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.