Oh, dear. It’s worse for the Democratic party than I thought.
The GOP dominance in these predominantly white working-class districts underscores the structural challenge facing Democrats: While the party has repeatedly captured the White House despite big deficits among the working-class white voters who once anchored its electoral coalition, these results show how difficult it will be to recapture the House without improving on that performance. “The question is: Are we at rock bottom here?” says Tom Bonier, CEO of the Democratic voter targeting firm TargetSmart Communications.
These trends present Republicans with a mirror-image challenge. The vast majority of their House members can thrive without devising an agenda on issues—such as immigration reform—that attract the minority voters whose growing numbers nationally have helped Democrats win the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections.
Note the weasel phrase in the last sentence, there: now that ‘Republicans can’t defeat incumbent Democratic Senators’ has joined ‘Democrats always win special elections’ in the great heap of Rules Of Thumb Past Their Sell-By Date you can expect to hear that particular factoid. Because Democrats won the popular vote in five of the last eight Presidential elections. And five of the last nine. Six of the last ten. Six of the last twelve. Eight of the last fourteen. Eight of the last sixteen. And that gets us to the end of the Truman administration. Put another way: hey, here’s a news flash! The Democrats and Republicans have been trading the White House every eight years or so since my mother was a child. Expect that to happen in 2016, too.
No, really, expect that to happen even if we nominate That Candidate That You Hate. What this article is carefully not mentioning is that it’s assuming that the Democratic party’s voter pool is anything like a baseline for that party, instead of a ceiling. Simply put: far too many Obama voters in 2008 and 2012 only came out for Barack Obama. They will not come out for Joe Biden, they will not come out for Hillary Clinton, they certainly will not come out for Elizabeth Warren, and they will not come out for anybody that Barack Obama stumps for.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at these maps comparing 2008 and 2012. Barack Obama made a little bit of history by doing worse in his reelection bid, yet winning anyway: a combination of overwhelming black (and solid Latino) support, coupled with a horrific disparity in campaign infrastructure, allowed him to eke out a win. 2014 showed us, pretty clearly, that when Obama’s not on the ballot minorities don’t turn out and the Democrats’ vaunted digital outreach infrastructure is reduced to the online equivalent of an angry drunk. Which is funny, because, hey: Barack Obama’s not going to be on the ballot in 2016!
Again, it doesn’t matter if That Candidate That You Hate gets the GOP nomination. This is not about us. This is about the Democratic party relying on a voter model that has to improve on what is already an artificial set of assumptions. I’d perhaps feel differently about this if the Democrats had a candidate that could cause precisely – precisely – the same sort of irrational appeal that Barack Obama produced in 2008. Instead, the Democrats get to choose between a bunch of old white people who are only charismatic in relation to each other. I understand that many people enjoy being miserable in advance, but all of this reminds me of our problems in 2007. Which makes me grin.
I am truly sorry if it doesn’t make you grin, too.
Moe Lane (crosspost)