Sunday, July 26, 2015

Democrat Party's Future Isn't as Sound as You'd Think

A interesting (but long) piece from Suzy Khimm, at the New Republic, "The Obama Gap: A Case Study in Electoral Failure":
Obama’s electoral victories in 2008 and 2012 seemed to herald a new era of Democratic dominance built on a winning coalition of young and minority voters, one that would indicate a long-term, structural advantage for Democrats. It seemed to be the scenario John Judis and Ruy Teixeira famously predicted in 2002, at the nadir of Democratic influence during the Bush administration, in their book The Emerging Democratic Majority. Increasing urbanization, education, and racial diversity offered “fertile ground for the Democrats’ progressive centrism and postindustrial values.” A few days after the 2012 election, Teixeira, writing for The Atlantic, pointed to Obama’s success with minority voters over Mitt Romney (80 percent to 18 percent); with educated professionals (55 percent to 42 percent); and among young voters (60 percent to 37 percent). He reminded readers that Obama was “the first Democratic president since Franklin Roosevelt to win successive elections with more than 50 percent of the vote, powered by the continuing rise of the coalition described in the book.” As Teixeira recently told me, while Democrats must be mindful of not continuing to hemorrhage white voters, “the advantages, all else equal, continue to increase.”

But set Obama’s impressive electoral victories aside and the Democrats look less like an emerging majority and more like a party in free fall: Since Obama was sworn in six years ago, Democrats have suffered net losses of 11 governorships, 30 statehouse chambers, more than 900 statehouse seats, and have lost control of both houses of the U.S. Congress. After the 2014 midterm rout, Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg penned a memo deeming it “remarkable”—an understatement—that voters had given Republicans so much control so soon after giving Democrats Rooseveltian wins nationally. The implications, Rosenberg warned, were dire: “The scale of Republican success in recent years outside the Presidency has altered the balance between the two parties now, and may even leave the GOP a stronger national party than the Democrats over the next decade.”

That has been the experience in Florida. Since 2008, the GOP has solidified its control of the Sunshine State. Republicans now hold every statewide office in Florida except for the Senate seat of Bill Nelson, a former astronaut who was first elected to Congress in 1979. In the statehouse, Republicans command a supermajority, which they used to create a redistricting map so heavily weighted in their favor—one congressional district was so convoluted it resembled a snake—that they were forced by a county court in 2014 to redraw it. And it’s all happened in the home of Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Florida reveals the existential challenges the Democrats confront. The emerging Democratic majority may be an opportunity that Obama turned into reality. But unless Democrats find better ways to turn out their new voters—and win back more of the white voters flocking to the GOP—the party will continue to lose ground in Congress, governors’ mansions, and statehouses across the country—regardless of who wins the White House in 2016. To do that, Democrats will need better ways to organize their traditional party apparatus—or find new ways to leverage outside groups and spending to strengthen their ties with new voters before Republicans do. “Our party has a problem,” Wasserman Schultz said in a post-midterm “autopsy” video. “We’ve got to do better.”
Lots more at the link, and worth a read, but you'll need to grab a beer and chill with it for awhile.