When Kerry lost to Bush in 2004, my wife was devastated. She had worked her butt off, local state and Federal elections, feeling the choice couldn’t be any clearer. Yeah, Kerry was flawed but the gap was enormous. She even held a Bake Sale for Kerry for Chrissakes.
When it was over, I tried to console her, noting that Colorado had elected a Democratic Senator and moved the state legislature to Democratic control. I argued, it was the idea of a sitting president in wartime – and 2004 was the thick of wartime – you remember the torture, the beheadings, the savagery on all sides. But she didn’t buy it. And I said, well just remember, there are more of us than there are of them.
I’m not even sure I had thought it through when I said it. But now I look at this election and I think again, there’s more of us than there are of them. And Obama appealed to the base of Us in a way Kerry, Gore and even Clinton never did. (cf. Rove strategy of appealing to his base, reprised this year by the choice of Palin.)
The dynamics of this shift in Colorado began a while back(all this applies to New Mexico and Nevada too). We moved here in 1994, the end of a three-year influx of right wing refugees from California’s earthquakes and race riots. The University of Colorado football coach forms the Promise Keepers – Focus on the Family gets huge in Colorado Springs. Elements of these movements appealed to long time Coloradans from ranching, oil and gas, and the Air Force Academy/Lockheed Martin. But those were all shrinking, even shrinking from within. Oil and gas becomes renewable energy. Military tech companies become dot.com funding vehicles. And all the while, the new Coloradans, like us, were growing.
And who are the new Coloradans? High tech kids. Jamband devotees. Extreme sports Olympians. Not to mention the foundational marathon runners and cyclists who made Colorado the place to train. They are young. They are environmental. They are free spirits of personal liberty. They are Us.
Oh, and one more thing, to get me out of my yuppie Boulder-centrismo. Arapahoe Country registers more Dems in 2008 for the first time ever. What drives it? The City of Aurora. Young white professionals? Nope. The international renewal of the American dream. Mexicans? Sure. But also Ethiopians, Sudanese, Vietnamese, Kenyans, Tibetans, Brazilians. Why are they Democrats? Because Democrats are actually compassionate, not sound bite compassionate conservatives. Don’t bullshit me. You couldn’t bullshit my grandparents, immigrants from Europe. And you can’t bullshit this generation of immigrants. They vote for the future, just like scientists.
Did I mention Science? Scientists (more broadly technologists) believe in the future. They invent things. When a Republican platform votes against stem cell research, what’s the message? The Inquisition is paying a visit to Galileo, 400 years later. Technologists and scientists have a long memory, as well as a long view. We decry our educational system all the time, but more American kids go to college than ever, many still study science or if not work in science and technology fields, and they know what side their bread is buttered on.
What do these trends look like elsewhere in the country? Virginia and North Carolina go for Obama. Again, all these same issues. Science and technology in Research Triangle in N.C. and the Dulles corridor in Virginia. Not to mention cosmopolitian beach culture in both states. And the immigrant influx in and around the nation’s capital. Trending Democrat, permanently.
Pennsylvania and Ohio? A little bit different dynamic, as the demographics aren’t changing quite so fast. But the past is not coming back. Republicans failed to deliver any economic recoveries, and so split the Reagan unified business/social conservatism message they had lucked into in the 80’s – the old way was the best – just wait and it will come back. The past is not coming back. So the rust belt also needs to believe in the future – but Obama better deliver on Green Jobs.
And by the way, the economic message of progress through technology, and more generally a future-oriented business climate, brings some of that undecided upper middle class, fiscally conservative/socially moderate vote. Forget voting for moderate Republicans – you can’t trust them not to make a deal with the devil of Americans preaching Taliban culture. (Calling all Log Cabin Republicans – you can come home now too.)
And so in the wake of the Obama victory, my wife and many friends are happier, but their first instinct is to move to the remaining injustices – we lost gay marriage in California? Joe fucking Lieberman? Record number of threats of assassination and gun purchases?
Let’s talk for a minute about what we may now comfortably call, the Fringe. In Colorado, a nut job demagogue named Kristi Burton foisted onto the ballot a “pro-life” referendum, Amendment 48; it would have declared that fertilized ova had all legal rights of personhood. Let’s leave aside that the anti-abortion movement is a stalking horse for a much broader agenda of installing a theocratic government restricting not just sex outside procreation but really fun of any kind. The vote tally: 26.7% voted for, 73.2% against. So there’s the hard core of Them.
I would venture to say it’s even smaller than that, as it picked up some votes owing to the Politics is Hard factor. Remember the first 2001 Satruday Night Live skit about Bush – Will Ferrell asks Cheney, “how long have I been president?” Three weeks. “Man, this is hard!” It’s a fact that about half the population is too busy trying to feed their families, buy a new car, or just sit on the couch and have a beer to spend extra time on understanding politics, even a little. They would like someone to hand them a voter guide that says, we get you, don’t worry about it, just check off here, here and here. Politics is Hard. Ok, thanks. Unless it hits me later (and most of these middle-aged guys aren’t faced with an unwanted pregnancy any time soon) I’m done. And this is just the ones who bother to vote. So some of that 26.7% hasn’t really been listening.
So, any way you slice it, there’s only 26.7% of them, max! The one thing we all have to do now is start acting like there’s more of Us. Curb our excesses. Clinton was painted liberal but governed fiscally conservative (can you say balanced budget?) Don’t gloat now that everyone else has caught up with you and realized Bush is an idiot. And don’t insult the beer drinkers who like to shoot guns. Reach out to them – they (most of them) aren’t shooting at you. You could even reach out to Joe Fucking Lieberman; his days are numbered anyway as Chris Shays becomes the Last Republican in New England.
There’s more of Us than there are of Them.
Good article on voter registration and demographics.