October 22, 2014 Leave a comment
I love, love, love this piece by Ron Brownstein. It hits almost every major point I’ve been making about demographics and elections for the past 4-6 years. (Of course, I’ll admit to being heavily influenced by Brownsteins’ great analyses over this period). I especially like how he emphasizes that the changing demographic nature of midterm versus presidential electorate is not new, but how the bases of the party’s align with that is new– that’s the key.
I’m going to heavily excerpt, but that said, if you are a regular reader of this blog, do me a favor and read the whole thing (then again, as a regular reader you may already totally get this). So, at least consider sharing this piece with the politically-inclined among those you know as I really think it explains the dynamics of modern politics in a short piece better than about anything I’ve read. Here goes:
The safest prediction one can make about this year’s congressional elections is that the voters who decide them will look very different from the ones who settled the 2012 presidential contest. The share of minorities and, especially, young people in the electorate will almost certainly decline; the proportion of whites and, especially, seniors will increase.
This shift isn’t new. Midterm elections have long attracted fewer voters than elections in presidential years have, with minorities and young people among the groups most likely to stay home…
But while the voting falloff between presidential-year and midterm elections has remained constant, its impact has been vastly magnified by a racial and generational realignment that has remade each party’s base of support since the 1980s. In presidential and congressional races alike, Democrats today fare best among minorities, Millennials, and white voters (especially women) who are single or college-educated. Even in a country rapidly growing more diverse, Republicans still rely almost entirely on whites, running best among those who are older, blue-collar, married, rural, and male. In other words, Democrats have become increasingly reliant on precisely the groups most likely to sit out midterms, while Republicans score best among those most likely to show up.
That’s modern American politics in a nutshell. Brownstein adds plenty of data to flesh out the argument and also looks to the future:
But the best news for the Democrats is that, whatever happens this year, eventually demographic change will overwhelm the turnout gap. While Millennials and minorities still participate at lower rates in midterms than in presidential elections, their presence is inexorably growing on both fronts: the minority share of the vote in off-year elections jumped from 14 percent in 1994 to 23 percent in 2010, and this year will likely come in somewhere between that figure and the 28 percent from 2012. If Republicans can’t attract more votes from the growing numbers of minorities, Millennials, and white-collar white women who have powered the Democrats’ success in recent presidential elections, demographics will ultimately threaten the GOP’s hold on the House, too…
That’s an encouraging long-term prospect for Democrats—but it may be cold comfort if lagging turnout among their best voters contributes to another brutal midterm this year.
Personally, I’m taking warm comfort in it :-).