I’ll probably do a longer piece on this later, but Ron Brownstein goes inside the exit polls to glean the coming political realignment. One thing I’ll note right off the bat is that John McCain must search for his votes among the elderly and non-college educated whites. This is the same coalition that is giving Hillary Clinton her votes, although her advantage with these groups has slipped as Obama’s success and name recognition have grown.
Obama is pulling off something that college educated white liberals have been waiting for since 1968. He has built a coalition of blacks and whites making over $100,000 a year. White liberals are sometimes called the ‘wine track’ to distinguish them from the lower educated and heavily unionized ‘beer track’ white Democrat.
The beer track Democrat has been coveted by Hubert Humphrey, George Wallace, Ronald Reagan, Walter Mondale, and Bill Clinton. Wine track Democrats have gravitated toward Eugene McCarty, George McGovern, Teddy Kennedy, Gary Hart, Paul Tsongas, Bill Bradley, and Howard Dean. In other words, wine track Democrats have a long record of high passion combined with electoral disappointment. The Volvo driving, latte-drinking, English majors that typify the white liberal bloc have never been able to put together a coalition strong enough to take on the Republicans. Barack Obama has changed this.
However, just as many blacks are shocked at the rise of Obama because they never pictured it happening quite like this, white liberals are somewhat shocked by how Obama is pulling this off. Particularly in the face of the Bush presidency, where white liberals and white liberal values have been under such withering assault, there is a thirst for hard partisanship. And that is not what Obama is providing. Instead, he is deconstructing the old coalitions with a velvet glove.
Our experience is one of one failure after another, as our leaders have been taken apart by the press and a fire-breathing Republican wurlitzer. Look around and you’ll see a clear trend. The older the Democrat (regardless of race) the less likely they are to believe that a black man can become president. The older they are, the less likely they are to believe that we can win with a message of unity and hope. The older they are the more likely that are to believe that we can only win with the kind of bare-knuckles amoral approach favored by the Clintons. Some might call it the victory of experience over hope.
But a look at the internals of the exit polls helps explain both why Obama is succeeding (and will succeed) and why demographic changes favor this new ‘wine track’ governing coalition in the future. Another leader that lacks Obama’s special political gifts and strong support in the black community might have a harder time holding this coalition together. But the trends favor the party that appeals to the ‘creative class’ and the black/latino voter.
And Bush is the reason why.
In 2000, under-30 voters split about evenly between Bush and Gore, according to exit polls. In 2004, they preferred Kerry over Bush by 54 percent to 45 percent. In the 2006 House elections, they backed Democrats by 60 percent to 38 percent. In a race between Obama, 46, and McCain, 71, even many Republicans wouldn’t be surprised to see that wide a gap among the young.
“If you look at Ronald Reagan and how he performed among youth, he created a generation of Republicans that was able to sustain itself,” Dowd says. “Well, what Bush has done in his presidency is almost the opposite: He has won elections and lost a generation. Now this generation is emerging, and if Democrats end up winning this election, and then govern in a way that gives people a sense that it is a new politics, they will have a generation. It will be the reverse of Reagan.”
This is the victory that has eluded the white liberal since the death of RFK. When you add to it that it is the victory that the black community could scarcely dare to dream about, it will be so deeply satisfying. And…when this all comes off, it will greatly benefit the beer track Democrat…perhaps it will benefit them most of all. And that’s something we’ve been trying to convince them of ever since they started drifting away to Reagan and Wallace.