Hopium, the drug which Barack Obama used to raise wild millenarian expectations among White voters during his presidential campaign, especially in the American Heartland, seems to be in short supply these days.
A new Bloomberg poll released today has found that nearly half of Barack Obama’s former supporters, more than 4 out of 10 voters who once supported him, now say they are either less supportive or no longer support him at all.
In previous threads, I have tracked the abandonment of Barack Obama by Jacksonian Democrats and the White working class, which is leading up to a Midwestern Meltdown in November. In states like West Virginia, Kentucky, and Arkansas, the Clinton Coalition has collapsed.
Republicans like John Raese are swiftly moving into the vacuum. Lately, Bill Clinton has been hitting the campaign trail, attempting to use what’s left of his former prestige to shore up the Bubba vote in the Heartland, although the latest polls show this damage control effort isn’t having much success.
Year of the Angry White Woman
The 2010 election cycle will go down in history as “The Year of the Angry White Woman” or “Revenge of the Hillary Voters.” 6 out of 10 of Barack Obama’s alienated former supporters are women. 53% of the disaffected are Independents. Democrats are privately sweating about their erosion of support among these key demographics.
Few analysts dare to point out the obvious: the collapse of Barack Obama’s popularity and the impending wipeout of the Democratic Congress is wholly attributable to a convulsion going on within the White electorate.
The people who are abandoning Obama are the Obamacons who voted for him only to “feel good” about supporting a black candidate, the alienated and economically distressed White working class, the angry and neglected White women who voted for Hillary, the cynical White youth who supported him on campus because he “seemed cool,” the Jacksonian Democrats in the South who have been steadily leaving the Democratic Party for decades, and the White Independents in the suburbs who are distressed about his fiscal policies.
The White Center has tipped into the Republican column. The “professional Left” is mad with Obama, but they aren’t going anywhere. Blacks and Hispanics are just as supportive of Obama as ever. Gays aren’t going anywhere. The White Democrats are the ones who are sitting out the election or crossing over to vote for the Republicans.
Danger and opportunity tend to run together.
The implosion of Barack Obama is opening the door for Hillary Clinton, whose popularity has surged to a record 64%, or another White Democrat from the South or Midwest to challenge Obama in the 2012 Democratic presidential primary. Such a White Democrat could conceivably run on a platform of appealing to the alienated White Center that Bill Clinton rode to victory in the 1990s.
The obvious problem with this scenario is that any White candidate who challenges Barack Obama for the nomination will face the wrath of his black supporters. This tension was already apparent in the 2008 presidential primary when Bill and Hillary Clinton were accused of “racism” after Clinton’s comeback victory in New Hampshire. It subsided only because Obama won the nomination and was able to unite his party around hatred of George W. Bush.
If Obama decides to run again in 2012, this will postpone any threatening move back toward the White Center until 2016. It is not a far fetched scenario to imagine the Tea Party fizzling out after capturing power and failing to change Washington. The Republicans could also potentially sell out their own supporters and demoralize their base again.
Obama lost his magic within six months of sitting in the White House. He is unlikely to recapture it, but his failure to live up to high expectations is a warning to his potential successors, particularly Sarah Palin.
The greatest threat to the eventual coalescing of the White vote is a Jim Webb-style Democratic candidate who could potentially stop or reverse the racial polarization that is changing White voting patterns. This is what Bill Clinton was able to accomplish in the 1990s. Hillary has the potential to do it in 2012.
A George W. Bush-style Republican president could also demoralize Whites by pandering to non-White minorities to the point where another Barack Obama is able slip into the White House. Given the success that Republicans are having with disaffected White voters, this scenario is more unlikely.
In the short term, I predict the rift between White and non-White Democrats will continue to grow. I don’t see this changing before 2016. Obama will be forced to pander harder to his black supporters. This will force more Whites out of the Democratic Party.
The divorce isn’t yet official but the sentiment is reflected in the polls.
This much is clear: Barack Obama’s electoral path to victory in 2012 will have to follow a different route from the one he took in 2008. It is highly unlikely, more like impossible, that White voters will recover their former starstruck enthusiasm for his candidacy now that he will be forced to run on his track record, which the polls show as a huge disappointment with the White electorate.
If Republicans can reverse their losses in the South and West and capitalize on their historic opportunity with White voters in the Midwest, it is difficult to see how Barack Obama can win reelection at all. He has a negative approval rating even behind the so-called “Democratic firewall” in Northeastern states like Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Maine.
A Democratic President who can’t win Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Connecticut (because of his negatives with White voters) isn’t about to win Indiana, Virginia, and North Carolina again. At this point, Barack Obama’s future depends entirely on whether the Republicans are willing and capable of retaining and expanding their appeal to disaffected White voters, who are giving the GOP a second look only because of their disgust with Democrats
The loss of the Republican majority in 2006 and 2008, not to mention the ongoing purge of the GOP establishment and the creation of alternative institutions like the Tea Party, is clear warning that Whites refuse to be taken for granted. If George W. Bush and Karl Rove ride again, the GOP will find itself in the trash pile of history along with other defunct political parties like the Whigs.