Monday, November 26, 2012

Keeping the winning coalition on side

By Richard K. Barry

There is a kind of laziness in post-election analysis that focuses too much on demographic changes favourable to Democrats in order to announce that American politics is now owned by progressive forces for the foreseeable future. It's pretty silly stuff, but that can be the nature of punditry - keep it simple and stupid. 

What demographic changes and the success it brought may provide is an opportunity for Democrats to solidify their support if, and only if, they do the right things. 

Republicans are not going to sit back and accept the fact they they are doomed for the next 25 years. 

In The Washington Post over the weekend, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made much the same point:

Demographics alone are not destiny. There is nothing in this year's election returns that guarantees Democrats a permanent majority in the years to come. President Obama and the Democratic Party earned the support of key groups — young people, single women, Latinos, African Americans, auto workers in the Rust Belt and millions of other middle-class Americans — because of our ideas.

But we cannot expect Republicans to cede the economic argument so readily, or to fall so far short on campaign mechanics, the next time around.

The specific arguement Emanuel makes has to do with, as he writes, "improvements as varied as eduction and physical infrastructure."

And that's fine and important. He has his own successes to trumpet in Chicago, which is the focus of his piece. More generally, expectations will be very high for President Obama in his second term.

I think it was Mario Cuomo who once said that you campaign in poetry and govern in prose. There are a number of constituencies that voted for the president because of his poetry but who will now be listening carefully to the prose that follow.

Likely immigration reform and perhaps a new emphasis on environmental protection will be of great interest to aspects of the coalition that elected Obama. As Emanuel writes, key groups were drawn to the Democratic Party because of its ideas. But ideas have to be put into action to do any good.

If there is any intelligence left in the GOP, they will be trying to pick off constituencies that helped elect the president because its always hard to deliver on your ideas once elected or reelected. There is nothing like success in politics to make those who have supported you unhappy, paradoxical as that sounds. They all have an outsized sense of their importance to your election and they will not go away quietly.

Just making the point, along with Mayor Emanuel, that demographics are not destiny, results are.

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