Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Andre watch

So, we've directly engaged him and the scurrilous arguments he enjoys bringing forth. This morning we find that Andre is clinging to his notion that Democrats in Georgia must abandon their base of white progressives and African-Americans by pursuing candidates who run hard to the right.

While, again, I don't presume to suggest that, given today's existing political environment in Georgia, a moderate-to-conservative Democrat wouldn't fare better at the state level (though, to be fair, I think the jury's out that too), I also think merely copying the Republicans is not a valid or legitimate long-term strategy.

To bolster his claim, Andre derides the notion that Hispanics are emerging, albeit slowly, as a political player in Georgia. He does this despite evidence that shows Georgia's Hispanic population is exploding and Hispanics are constituting more and more of the electorate. He also thinks it's 'speculation' that Hispanics tend to lean Democratic, again, despite evidence to the contrary.

What else does Andre dispute? That younger voters are trending Democratic and - with someone like Barack Obama in the White House serving as the possible formative political figure for younger voters the same way Ronald Reagan did 25-plus years ago - that they'll remain in the 'lean Democratic' camp. Here, though, his own research undermines his argument ...

With Georgia’s youth, the CNN exit poll for 2008 showed voters between the ages of 18 and 24 backed McCain with 50% of the vote. Voters between the ages of 25 and 29 backed McCain with 51% of the vote.

In 2006, young Georgia voters backed Perdue with 51% of the vote.

In 2004, young Georgia voters backed Bush with 52% of the vote.

And in 2000, young Georgia voters back Bush with 60% of the vote.

So, we see that in eight years younger voters have gone from being a reliable Republican voting bloc to a swing group in Georgia. In fact, they're the only demographic to have swung so sharply toward swing voter status during a period of time when the state, as a whole, suddenly and dramatically realigned to the Republican Party.

And somehow this is proof that they're Republican voters?

Furthermore, the primary fault with Andre's rationale is that in addition to simply ignoring contrary evidence which points out how he's, well, wrong, is that it's adhering to an outdated model of mobilizing voters by dividing them into the wrong sub-sets. As I argued earlier, Georgia will emerge, in due time, as a competitive swing state thanks largely to an urban population growth with those voters tending to lean Democrat over Republican. This trend has happened in North Carolina and Virginia and, thanks to the rapid growth of Atlanta and other metro areas, it is likely to happen here as well.

University of Georgia history professor James Cobb notes ...

Moreover, in Georgia where (John) McCain’s final five point margin was much slimmer than once anticipated, the Obama campaign’s belated decision to run ads targeting metro Atlanta, with its large population of white newcomers and African Americans, might have indicated recognition of a lost opportunity and foretold a more formidable effort in that state in 2012. ...

Obama’s returns also reflected the growing suburbanization of the South’s black middle class. He carried three metropolitan Atlanta counties—Douglas, Newton, and Rockdale—that, despite giving 60 percent or more of their votes to George W. Bush in 2004, had seen their black populations more than double since 2000. Blacks represented over one-third of the population in each of these counties by 2008, and although McCain carried four other metropolitan counties with smaller but fast-growing black populations (including notoriously conservative Cobb), his share of the vote nonetheless fell short of Bush’s by from seven to twelve points.

The point isn't offering a more conservative or more progressive message, but rather a practical one that connects with the challenges and concerns facing these voters. And, given that the newer white voters tend to hold more progressive views on most issues - and that they appear to be a source of strength for the Democratic Party in the coming years - crafting a message which alienates them is absolutely backward.


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