Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Changing Electorate

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I read an article on the internet the other day that discussed a formula some politician or think tank had devised to predict which of the two major party candidates would win the presidency.  Those types of stories get kicked around every four years as amateur prognosticators try to circumvent polls and common sense and announce with certainty who the eventual winner will be.  These systems usually take into account the state of the economy (unemployment rate, GDP, per capita spendable income - things like that), incumbency and voter fatigue (which party has been in office and for how long), and the current President's approval rating.   The fellow who drafted the article wound up concluding that if the election were held today, poor Hillary could not rely on more than 47 percent of the vote.

His basic rational was that the economy may be improving - for some - but many do not feel it yet in their own personal lives,  Democrats have had the presidency for two consecutive terms, and Obama's approval rating, while well above that of Congress, is far from the heights it once enjoyed.

I did some research and found a similar article in 2012 that used the same basic formula.  The person who wrote it said that the criteria had been used successfully in 18 of 20 elections.  Of course, the article predicted that Obama would lose his 2012 bid for selection - so make that 18 of 21!

Yes, I believe that regardless of how diverse the American population is, there are some good predictors of how the nation as a whole will vote in any given election - including those already noted.  But what I don't think is receiving adequate attention is the changing American demographics - particularly the ultimate demise of the older, more conservative voters, as they make the grand exit from this earthly political quagmire.  One has to only look at the speed with which World War II veterans have left us over the past few years to know that this change in demographics is pronounced.

In years past, I suspect, as one generation died off, it was steadily filled up again by the next generation, many of whom shared the political views of their elders.  I'm not so sure that is the case anymore.  My father found it almost inconceivable that a black man could be elected President of the United States - while his children and grandchildren had no difficulty at all accepting that possibility and helping to make it happen.

The times had changed.

The times have also changed, ferociously fast, with the general acceptance of gay rights and marriage equality by the American populace.   Just ten years ago Republicans were using anti-gay marriage measures to get out the conservative vote - and now most states have provisions allowing for gay marriage - and many ordinary citizens have found the inner-strength to speak out in favor of something that they knew in their hearts was right all along.

And remember just a few short years ago when a social nonconformist who took an occasional puff of marijuana was considered by many to be a drug addict.  Today it's becoming legal faster than people can light up!

The times are changing.

And now, while we have yet to have a female President of the United States, anyone with more than a few firing neurons knows that it is inevitable.  The people who would have been standing solidly in the way of that change are disappearing.

Yes, I do think that people tire of the same party in power year after year, but in this particular case I suspect that fatigue may be directed as much at the do-nothing Republican Congress as it is toward the Presidency.  It will be interesting to see what the next general election brings, but I suspect that it may not be quite as predictable as some models would suggest.  The long shadow of Ronald Reagan is waning, and it is being quietly replaced by the hopes and aspirations of younger people - people who are much more inclusive and open-minded in their world view.

Change happens, sometimes slowly - and sometimes with a step or two backward - but in the end we always move forward.  

1 comment:

Xobekim said...

Once upon a time, in the not too distant past, an angry Democratic county chairman told me the Political Science proved that the kids always voted like the parents. Hence, he insisted, it was of little - and probably negative - value to aggressively conduct a voter registration drive. I pointed out to him that if he got off his lazy keister and canvassed even only his own precinct he'd realize the error of his thinking. Kids are likely to be unaffiliated where their parents are strongly partisan. There are families with a mix of D's and R's. The times are changing which explains in good measure why Republicans are engaged in voter suppression tactics.