016--or maybe I should say I have plenty of clues about who will run but none about who should run. That being said I think that SteveM is exactly right about the polarizing effect of Obama's "weakness" among traditional democratic white voters. The democrats ahve been chasing the Reagan Democrats (who were also the Nixon democrats) for as long as I can remember. Sometime after Obama got elected the first time, in the roiling first months when people were pissed off about his inviting that asshole Minister to give the invocation and failing to deal agressively with the gay issues etc...etc...etc... I put my head down on the table and cried and thought "fuck it, we've got the DLC in power." But sometime rather late in this campaign, when he called Sandra Fluke personally, I realized that he and his campaign were going all in with women and gays and stopping worrying about looking like they cared too much--or like a little right wing ridicule would freak them out.

The campaign sent out that facebook ready "life of Julia" which showed how much a woman benefits by the ways in which modern government touches her life? The right wing attack machine went nuts over that with insults, parody, columns, tv segments calling the Democrats everything but pimps and pushers and perverts for dealing with the issues of "angry (any color) women" instead of slavering over the "angry white male" vote. That's when I knew we were playing in a whole new game. When the Dems didn't retreat and cower and sistah soljah Fluke.


Victor said...

Yeah, I saw that as a gamechanger too.
Usually, it's the Republicans who, when they're in for a penny, they're in for a pound - while the Democrats, when the going starts to get tough, quickly pull their penny back, and duck and cower.

I was impressed that they stuck with gay and women's rights issues, instead of triangulating back to some squishy, neither feast nor fowl, middle position - like 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell, And Please Don't Hold Us Accountable For Anything We've Said So Far.'

Now, let's see the Democrats get tough on the 'Fiscal Molehill!'

JoyousMN said...

Great post Steve and really good comments.

I was also really happy the Dems stuck with all us non white male groups. First time, in a long time. Let's hope they stick with us thru the budget negotiations.

trnc said...

" ... though I think an inspiring white candidate can keep Obama's coalition and win back some lost white voters".

Isn't that exactly what Booman was saying?