I attended a meeting of political leaders recently and someone raised a point that struck me as insightful. The comment, “It’s sad to say but the GOP hasn’t made any progress in reducing their enormous cultural blind spots,” was referring to Jeb Bush. Recently he described a path to citizenship as an affront to our legal system.
The point made by the political leader was that this statement sounds like self-deportation to most progressive whites and People of Color (POC). While that might not have been the intent, this is the exact “dog whistle” that not only turned off Latino voters in 2012 but helped turn them out in historic numbers. This time, it may not only cost the GOP eight seats in the House but the majority.
[pullquote_right]In 2012, the Democrats won over 1 million more votes than Republicans nationally and took out eleven Tea Party members from the class of 2010.[/pullquote_right] If this trend holds, the 2014 midterm election will look a lot like 2006. The Democrats, powered by the new rising electorate, could produce the 17 seat gain that flips the House.
It’s hard to miss the facts explaining this tectonic shift in the political landscape:
- Over 6 percent of GOP House members are representing districts won by President Obama; there are more than 17 GOP members in susceptible districts.
- Redistricting has placed a significant number of Voters of Color (VOC) in 223 districts of influence – Congressional districts that are not necessarily majority minority but have enough diversity to effect the election.
- A number of these districts of influence are Republican and ideologically” hostile to VOC. This may boomerang and drive progressive voters to enthusiastically express their discontent.
- GOP House members no longer have the 2010 “obstruction card” to play. They have played that card a few times before and this electorate is inoculated so the conservative vote share may drop to 2006 levels next year.
It’s not just that many of these POC districts of influence were fluid last year; it’s that the President won these districts in a hyper partisan environment. That’s probably why Virginia GOP House member Scott Rigell didn’t hesitate to join the President on stage during the contentious economic fight. His district, which President Obama won with over 50% of the vote, is 6% Latino, 21% African American, and close to 5% Asian.
I believe that forecasting election results are about more than knowing past statistics. It’s also about identifying where voting trends meet demographics.
It is true that the current political landscape is hyper polarized and the last redraw packed Republican districts to be smaller and whiter. That just means the fundamentals will solidify faster and there will be fewer surprises.
This also means the opportunities in POC districts of influence have become prime openings for good candidates with commonsense messages to breakthrough. Regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation, if the electorate is engaged with the right message, a good candidate, and a voter registration campaign – Congress may soon feel this epic POC electoral impact.