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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Democratic Majority?

Photo Credit: WhiteHouse.gov

Yesterday, Democrat Barack Obama was inaugurated for his second term as U.S. President. His party, in fact, has won at least a plurality of the votes in five of the past six presidential elections. On average, Democrats have received about 4.5 million more votes than Republicans in every presidential election since George H.W. Bush won decisively in 1988. Was that the end of the Reagan era?

The Democratic party has also controlled the U.S. Senate since the 2006 midterm elections. Indeed, in the fifteen years between January 2001 and January 2015, Democrats will have controlled the Senate for all but four and one-half years. That's roughly two-thirds of the years to-date of the twenty-first century.

Republicans currently control the U.S. House of Representatives, but this is thanks largely to gerrymandering and quirks of political geography. Democratic candidates in the 2012 elections received one million more votes than did Republicans. Indeed, FairVote.org has estimated that Democrats were actually preferred roughly 52-48% by the electorate in the most recent elections. The Democrats controlled a majority of the House from January 2007 until January 2011, which means they have won a meaningful majority of votes cast in three of the past four congressional elections.

Why mention these facts? Well, it is interesting how quickly political reality can change. Remember when some pundits and insiders were predicting a "durable" majority position held by the Republican Party?

That alleged majority was built largely on the Republican control of the south and the exurbs. To get a taste of the era, consider the following analysis that I found while going through old drafts of posts that were never posted on this blog. The piece was written by Ronald Brownstein in the February 2006 issue of The American Prospect. The columnist was reviewing four contemporary books about the South and American politics:
The South now furnishes the decisive votes for Republican control of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House. Outside the South, Democrats still hold the advantage in the competition on all three fronts. But the Republican dominance of the South has grown so pronounced that it swamps the Democratic strengths elsewhere and provides the GOP with its margin of majority for both Congress and the White House.

Consider the Senate. In the 11 states of the old Confederacy plus Oklahoma and Kentucky -- the generally accepted political definition of the South -- Republicans hold 22 of the 26 Senate seats. In the rest of the country, Democrats control seven more Senate seats than the GOP....

The same is true in the House. Outside the South, Democrats hold a 152-140 edge in House seats....The imbalance is even more pronounced in the race for the White House. In 2000, Al Gore won just over 70 percent of the Electoral College votes at stake outside the South. But George W. Bush narrowly won the White House because he swept all 165 Electoral College votes in the 13 southern states. Four years later, John Kerry won 68 percent of the Electoral College votes outside the South. But Bush won because he again swept the 13 Southern states -- this time worth 168 Electoral College votes after population growth measured in the 2000 Census.
In my review of the 2004 presidential election results, I noted some "ongoing demographic changes" that were already influencing voting patterns in Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Virginia. I described these as a "good sign for Democrats for 2008 and beyond," even though they had just experienced their most disappointing election of the past quarter century.

I suspect, somewhere, Republican analysts are looking at the most recent voting and demographic data in an effort to find some pathways to victory in 2016.


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