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“The Dangers Of Democratic Complacency”: The Last Thing Democrats Need Is To Be Lulled Into Complacency

It’s only mid-April, but with “Why Hillary Clinton Is Probably Going to Win the 2016 Election,” New York‘s Jonathan Chait has zoomed into the lead in the race to win this year’s chutzpah-in-punditry award.

Don’t get me wrong. Even with the general election still 19 interminable months away (that’s 571 days, but who’s counting?), Chait makes a strong case for a Clinton victory. But I still wish he hadn’t written the column. The last thing Democrats need is to be lulled into complacency. Yes, they have a number of demographic advantages going into the next election cycle. But that doesn’t mean Clinton will coast to victory.

Chait relies heavily on a new Pew poll, and much of his analysis is sound. Democrats are indeed likely to benefit from two demographic trends: the “emerging Democratic majority” (which is a product of liberal-leaning segments of the population growing at a faster rate than conservative-leaning ones) and the replacement of more conservative older voters by more liberal younger voters.

But Chait fails to note a finding in the Pew poll that should give him pause — namely, that 39 percent of the public now identifies as independent. That’s the highest level in over 75 years of polling.

It’s true that many of these independents are “closet partisans” — functionally Republicans or Democrats in their ideological leanings. But not all of them are, and even some of those who lean one way or the other are persuadable by the other side under the right circumstances and by the right candidate.

This appears not to trouble Chait because, as he notes at the conclusion of his column, he has faith that the Democrats are the only “non-crazy” party in the U.S. at the moment, and thus the only party that will appeal to non-crazy voters.

I submit that this might make a decisive difference if the GOP ends up nominating Ben Carson — which it won’t. It may also prove important if they go for Ted Cruz — which is highly unlikely. And it may even have some effect if they put up Scott Walker or Rand Paul.

But bland-and-boring Jeb Bush? Or Cuban-American pretty boy Marco Rubio? I don’t think so.

Sure, Chait — a loyal Obama supporter and merciless scourge of the right — thinks the GOP nominee doesn’t matter, because the party (as displayed most vividly by its congressional brinksmanship since 2011) is fundamentally nuts. Even a temperamentally moderate Republican president would have to ride the Tea Party tiger while in office.

I largely agree. I just doubt most voters will. If Republicans can manage to nominate a candidate who sounds halfway reasonable, Hillary Clinton will have a real fight on her hands.

Democrats are going to have to work hard to prevail in 2016. The left’s sharpest minds would be well advised not to encourage Democrats to deny this fact.


By: Damon Linker, The Week, April 16, 2015

April 17, 2015 Posted by | Democrats, Hillary Clinton, Independents | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Waging A Hopeless War Against Demographic Shifts”: Fox News Has Already Lost Its War On Christmas

Take down the Christmas tree Holiday Conifer and pack up the Nativity set Biblical-themed diorama: The War on Christmas is over, and the secularists have won.

While Fox News was busy insisting that Santa (and Jesus) are white, a couple of new polls pointed to something that the network has been warning about for years: Christmas has gradually become less of a religious holiday, and more of a cultural one.

First up, a Public Religion Research Institute survey released Tuesday found that almost half (49 percent) of Americans believe stores should use non-denominational greetings like “happy holidays.” That’s up slightly from three years ago, when 44 percent preferred a less-religious platitude to the traditional “Merry Christmas.”

At the same time, just under half of all Americans (49 percent) now believe the Biblical story of Christmas — virgin birth, angels, three wise man, and so on — is historically accurate. That’s a steep decline from a decade ago, when fully two-thirds of Americans believed the story was completely true.

So what happened to America? In a word: Aging.

Younger Americans are far less likely than older ones to view Christmas as a religious holiday. Much like how same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization, and other once-untouchable wedge issues have been blunted by the nation’s shifting demographics, the same phenomenon is evident in America’s changing views of Christmas.

A recent Pew poll bears out this point. In the survey, 51 percent of respondents say Christmas is “more of a religious holiday,” while 32 percent say it is more so a cultural one. But among adults ages 18-29, only a 39 percent minority say they celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday; among those 65 and up, 66 percent say the same.

Moreover, though seven in ten respondents in the survey say they typically went to religious Christmas services as children, only 54 percent say they plan to do the same this year.

The shift reflects America’s growing body of so-called “nones,” or the religiously unaffiliated, whose share of the population rose from 15 to 20 percent in the last five years alone. With that group on the rise, and with millennials beginning to skew the nation’s overall demographic makeup, an uptick in support for a more secular Christmas should be expected.

So Fox News is sort of right in saying that “Yes, Virginia, there really is a War on Christmas.” But the war isn’t one being waged by fanatical, intolerant liberals and foaming-at-the-mouth atheists. It’s one being waged by inexorable shifts in America’s demographics and beliefs.


By: Jon Terbush, The Week, December 18, 2013

December 19, 2013 Posted by | Christmas | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Santorum Ignores Shift”: What Rick Santorum Views As A Passing Fad Is Likely To Become The Norm Quite Soon

Several 2016 presidential campaigns are already up and running — some more quietly than others — and Republicans hoping to be their party’s nominee are preparing for a primary that could potentially bear little resemblance to those of 2012 and 2008. As the party grapples with a shifting electorate, it is divided over differences on gay marriage, immigration reform, national security policy and even guns — gaps that could only widen by 2015, when campaigns will be in full swing.

Potential candidates are busy searching for safe corners on these contentious issues and are either acknowledging the profound shifts, even when they haven’t changed their minds, or saying little until they have to — all of them, so far, except former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.).

Santorum, of course, won the Iowa caucuses last year and nearly derailed Mitt Romney’s path to the GOP nomination before he started speaking out against the dangers of college education, free prenatal testing and contraception. Just this week he predicted that a “chastened” U.S. Supreme Court would not rule in favor of gay marriage and that the Republican Party was not going to change on the issue because doing so would be the end of the party. Yes, the end.

“The Republican Party’s not going to change on this issue. In my opinion it would be suicidal if it did,” Santorum told The Des Moines Register. The ex-lawmaker described new support for gay marriage as “popular” and “the fancy of the day,” but also considers it fleeting, as “not a well thought-out position by the American public.”

In the past Santorum has made clear he believes gay marriage is “antithetical” to healthy families. “Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that’s what? Children. Monogamous relationships. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality,” he said in 2003.

Santorum told the Register on Monday he is considering another presidential run but hasn’t made any decisions. He will return to Iowa next week to speak to the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, where he said he will address this topic. “One of the things I learned from the last four years is that when you go to Iowa, people pay attention to what you say,” he said in his interview. “That’s always a gift to any person in public life. We’re going to talk about the concerns I have.”

It is understandable that, as a religious Christian, Santorum is uncomfortable with the idea of same-sex marriage. Many Republicans who also want to be president feel exactly the same way. But they are not encouraging their fellow Republicans to alienate homosexual voters. Telling voters their opinions are wrong isn’t usually a winning campaign strategy. The strong majority support for gay marriage, even among Republicans, can be denied no more than the growth of the Latino population and the fact that President Obama won it 71 percent to 27 percent over Romney. They are stubborn electoral shifts, just like the fact that young voters and Asian Americans have recently turned away from the GOP in greater numbers, which any Republican hoping to win the White House in 2016 will have to contend with and accept.

There is a significant difference between a trend and an evolution. What Santorum views as a passing fad is likely to become the norm quite soon; young people support gay marriage by a margin of 4 to 1. More acceptance isn’t likely to give way to less over time, no matter how much chastening Santorum has in mind.


By: A. B. Stoddard, Associate Editor, The Hill, April 10, 2013

April 13, 2013 Posted by | Conservatives, Marriage Equality | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Young Are The Restless”: The Days In The Lives Of All Our Children Are Rapidly Changing

The surge of generational change continues in this country, altering the cultural landscape with a speed and intensity that has rarely — if ever — been seen before.

The latest remarkable change concerns the decriminalization of the use of marijuana. A poll released Thursday by the Pew Research Center found that for the first time more Americans support legalizing marijuana use than oppose it.

It was rather unsurprising that more young people would support the move, but it was striking how quickly they adopted a more liberal position. About seven years ago, millennials (defined by Pew as people born in 1981 or later), Generation Xers (those born between 1965 and 1980) and baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) shared the same view on marijuana: Only about a third thought it should be legalized. Since then, the share of millennials supporting its legalization has risen more than 90 percent. Meanwhile, the number of legalization supporters in Generation X and among the baby boomers has risen by no more than 60 percent.

The millennial generation is the generation of change. Millennials’ views on a broad range of policy issues are so different from older Americans’ perspectives that they are likely to reshape the political dialogue faster than the political class can catch up.

I surveyed the past six months of Pew and Gallup polls, to better understand the portrait of a generation bent on rapid change — even if that means standing alone.

ON GAY MARRIAGE Much has been made of the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage in this country, but a Pew poll last month found that that the change is driven mainly by millennials. Theirs was the only generation in which a majority (70 percent) supported same-sex marriage; theirs was also the only generation even more likely to be in favor of it in 2013 than in 2012, as support in the other generations ticked down. The longer-term picture is even more telling. Support for same sex-marriage among Generation X is the same in 2013 as it was in 2001 (49 percent). But among millennials, support is up 40 percent since 2003, the first year they were included in the survey.

Some of this no doubt is the result of younger adults’ having more exposure to people who openly identify as LGBT. According to an October Gallup poll, young adults between 18 and 30 were at least twice as likely to identify as LGBT as any other age group.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean that millennials overwhelmingly agree, on a moral level, with same-sex relationships. In fact, a survey released last year by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University in conjunction with the Public Religion Research Institute found that they “are nearly evenly divided over whether sex between two adults of the same gender is morally acceptable.”

ON GUN CONTROL According to a February Gallup report, Americans ages 18 to 29 are the least likely to own guns, with just 20 percent saying that they do. That is well under the national average of 30 percent of Americans who own guns.

And in a Pew poll taken shortly after the Newtown, Conn., shootings, younger Americans were the most likely to say that gun control was a bigger concern in this country than protecting the right to own a gun. (Younger respondents barely edged out seniors with this sentiment.)

In fact, a Gallup poll found that the percentage of those 18 to 34 years old saying they want the nation’s gun laws and policies to be stricter doubled from January 2012 to 2013. No other age group saw such a large increase.

It is remarkable that young people’s opinions shifted so dramatically, especially since a December Pew poll found that young adults under 30 were the least likely to believe that the shootings in Newtown reflect broader problems in American society. This age group was, in fact, the most likely to believe that such shootings are simply the isolated acts of troubled individuals.

Young people also are the least religious (more than a quarter specify no religion when asked), and they are an increasingly diverse group of voters. Fifty-eight percent of voters under 30 were white non-Hispanic in 2012, down from 74 percent in 2000. Like it or not, younger Americans are thirsty for change that lines up with their more liberal cultural worldview.

Advantage Democrats.


By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 5, 2013

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Cultural Issues | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“White Districts And White Sensibilities”: The Real Problem Republicans Have, They Don’t Want To Change Their Policies

You may have heard that in the incoming Congress, white men will constitute a minority of the Democratic caucus for the first time. That’s an interesting fact, but it’s only part of the story. At National Journal, Ron Brownstein and Scott Bland have a long, Brownsteinian look at how “the parties glare across a deep racial chasm” not only in the members of Congress themselves, but in the people they represent. “Republicans now hold 187 of the 259 districts (72 percent) in which whites exceed their national share of the voting-age population. Democrats hold 129 of the 176 seats (73 percent) in which minorities exceed their national share of the voting-age population. From another angle, 80 percent of Republicans represent districts more heavily white than the national average; 64 percent of House Democrats represent seats more heavily nonwhite than the national average.”

The implications for the GOP of the fact that most of their members represent mostly white districts are profound, touching on the continuous interaction between individuals and policy. Politicians are shaped by their political environments and the things they have to do to win, and the fact that most GOP members represent overwhelmingly white districts means that as they rise through the ranks, the time they’re going to have to spend talking to and listening to non-white people is going to be limited. Brownstein and Bland talked to some of the few Republicans who represent more diverse districts:

But even some House Republicans from racially diverse districts worry that many of their colleagues representing more monolithically white areas aren’t doing enough to court minorities. “Honestly, I don’t believe they are,” says Rep. Joe Heck, who won reelection in a diverse district outside Las Vegas.

Heck says he’s established beachheads among minority voters by working first with ethnic chambers of commerce. “For me, meeting with the members of the chamber was a door to building relationships with members of those communities,” he says. Then he hired aides to coordinate outreach to Hispanic and Asian constituents; during his campaign, he organized coalitions in those communities. “When I’m home in the district, we would do entire outreach days, visiting multiple Hispanic businesses, even ones outside of my district.”

As it happens, Joe Heck is an extremely conservative Republican. But he does all that outreach because he has no choice. And over time, that will make him more understanding of, and sensitive to, the concerns of people who aren’t white. It means that he’ll have a better awareness of the things that piss Hispanics off, and learning how not to piss different kinds of people off—with both substance and symbolism—is a big part of politics. This is important for both sides, and with a variety of constituencies. For instance, one of the first things you learn working on a Democratic campaign is that every piece of printed material you produce, from brochures to door hangers, has to have on it the tiny union “bug” that shows it was printed at a union shop. If it doesn’t, you can be damn sure you’ll get some angry phone calls from union members and representatives, because they notice. Republicans have I’s to be dotted and T’s to be crossed for their own constituencies as well. But somebody coming up through Republican politics in an overwhelmingly white district won’t have to learn, for instance, what pisses off Hispanics. So when they talk about immigration their speech is peppered with terms like “illegal aliens” that Hispanics find, well, alienating.

The advantage Democrats have is that nobody has to teach them how to talk to white people, because you learn that no matter where you live. It’s the same reason colleges don’t offer courses in White History or White Literature—you’re already learning it. Yes, there are subgroups of whites whom you can fail to understand, but it’s a lot less likely that you’re going to alienate them and end up losing the White House because of it.

So the real problem Republicans have isn’t that they don’t want to recruit minorities, because they do. They don’t want to change their policies to do it, of course, but they’re pleased as punch when they find someone like Tim Scott or Ted Cruz, a real-live minority who also happens to be rabidly right-wing, whom they can hold up as an example. Their problem is that they don’t know how to attract minority voters, because where most of them come from, they don’t have to.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January, 15, 2013

January 16, 2013 Posted by | Ideologues, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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