If there’s one piece of “knowledge” that the Democrats took away from the 2012 election, it’s that it’s going to be a long time until the Republicans once again gain control of the White House because of demographic shifts.
The argument goes that because of increasing numbers within the electorate of Hispanics (who went for Obama 71-27), Youth (who went for Obama 60-36), and Black Americans (who went for Obama 93-6), a Republican presidential candidate is no longer able to win a national campaign as long as they are associated with social or fiscal conservatism.
I will concede that the basic facts behind the myth are true. More Hispanics, Youth, and Black Americans are entering the political process and these groups are Democratic trending. But history has shown time and again that as issues change, political allegiances change too.
The textbook example of this is what has happened over the past 50 years to the Roman Catholic vote. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson won election with the greatest percentage of the vote America had ever seen – 61.1 percent of the vote. Catholics gave 79 percent of their votes to the Democratic candidate. Catholics credited their assimilation into the mainstream of America in part to Democratic Party New Deal pro-union policies. Similar numbers had voted for Democrats all the way back to 1928.
Catholics had never in all of American history voted for a Republican candidate for President — not even once. In just eight years, however, Republican Richard Nixon won re-election with the third greatest percentage of the vote in U.S. history and Catholics voted for him over his Democratic challenger 54-44. Why? The issues changed. Irish,
Italian, and Polish-Americans in large measure blamed Democrats for Vietnam, the hippie movement, the decay of the big cities, increased crime, racial tensions between blacks and whites, and inflation.
They moved to the suburbs, the power of the big city machines fell apart, and they felt less like a minority group and more like any other American. Catholics have voted
Democratic for the most part since 1972, but never as high before. In 2012, they went for Obama 50-48.
The point of this story (other than that I love talking politics and religion) is that as issues change, politics change. Many Hispanics and blacks are anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage. As the economy improves and those issues come more to the forefront, who’s to say that they won’t vote more increasingly Republican?
And yet Obama didn’t win 61 percent of the vote in 2012. He won only 51 percent. A shift in just 4 percent of the votes cast, one in 25, and we’d be talking about the victory of President Mitt Romney. The Democrats need to stop acting like just because they won one game by a narrow margin, they’re going to sweep the season. They need to remember that the continued popularity of the President has a lot to do with enthusiasm for him personally, not for the Democratic Party.
They need to remember that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.