Megan McArdle @ The Daily Beast:
So Obama won. Quel surprise. A lot of buzz last night that this represents the culmination of what Judis and Teixera long ago dubbed “The Emerging Democratic Majority“: a coalition of minority voters that will consistently produce Democratic landslides. Ross Douthat offers some clear-eyed introspection:
You could see this belief at work in the confidence with which many conservatives insisted that the Obama presidency was not only embattled but self-evidently disastrous, in the way so many voices on the right sought to raise the ideological stakes at every opportunity, in the widespread conviction that the starker conservatives made the choice between left and right, the more votes they would win.
You could also see this conviction shaping the punditry and predictions that issued from conservatives in the days leading up this election. It was remarkable how many analysts not normally known for their boosterism (I’m thinking of Michael Barone and George Will in particular) were willing to predict that Romney would not only win but win sweepingly, capturing states that haven’t gone Republican since Reagan. But even less starry-eyed conservatives — like, well, myself — were willing to embrace models of the electorate that overstated the Republican base of support and downplayed the Democrats’ mounting demographic advantage.
Those models were wrong about 2012, and they aren’t likely to be right about 2016 or 2020. Republicans can console themselves that they came close in the popular vote. They can look ahead to a favorable Senate map in 2014 and they do still have their House majority to fall back on.
One of our editors suggested that I write something up on it, and my response was that I’m not sure how enduring this “Emerging Democratic Majority” will prove to be. Some reasons for my skepticism
1. That majority sure isn’t emerging very fast: I first heard this thesis in the late 1990s. Teixera and Judis wrote a book on it that came out in 2002, which means it was written in 2001, or earlier. How did 2010 even happen? Yes, low turnout, energized base. But the GOP didn’t just squeak out a few victories; they crushed. Those of us who remember the 2004-vintage talk of a “permanent Republican majority” will be cautious about overinterpreting election results.
2. Ethnic coalitions are inherently unstable. It used to be a sort of natural law that urban Catholics voted Democratic. Then Reagan won them in huge numbers. And–contra those who are saying that the GOP now has to move left–they didn’t win by getting more liberal. Rather, the Democrats got more liberal, on crime and bussing, and the white ethnics who felt victimized by these policies fled. The more ethnic groups you have, the more likely it is that you will eventually find the goals of those ethnic groups in direct conflict. And the Democrats sure do have a lot of groups.
3. We are heading for a showdown between public sector unions and taxpayers. That’s going to put Democrats in a very tough spot. Those unions are the backbone of the Democratic political operation. But their pensions are, in many places, simply not payable. Thanks in part to the late 1990s stock market boom, and in part to really scandalously bad accounting standards, politicians made a lot of promises they didn’t pay for. Those promises now can’t be shed in bankruptcy, and all of the possible deals–which including hiking taxes to “tax revolt” levels, or shafting all the younger public sector workers–are bad for Democrats.