Obama's "sturdy" coalition is coming apart like wet Kleenex in a blender. For the first time since polling on the question began in 1982, Republicans now have a decisive advantage with women. Obama's support among young voters is stagnating. A recent survey by Harvard University's Institute of Politics is just one of several studies showing that millennials' enthusiasm for politics and Obama is waning. Young people still lean liberal, but less so and with much less enthusiasm. In a hypothetical ballot between Obama and a generic Republican, Obama leads by a whopping 1 percentage point. An economic hangover brings sobriety even to the young, it seems.
There's much merit to the idea that "demography is destiny" (a phrase credited to Ben Wattenberg and Richard Scammon, co-authors of the 1970s book, "The Real Majority"). But it can also lead you astray. Minus immigration, if you know how many baby girls are born in a given year, you'll have a good idea of how many grown women there will be X number of years down the road. Ditto blacks, Latinos, etc.
But identity politics can poison demography's predictive power. Knowing how many women there will be in 2050 won't tell you how they'll vote. For instance, today we assume that white Christian male voters yield conservative politics. But if that truism was a political constant, you would never have gotten the Progressive era or the New Deal.
Yes, the GOP still faces significant challenges. Heck, an electoral bonanza notwithstanding, Republicans are still fairly unpopular.
But if the first half of the Obama presidency proves anything, it is that straight-line predictions lead to political hubris. Events change and attitudes change with them, for every demographic.
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