The truth is that the most important factor shaping the 2008 election will almost certainly be the same one that has been the most important in presidential elections for the past 40 years: the flight of white male voters away from the Democratic Party.The Democratic party has kicked around the idea with a "values voter" push, but it had little more substance than simply repeating the word "values" in the 2004 election cycle. The new crop of Democrats from the 2006 mid-terms represents a more serious move in the direction Kuhn suggests is imperative for the party, at least in the short- and medium-terms.
The hostility of this group to Democrats and their perceived values is so pervasive that even many people who make their living in politics scarcely remark on it. But it is the main reason the election 13 months from now is virtually certain to be close — even though on issues from the war to health care, Democrats likely will be competing with more favorable tail winds than they have enjoyed for years.
Meanwhile, Republican strategists and their media supporters largely remain focused on trying to pick up Hispanic voters through less emphasis on immigration restriction, irrespective of what effect it might have on white voters.
To get some feel for the magnitude of the variance in voting among the major demographic groups in the US, the +advantages (disadvantages) in terms of actual votes (in millions) for each of the 2000, 2004, and 2006 elections, from the Republican perspective follows.
These numbers slightly inflate the non-white and deflate the white numbers because they're taken from the VNS exit polls, which consistently query non-whites at rates that are a bit higher than the more meticulous Census surveys determine should have been warranted.
White M: +7.9
White F: +.5
White M: +8.5
White F: +5
White M: +2.2
White F: +.4
From 2000 to 2004, the "security moms" and "soccer moms" takes were fairly accurate, with the caveat that those moms were overwhelmingly white. While the Democrats widened their absolute lead among blacks and Hispanics (gaining 2.2 million brown folks), Republicans more than made up for those losses by pulling ahead with white men (adding 600,000 votes) and especially with white women, for whom the lead was increased by 4.5 million votes.
From 2004 to 2006, when the GOP was obliterated, the white male advantage shrunk by 6.3 million votes. For white women, it dropped 4.6 million, for a total white loss of nearly 11 million votes. The corresponding drop in Hispanic support figures to a net loss of 1.2 million.
The tales of both parties' fortunes are primarily contingent upon how well they fare among white voters. This is hardly surprising, as over 80% of the electorate is white. Yet it is rare to hear this titanic bloc referred to as an influential collective entity in voting.
It's curious how when it comes to impending Social Security and Medicare shortfalls or an unsustainable trend toward more retired dependents relative to active workers, politicians cannot be more focused on immediate concerns (those are ugly things to tackle that are going to necessitate unpopular responses, so why deal with them if you don't (yet) have to?). But when it comes to demographic trends, the impression is that we're already decades down the road.
The black gap is enormous, rivaling even the white gap in absolute numbers of votes, while blacks represent but one-tenth of the electorate. For many of the same reasons that Hispanics will gravitate towards the Democratic party, that is not going to switch in the foreseeable future.
However, Republicans might make some headway among union members, 2 million of whom are black and another 9 million of whom are white, not to mention the 1.8 million who are Hispanic and hardly any better off facing a bloated supply of low-wage laborers than other union members are. By repudiating the suggestions of people like Nadler and Strassel and the unpopular decisions of national labor federations to support open borders, there is an opportunity here that meshes with the sentiments of the vast majority of natural Republican voters.