Having had the chance to digest the election, the results, and President Obama's first news conference, it's time to take a step back and clarify some myths that the political elite has been building.
Myth 1: Immigration reform will save Republicans from the curse of demography.
Truth: Not likely. The day after the election, even Sean Hannity, the Republican Party's most pugnacious popular hand-trembler-sentence-repeater, endorsed comprehensive immigration reform. His reasoning was straightforward: The GOP's stance on the subject of amnesty for undocumented workers had cost Republicans votes. A few prominent GOPers joined him; in the Senate, Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain are suddenly back on the immigration reform bandwagon. But brighter branches in the GOP know that the problem is deeper than that. More than the GOP's position on reform, it is their tone towards minorities and Latinos in particular that dooms them among younger Hispanic-Americans, and it is their stance on the social safety net and government that keeps them from attracting the so-called social conservatives who are Latinos. Actually, Latinos who identify as Catholics are more likely to be self-identified Democrats than any other religious group, which goes against the easy stereotype that "hard-working" Catholic Latinos are somehow natural fits for the GOP. Fact: A majority of Latinos support same-sex marriage. Some Republicans argue that Latinos depend on the government and so will never vote for a party that rejects it. Democrats would say that Latinos are hostile to a party that seems actively hostile to the institutions that sustain, nourish, and help them assimilate into American society.
Myth 2: If immigration reform passes, the issue will go away.
Truth: Nope. More likely: the Democrats will get credit from Latinos for passing comprehensive immigration reform, giving that demographic a reason to support the party in the future.
Myth 3: George W. Bush won 44 percent of the Latino vote in 2004.
Truth: He won actually won about 39 to 40 percent, according to the best available evidence. Most of his increase over the year 2000, when he won about 35 percent of the Latino vote, came from a larger-than-expert turnout among Latino evangelical protestants. They still support the Republican nominee in roughly the same percentages, and yet Latinos have turned increasingly to the Democratic presidential candidate. The growing segments of the Latino electorate are more inclined to support Democrats, identify as Democrats, and reject Republican policies and ideas. It is also true that Latino voters who are also young, or single women, are subject to social pressure on the account of their other demographic characteristics to vote Democratic, as are Latinos who make below $75,000.
Myth 4: The auto bailout saved Obama in the Midwest by keeping up his percentage among white voters.
Truth: It might have hurt Romney more than it helped Obama. And black voters (or, what Paul Ryan calls "urban" voters), provided Obama his margin of victory in Ohio. Their turnout increased significantly. As Nate Cohn points out, Obama did worse among white voters in counties you'd expect to be influenced by the auto bailout. He made up for the deficit, and then some, by increasing his turnout among black voters in urban precincts. (The same pattern is seen in Virginia and South Florida.) Obama's "coalition of the ascendant" provided the margins of victory just about everywhere.
Myth 5: The Democrats have a more durable electoral coalition than Republicans.
Truth: Probably, but not for awhile. While it is true that the COTA (Coalition of the Ascendant) is growing and becoming more attached to the Democratic Party, and it is also true that demographically it will naturally grow as a share of the electorate, it does not follow that in the next few elections, that coalition will turn out in numbers sufficient enough to elect Democratic presidents or swing the House back toward the Democrats. It may be that Hillary Clinton does better among working class white voters than Barack Obama did, giving her some breathing room with other members of the COTA who might not be inclined to turn out in such high numbers for a person who isn't Obama. But her coalition will probably be different because she is different and the country will be different. Certainly, the Democrats had a lot of trouble turning out the COTA during the midterm elections, and there is no reason to think that it will be significantly easier in 2014, when the electorate will be older, whiter, and potentially more female than it would be in presidential years.
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