The Lesson

THE LESSON….Over at TalkLeft, Big Tent Democrat takes me to task for underplaying the lesson of this week’s midterm election:

Well, beyond the fact that the fastest growing political group [independents] and the fastest growing minority group [Latinos] broke strongly to the Dems, no big whoop.

Fair enough, actually, so let me add a few more comments about this. (The original post we’re discussing is here.)

First, BTD is right about the Latino vote. A swing of 14 percentage points in favor of the Dems is a big deal for two reasons: (a) wooing the Latino vote was a major part of Karl Rove’s “realignment” strategy, which has now been pretty thoroughly dashed, and (b) it’s likely to be a fairly permanent switch. The immigration extremists have made the Republican Party unpalatable for a lot of Hispanics, and it’s likely to stay that way for a while.

On the switch in independent votes, however, I continue to think the jury is still out. Again, there are two reasons. First, a swing of 8 points isn’t that big a deal, just barely above the overall nationwide swing of 5 points. Second, independents swing back and forth all the time, and there’s no special reason to think this particular swing is permanent. It’s obviously good news, but by their very nature independents are centrists, which means this swing will be long-lasting only if Democrats continue to appeal to the center. We’ll have to wait and see how that goes.

Finally, I should clarify what I meant when I said “there is no big lesson” from the election. I was focused on demographic groups in that post: Latinos, evangelicals, Midwesterners, soccer moms, NASCAR dads, etc. With the exception of Latinos, who were obviously driven by a specific issue, I didn’t see any major shifts in those groups.

However, there’s a whole different level of policy analysis that I didn’t address and didn’t mean to address. Did Dems win because of the war? Because they shifted to the center? Because of an economic populist message? That stuff is all fair game, and I don’t yet have any strong opinion on any of it. Based on the very broad nature of the Democratic win, I’d say that any plausible answer has to be something equally broad based (the war is an obvious choice here), but pretty much everything is still on the table.