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America's new electorate

Guest Blogger

In the view of John Kenneth White, a professor of politics at Catholic University in D.C., the Reagan era is dead and buried. One need look no further than the election of Barack Obama. In his book “Barack Obama’s America: How New Conceptions of Race, Family, and Religion Ended the Reagan Era,” White argues that Reagan represented where we had come from: a 1950s and 1960s America made up of Church-going married couples who were largely white and suburban. Obama, by contrast, represents where we are and where we’re going: America with a white minority by mid-century; cohabitation gaining on marriage, and organized religion in distress. Here, White assesses what the changes across the American landscape mean for coming elections.

By John Kenneth White

The summer of 2010 is not a happy time for Barack Obama. An uncontrollable oil spill, unemployment hovering near the 10 percent mark, and a war without end in Afghanistan have left Obama’s job approval ratings at or below 50 percent.

Just two years ago, Republicans believed that they would be a party-in-exile for years to come. Now Minority Leader John Boehner boasts that there are 100 Democratic seats at risk, and Republicans are exuding confidence that they will control the House by the end of this year -- with the presidency and the Senate to follow in 2012.

Republicans are poised to do well. In the modern era, only 1934 and 2002 saw a first-term president’s party add congressional seats. Midterm elections are typically times for retrenchment, as the public reacts against the exuberance of a president’s first two years in office.

1982 is a case in point. That year, Democrats pounded Ronald Reagan for unfair cuts to government programs that hurt the poor and vulnerable. Their slogan, “It isn’t fair; it’s Republican,” helped the party to win back 27 House seats. But two years later, Reagan won a landslide reelection, and the Reagan era became an enduring aspect of political life. From 1980 to 2008, Republicans won the presidency five times; only the remarkably talented Bill Clinton proved to be the exception.

The Reagan era was premised on an electoral majority famously described as being “un-young, un-poor, and un-black.” This so-called “real majority” was mostly white, resided in the suburbs, went to church (or synagogue) regularly, was middle-class, and had children under the age of 17 residing with two married parents at home.

Today, that real majority is the new “real minority.” Consider: by 2042 whites will be a minority throughout the United States; there are more foreign-born in California than there are people in New Jersey; co-habitation is the norm; one-third of newborns are born to single mothers; same-sex marriages are legal in five states; only four-in-ten Americans attended a church, synagogue, or mosque in the past seven days; 10 percent describe themselves as being “former Catholics;” and more citizens live alone than ever before. These statistics point to the emergence of a post-Reagan nation that made Obama the first African-American president.

These facts have yet to mobilize Republicans into action. For example, instead of appealing to nonwhites -- particularly Hispanics, who constitute the largest number of unregistered voters and are expected to be 29 percent of the population by 2050 -- Republicans are driving them further into the Democratic coalition, thanks to a GOP-sponsored law in Arizona that condones racial profiling.

Rather than thinking about the future, Republicans seem determined to resurrect Reagan and his instinct for knowing what the old real majority thought. That can work in 2010, when four-in-ten eligible Americans will vote (many of them white, middle-class, middle-aged suburbanites).

But it won’t work in 2012, as the nation’s demography will favor racial minorities, nontraditional families, and seculars.

By Steven E. Levingston  |  June 28, 2010; 5:30 AM ET
Categories:  Guest Blogger  | Tags: america's changing culture; white minority; end of reagan era;  
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Comments

How about we just toss out the illegals and their welfare anchor baby's and solve part of the problems we are currently having.

Pandering to an illegal part of the population is morally wrong and in my eyes riding the razor's edge of being a traitor to your country and it's citizens.

Posted by: PennyWisetheClown | June 28, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

No, PennyWisetheClown, let's get rid of the white welfare-pimp farmers, the white banksters, the white oil spill execs, the white tax cheats, the white white-callar crooks, the white polluters, the white sub-prime mortgage originators, and most importantly, the WHITE EMPLOYERS OF UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS.

Yup, we can't reward bad and illegal behavior.

Posted by: Garak | June 28, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

No, PennyWisetheClown, let's get rid of the white welfare-pimp farmers, the white banksters, the white oil spill execs, the white tax cheats, the white white-callar crooks, the white polluters, the white sub-prime mortgage originators, and most importantly, the WHITE EMPLOYERS OF UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS.

Yup, we can't reward bad and illegal behavior.


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I agree lets get rid of them to. In fact i think the way we do things mostly with fines is no good we should go to mandatory jail sentences with no chance of parole. Our White collar criminals and slave owners get off to many times with a fine they just laugh at lets get tough about it.

Posted by: PennyWisetheClown | June 28, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Well then... Goodbye Wal-Mart! And goodbye out-of-season fruits and vegetables!

YAY!

Posted by: rmaltempo | June 28, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

The author has spent too much time in the Northeast, talking with the same assortment of bedwetters, crooks, and fools that compose the majority population of that cesspool. The rest of the country might as well be on another planet. We loathe everything the average North easterner holds near and dear -- free trade and job outsourcing, gun control (69% of the country are opposed to any new gun control laws and want every big city law repealed -- see todays Rasmussen poll), the Wall Street bailouts, Gay marriage, the Patriot Act, the "No Fly" lists, Obama-care (58% want it repealed), and increased government power. It sounds to me as if Reagan conservativism and traditional (Jeffersonian) liberalism is alive and well in the country outside of the Northeast and it's lunatic asylum enclaves in Illinois and California.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | June 30, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

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