Wednesday, November 7, 2012

So Now What?

On the morning after the President signed an executive order allowing those who were brought to the US illegally as children could earn temporary amnesty, I found myself in line at the Dallas Airport. As the news was broadcast on CNN, the white Texas couple in front of me scoffed at the thought that illegals wanting to steal jobs would qualify for "a free ride."

The Hispanic family behind me, on the other hand, was quietly delighted, and began texting friends.

Anecdotes don't mean much in the grand scheme of things, but if there's one thing that seems clear now is that the President and Senate Democrats have the high strategic territory as it relates to re-introducing the DREAM Act. If we consider that the Hispanic voting bloc is currently resoundingly anti-Republican, their continued obstructionism in the form of ludicrous suggestions like self deportation only causes more harm, and a pretty face and bilingual stump speeches aren't going to address that. If a Democratic President and a Democratic Senate pass the DREAM Act, an argument can be made that it solidifies the Democratic Party's stronghold on that demographic for a generation.

It is in the best interests of the GOP, then, find a way to reach a high profile compromise that grants amnesty to those who are in the country illegally. This removes the issue from the table, ultimately and frees the parties to address the Hispanic demographic on different ground.

Changing Attitudes and the Ascent of Millenials
Now seems to be a good time to talk about social attitudes. If you pose the question of Gay Marriage to a Millenial, the general answer you'll get is "it doesn't impact me, so what do I care?"

As Baby Boomers and aging evangelicals continue to shuffle off this mortal coil, they are replaced by Millenials that have increasingly Libertarian attitudes on social issues, including birth control and abortion, which are viewed through the prism of individual choice. This bodes well for those who are traditionally persecuted and scapegoated by Republicans. In particular, those states that have anti-gay marriage laws in place will slowly start to see them overturned, provided a Court doesn't wise up and find them in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. It also bodes well for Democrats who, aside from a few notable exceptions aim squarely in the wheelhouse of people with these attitudes. A Republican Party that preaches an overtly faith based message is preaching to a shrinking choir.

Don't assume, however, that Millenials have equally liberal attitudes about taxation and economics. Millenials, particularly the younger half of this generation, have somewhat conservative attitudes on economics, which leave them just as vulnerable to the "for me, but not for thee" economic policies that Republicans increasingly clumsily overtly espouse. The student loan reform bill directly benefits this generation as does credit card reform. Future Democratic politicians will need to find similar types of consumer and economic type reforms to appeal to this demographic.

Toward the Future
What we've seen clearly is that Tea Party Politics has a clear ceiling. In a Gerrymandered Congressional environment with predominately Republican districts, Congressional candidates can, for a time, continue to leverage the rural white portions of their districts to win races, barring a 2006 type wave, for the remainder of the decade.

However, outside of the states that are currently Red, Republican candidates that adopt this platform will continue to lose at the Senate level. The Rural/Urban composition of most Blue and Purple states will see to it that a nut like Tom Smith in Pennsylvania isn't take seriously. And a Presidential Tea Partyesque candidate isn't feasible either.

The next immediate Senate hurdle is 2014. While there is cause for concern, the map does not appear to be as bleak for the Democrats as it was, say, the day before yesterday.

2014 will underscore how much progress the Democratic Party makes in addressing a chronic problem; keeping an engaged electorate enthused enough to rollback the gains made by Republicans in 2010. Certainly there is an outstanding party apparatus in place, but the Party has struggled to utilize that infrastructure to effectively market the Party beyond the President. This advantage, which was such a disadvantage in 2004, is something upon which the Party must leverage more effectively.

So what is the early line on the future of the top of the Democratic ticket? Immediately people speculate that Hillary Clinton, who will not return as Secretary of State, will contemplate a run. Joe Biden has dropped hints that he's interested in running yet again. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley will certainly consider runs.  One name to remember, somewhere on the ticket, is Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, who won re-election in a state that is red and getting redder.

Thinking strategically, while the Democratic Party has a deep collection of African Americans, the pool of prominent Hispanics is not deep beyond the local level. To that end, if you'd ask me for an ideal ticket, it would consist of Hillary Clinton and a prominent African American politician such as Patrick or, in an age in which our population is becoming increasingly urban, Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

But it's a long way from here to there, and four years is an eternity in politics.

About Last Night (or, Electoral Perversity in Chicago)

So, how was your evening? Anything interesting happen last night? Anything good on television?

All kidding aside, let me indulge in a moment of horn blowing and take a victory lap. Go ahead and re-read this and be sure to click the last link. I'll wait.

Why, oh why, did I not play the lottery that day instead?

Where were we? Oh yes. A whole heap of good news awaited those of us who were willing to stay up into the wee hours of the morning as President Obama relatively comfortably earned a second term in office as President of the United States. In addition, the Democratic Party picked up Senate seats in Indiana, North Dakota(!), Connecticut and Wisconsin.

At long last, the arc of the universe finally bent toward justice, with Gay Marriage rights affirmed in Maine (again), Washington and Maryland, with an additional referendum voted down in Minnesota. Marijuana legalization proposals were approved in Washington and Colorado, though the degree to which those have any legal standing relative to federal laws is subject to additional debate.

Beyond that, additional progress was made when Tammy Baldwin won the Senate race in Wisconsin to become the first openly gay Senator. Last night's election ensured that New Hampshire's Governor and entire Congressional delegation would be female, a first.

Amongst the good news is some bad. Though the Democrats gained some seats in the House, unfortunately the Gerrymandering that occurred in the wake of a disastrous 2010 midterm election wave saw to it that the House stayed in Republican hands. Also, Toledo lost at home to Ball State in football and will likely fall out of the Top 25 as a result. But no one wins all the time.

 Grand Old (White) Party

There is a substantial amount of Wednesday Morning Quarterbacking material available that attempts to cut to the heart of the reasons behind the Republicans losing a Presidential race despite a lackluster economy, and failing to capitalize on an opportunity to seize control of Congress entirely. It's a large body of work, analyzed with more depth than I can do justice, but I'll try and touch upon some things that aren't so obvious and move on.

Much is made that the vast majority of African Americans vote Democratic. However, 88% of the Romney/Ryan ticket was white. That is no longer acceptable in a nation as diverse as the United States is. It was stated (in The Atlantic but sadly I can't find the article) that this was the last time a campaign micro targeted to a white suburban/exurban/rural audience could be tried at a national level, and that was proven true. The traditional coalition of white evangelicals, suburban/rural folks and the elderly cracked and sputtered to a halt in the face of changing demographics.

If the thought hasn't occurred to you already, it should: Romney/Ryan will be the last white male ticket you will see from the two major parties in your lifetime.

But to state "it's not the message, it's the medium", and to think that Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz making speeches about the federal deficit and creeping socialism is going to make these races competitive again is a fools errand. The GOP needs to do some serious soul searching as it relates to casting off the evangelical yoke and ridding itself of the Grover Norquists of the world, or the marginalization will proceed apace, though slower than we progressives would like.

If it wasn't obvious already, the GOP has reached the point where the inmates are running the asylum. Referendums that scapegoated gays and Hispanics (2004 and 2006) ultimately led to widespread voter revolt. Even George W Bush, for all of his unending faults, tried desperately through the first six years of his terms in office trying to reach a reasonable compromise on the landed immigrant issue. He understood that, to some extent, demography is destiny, and if you don't reach out to Hispanics they will desert you en masse. Human Rights issues aren't single issues, they are economic, personal, and they cut across every other issue that impacts people's lives.

The Evangelical yoke runs counter to the emerging point of view of Millennials in particular. Public opposition to birth control, reproductive rights and equal pay offend not only younger women but they cut directly across an important Millennial trend that I'll discuss in another article. Regardless, the party's desire to impose Messianic Law on the majority of the population has reached its expiry date.

On The Plus Side

I would talk about what the President accomplished at this point, but if you're hitting this website, you're pretty familiar with those accomplishments already. The good news is that Obamacare is here to stay, with the resulting assurances that, no matter how flawed it may be, people no longer have to die because they can't afford healthcare, or go bankrupt in the event they become seriously ill. With a Democratic Senate, we  are also likely to get Filibuster Reform, and Medicaid and Medicare will continue to exist in a feasible form.

So now that we know where we are, how do we figure out where we're going?

Yay! Obama wins!

Need I say more?