Friday, November 06, 2009

The Myth of '08, Demolished

So where has this new transformation that an Obama presidency was supposed to bring at?
In the aftermath of last year's Obama sweep, we heard endlessly about its fundamental, revolutionary, transformational nature. How it was ushering in an FDR-like realignment for the 21st century in which new demographics -- most prominently, rising minorities and the young -- would bury the GOP far into the future. One book proclaimed "The Death of Conservatism," while the more modest merely predicted the terminal decline of the Republican Party into a regional party of the Deep South or a rump party of marginalized angry white men.

This was all ridiculous from the beginning. 2008 was a historical anomaly. A uniquely charismatic candidate was running at a time of deep war weariness, with an intensely unpopular Republican president, against a politically incompetent opponent, amid the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression. And still he won by only seven points.

Exactly a year later comes the empirical validation of that skepticism. Virginia -- presumed harbinger of the new realignment, having gone Democratic in '08 for the first time in 44 years -- went red again. With a vengeance. Barack Obama had carried it by six points. The Republican gubernatorial candidate won by 17 -- a 23-point swing. New Jersey went from plus 15 Democratic in 2008 to minus 4 in 2009. A 19-point swing.

What happened? The vaunted Obama realignment vanished. In 2009 in Virginia, the black vote was down by 20 percent; the under-30 vote by 50 percent. And as for independents, the ultimate prize of any realignment, they bolted. In both Virginia and New Jersey they'd gone narrowly for Obama in '08. This year they went Republican by a staggering 33 points in Virginia and by an equally shocking 30 points in New Jersey.
I think Obama had a solid win last year, but one just has to note the anger and discontent out there. Some of it a result of undue expectations on the new President. Some of it may well be about deep disagreement with the policies enacted by the President. Oh and some of it may be personal, but then that's to be expected in politics, because you're on the "other side" people are not going to like you much anyway.

All the same I believe that New Jersey has to be the worse loss from Tuesday. A Democratic state with a Democratic incumbent Governor who was a self-funder and even had Obama campaigning for him. It didn't happen!

Still we're a long way from seeing whether or not the Obama magic has faded.

Can This State Be Saved? - National Review
New Jersey in November '09; Illinois in November '10? - Proft for Governor
The Obama magic has faded - New York Post

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