Without Obama

Happy as some Democrats will undoubtedly be to enter a post-Obama era where the wild lies and fantasies about the 44th president are no longer regularly coursing into the nation’s political bloodstream, there’s a Big Fear as well. It was expressed in a post-midterm analysis for the ever-insightful Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin (which mostly parallels the analysis you’ve read here):

It should be clear to Democrats that the powerful Obama coalition amassed for 2008 and 2012 needs maintenance and upkeep. Base-voter enthusiasm from people of color, young people, and unmarried women will not automatically remain at the high levels of recent presidential elections. Consequently, diminished numbers of core voters and pre-Obama-level vote preferences make the white vote that much more of a challenge for Democrats. President Obama was able to win re-election with a historically low share of the white vote—39 percent—due the steady rise of black, Latino, and Asian voters, but the next Democratic candidate for president cannot count on these patterns holding in 2016. The challenge is even more acute in down-ballot races given the geographic concentration of base Democratic voters in more urbanized areas.

So the supposed father of the “demography as destiny” hypothesis (always a vast oversimplification of The Emerging Democratic Majority) is warning Democrats it may not be easy to duplicate Obama’s performance among minority voters without him on the ballot, which means either heroic turnout efforts or inroads into white voter categories will have to occur. Waiting for a changing electorate to either repudiate the GOP or make it change its reactionary ways is not a safe strategy.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.