Peter Beinart, reflecting on the spectacular electoral success of Obama’s bet on America’s changing demographics, makes a bold prediction:
Four years ago, it looked possible that Barack Obama’s election heralded a new era of Democratic dominance. Now it looks almost certain....the face of America changed, and only one party changed with it....From the beginning, Obama has said he wants to be a transformational figure, a president who reshapes American politics for decades, another Reagan or FDR. He may just have achieved that Tuesday night.
Along these lines, Pew Research has released its analysis of the the exit poll numbers. It is striking:
Nationally, nonwhite voters made up 28% of all voters, up from 26% in 2008. Obama won 80% of these voters, the same as four years ago.
Obama’s support from nonwhites was a critical factor in battleground states, especially Ohio and Florida. In Ohio, blacks were 15% of the electorate, up from 11% in 2008. In Florida, Hispanics were 17% of the electorate, a slight increase from 14% in 2008. While minority compositional gains were not huge, they offset a strong tilt against Obama among white voters. Nationally, Romney won the white vote, 59% to 39%.
Romney won nearly six out of every 10 white voters, and still lost. The key point here is that the GOP explicitly bet on a reversal of demographic trends. The case for a Romney victory always rested on the hope that the electorate would be whiter and older than it was in 2008. The opposite happened — the election seemed to confirm that these trends will continue marching inexorably forward.
Before yesterday, gay marriage had never been ratified by popular vote. Now that has happened in three states, and gay marriage is legal in nine of them. The Defense of Marriage Act very well may be struck down by the Supreme Court next year, meaning all the gay couples in all these states will enjoy full recognition as married couples from the federal government. Health care reform is here to stay. Andrew Sullivan:
America crossed the Rubicon of every citizen’s access to healthcare, and re-elected a black president in a truly tough economic climate. The shift toward gay equality is now irreversible. The end of prohibition of marijuana is in sight. Women, in particular, moved this nation forward — pragmatically, provisionally, sensibly. They did so alongside the young whose dedication to voting was actually greater this time than in 2008, the Latino voters who have made the current GOP irrelevant, and African-Americans, who turned up in vast numbers, as in 2008.
Enormous challenges remain, and it’s always easy for people to overinterpret election results amid the euphoria of victory. But it’s hard to square all of this with the notion that this was a “small” election or a victory that was only ground out on the margins. And it will certainly be interesting to see where the GOP goes from here.