Democrats And The White Vote
President Obama is likely to win re-election while overwhelmingly losing the white vote. Does it matter?
If President Barack Obama wins, he will be the popular choice of Hispanics, African-Americans, single women and highly educated urban whites. That’s what the polling has consistently shown in the final days of the campaign. It looks more likely than not that he will lose independents, and it’s possible he will get a lower percentage of white voters than George W. Bush got of Hispanic voters in 2000.
A broad mandate this is not.
Josh Marshall finds this critique outrageous:
Or to be more specific, Obama’s winning but not with the best votes. I mean really, if you can’t win with a broad cross-section of white people, can you really be said to represent the country?
He put it even more succinctly four years ago:
But creeping in the shadows of these conversations about how Democrats can no longer manage to win the white vote and are only saved from political oblivion by running up big margins among African-Americans is a little disguised assumption that African-American votes are somehow second-rate.
While that sentiment no doubt exists, I don’t think this it’s fair to attribute it to Vandehei and Allen. Surely, it’s noteworthy if winner does poorly with the dominant demographic group in the country.
Non-Hispanic whites still make up 63.7 percent of the population as of the 2010 Census. In the 2008 election, they constituted 74 percent of the electorate. The fact that one political party overwhelmingly gets their votes is problematic. Even in 2008, when Barack Obama won in a landslide in an election that was a perfect storm for his party, he only carried 43 percent of the white vote.
Conversely, the fact that the other party gets virtually all of the black vote (12.6 percent of the population) and the lion’s share of Hispanics (16.4 percent with a bullet) is troubling.
Is winning the way Democrats do—with huge margins among racial minorities and a large number of whites—less legitimate than winning the way Republicans do—with a large majority of the majority but almost none of the minority population—less legitimate? Of course not. But Vandehei and Allen aren’t talking about legitimacy but mandate.
The fact of the matter is that, so long as the racial divide among the parties continues, it’s next to impossible for either party to get a “broad mandate.” America is increasingly a country of reinforcing cleavages, which can be crippling to the health of a democracy.