TX Democrats show why they remain irrelevant

For young progressives and Democrats everywhere, last Wednesday was a watershed moment.  A little known, Austin based Democratic state Senator, Wendy Davis, attempted to filibuster a GOP sponsored bill that would ban abortions in the state after 20 weeks (except in cases of rape, incest or health of the mother) and make abortion clinics meet stricter health standards or be closed.  Davis, who appeared at the capitol in pink tennis shoes, valiantly spoke for 11 hours before she was called out on a rules violation.  What ensued could only be called bedlam and helped by a raucous, progressive crowd and fellow Democratic Senators the clock ran out on the bill.

In response Rick Perry laid down the gauntlet to his colleagues across the aisle.  Speaking at a ‘Right to Life Convention Perry said, “Even the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances. She was the daughter of a single woman, she was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas senate.  It is just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters.”

Davis responded to Perry by saying, “Rick Perry’s statement is without dignity and tarnishes the high office he holds. They are small words that reflect a dark and negative point of view. Our governor should reflect our Texas values. Sadly, Gov. Perry fails that test.”  But do Rick Perry’s words and stance on the issue not reflect the views of Texans?  Hint, they actually do.

In fact, outside the young and progressive bastion of Austin the GOP legislature’s and Perry’s stance are quite popular.  Before the bill was to become law a Texas Tribune poll found that 62% of Texans, cutting across ethnicity and ideology, supported a ban on late-term abortions.  They also supported the bill as it stood and had no problem with making abortion clinics meet stricter health standards.

It is certainly understandable that Davis reflects a progressive viewpoint.  After all, her district is evenly split between the left and right and she has won in 2010 and 2012 by narrow margins, likely helped by progressive turnout.  But in both of her races social issues were not debated.  Come 2014 it could be a different story, especially if her future GOP challenger plays up to swing voters how she opposed a bill a majority of not just the state but the national public supports.

Davis’s actions, as well as the actions of her fellow senators, show why Texas Democrats are irrelevant in state politics.  Even in a state that is rapidly diversifying Democrats win less of the Hispanic and white vote than they do nationwide.  Case in point.  In 2010 Rick Perry won 38% of the Hispanic vote and there is some evidence to show exit polls underestimated his support.  Hispanics have shown a tendency to be economically liberal on fiscal issues but unlike their Democratic Asian and African-American counterparts they are conservative on the issues of abortion and gay marriage.

Democrats may scratch their heads and wonder why states such as Texas and Georgia have yet to move into their column and the answer may be able to be found in Davis’s actions.  Sure, the Austin crowd loved it and the progressive base across the country twittered her name to death.  Her Facebook page before Wednesday had about thirty thousand likes.  By Thursday it had over one-hundred thousand.  But it is notable how little of the commentary of her actions came from Texas.  You would think if the state public supported her actions they would make it known.  Maybe they made something else known with their silence.

Social issues are the reason many political analysts say the GOP has lost states like Oregon, WA state and New Jersey with largely white suburban populations.  But less documented is that it has likely helped or at least not hurt the party in the South.  If Texas is any test case it appears that voters still deeply care about the issue of abortion and “women’s health.”  They just have a different view on it than Davis and Austin voters who seem to think it is a civil right.

Now correct me if I am wrong but if Davis and her partisan allies are really concerned about the unborn (as they claim they are) and women’s health does it not make sense to make abortion clinics meet strong health safety standards?  I will let you decide the answer to that question.

 

GOP’s Recent Electoral Struggles Mask Positive Trends

The GOP’s electoral struggles since 1992 have been well documented.  Democrats have garnered over 300 electoral votes in four of those six elections while the GOP has not won 300 electoral votes since HW Bush’s victory in 1988.  Popular opinion holds that the GOP desperately needs to diversify to survive in the new political and social environment the US is in.  But this opinion, trumpeted by more commentators and analysts than I care to mention, misses several key points analysts such as Sean Trende and Harry Enten discuss. Some of these key points are summarized below.

The Midwest has solidly swung the GOP’s way: Before 1980 the Midwest was solid swing territory.  Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon and Carter carried the majority of Midwestern states in their electoral victories.   Reagan and HW Bush also carried the majority of Midwestern states but in 1992 for the first time in decades a candidate lost the majority of Midwestern states but won the Presidency.  The reason.  The PVI of many of these states shifted to be more Republican.  Since 1992 that trend has only accelerated.  I will not calculate each state’s PVI, Trende at RCP does a good job here doing so, but the trend-line is undeniable.  Even solidly blue states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota have trended the GOP’s way ever so slightly in Presidential elections.

At every level of governance Republicans dominate the South: Maybe it is a case of an old story or the media’s bias but little attention is paid to just how solidly the GOP dominates the South.  Prior to 1994 the GOP struggled in Southern elections.  Following this election the GOP made incremental gains at all levels but struggled to crack solid control of many states due to long-time Democratic congressional incumbents and moderate Democrats playing up their rural roots.  In 2010 that changed with the GOP dominating every single Southern legislature except WV’s and the Kentucky Senate.  This has allowed the GOP to redistrict to their heart’s content and helped assure them a majority in the House.  More so however it ensures the GOP a ready supply of electoral votes that are unlikely to dramatically swing in the near future (except in the case of NC, VA and perhaps GA).

Republicans have done just fine in Congressional Elections: As Enten points out Republicans have won the popular vote in seven of the last ten Congressional elections.  Prior to 2006 the GOP had won the popular vote in these races six times in a row.  Democrats might feel like they have an advantage after winning three of the last four popular vote totals but those trends reflect two wave elections and a referendum election on an incumbent Democratic President.  In 2010 the national popular midterm electorate more reflected the conservative bent of electorate in Congressional elections.

Rapidly diversifying states do not signal the death knell of the party: The general assumption in political demographics is that diversity is hurting the GOP.  In other words as minorities, the young and women congregate in urban areas and dramatically expand their voting power it spells doom for the GOP.  Certainly this has hurt the GOP in formerly solid red states such as North Carolina and Virginia, but it has certainly not swung these states out of the reach of the GOP.  Despite Obama winning North Carolina in 2008, and VA in 2008 and 2012 the GOP controls all levels of governance in both states.  Likewise, in Florida and Georgia the GOP is still dominant.  In the deep South and Texas where one would expect to see better Democratic vote totals in statewide races, bolstered by strong support in the cities, these numbers have failed to materialize.  The Midwest has also seen a diversifying electorate but short of Iowa (already a perennial swing state) and Nevada no other states PVIs have moved in the Democratic direction.

This is not to say the GOP is assured an electoral victory in 2016.  The party does face very real struggles with minorities and the downscale white voters it desperately needs to re-engage in the political process.  But the examples above point out the GOP continues to have a healthy future despite its issues and does allow the party some time to debate and plot out its future.

This debate is evident in many of the major policy debates of the day.  Senate Republicans appear gung-ho to go all in on immigration to attract Hispanic votes while the House wants a secure border first.  The Senate appears to want to avoid a debate over social issues but the GOP controlled House is not willing to shy away from an issue that benefited Democrats in 2012.  Deep divisions continue to plague the party on gay marriage (the recent SCOTUS ruling on DOMA may ultimately help the GOP in 2016), national defense and economy.  But their coalition appears to be fairly stable.  It remains to be unseen if the Democratic coalition can survive Obama’s absence on the ballot.

I will leave with one final thought.  Democrats were said to be lost in the wilderness from 1968 to 1992 as the electorate changed, becoming more white, more religious and more conservative.  The party nominated typical liberal candidates that were typically crushed in Presidential elections.  But 1992 brought us Bill Clinton and a complete revamping of the Democratic brand in the Northeast and the Southwest.  Today, that has helped Democrats win states like Nevada and New Mexico and most recently Colorado.  Republicans have many candidates that have the ability to revamp the party’s brand and paint it a bright future forward in a changing, but apparently no less conservative America.

Ross Perot Voters and the case of 2012

Sean Trende over at Realclearpolitics (who I greatly respect) has a great piece on the 2012 election.  I won’t write an entire synopsis of his article but it basically comes down to pouring cold water on the theory the power of the white vote is out.  This is incredibly relevant, especially at a time when many analysts and strategists, not to mention the media, is saying the GOP needs to court minority voters or fade away into insignificance.  The different wings of the party thus are battling it out on the best way to do it, immigration reform vs. outreach.

I want to explore a little more of Trende’s theory about the 2012 missing white voters.  Trende’s analysis of election returns shows that Romney did fine in Mormon country in the West, and actually increased Bush’s and McCain’s returns in evangelical and deeply conservative suburban territory.  However, it is where Romney did worse or about equal to Bush and McCain that tells the story.  Romney performed weakly in the rural Northeast, rural Midwest and non-Mormon west.  This stretch of counties basically runs unbroken all the way from the East Coast to the West Coast.

If one looks at it closely this map kind of reminds you of Ross Perot’s coalition.  Largely white, downscale and rural these voters were stretched across the country from the Northeast to the West.  Trende has an idea of where these voters lie ideologically but he hypothesizes these voters stayed home (data backs him up) in 2012.  In an election where the choices were a rich, uncaring plutocrat and an out of touch unabashed liberal the best option was to stay home (and perhaps turn off the TV for the night).

These white voters tend to be pessimistic about the future of the country, lack college degrees and also feel left out of the political process. This is important to note in contemporary American politics.  Republicans and Democrats have both played heavily on the issue of race, but to a degree both seem weary of touching the issue these voters feelings seem to reflect; the class divide in America.  Combine this with the fact the Supreme Court is set to rule on Section V of the Voting Rights Act and racially based admissions preferences at universities across the country and class could become the new issue in American politics.  If it does, Republicans would be unwise to ignore these Ross Perot voters.

Not all these non-2012 Ross Perot voters are uniform Republicans.  They tend to hold a wide array of views on numerous issues.  Ross Perot was pro-choice, pro gun-control and pro gay marriage but it does bear in mind his campaign did not emphasize these traits.  His campaign focused on more rural, downscale voters worries such as jobs, the deficit and the barriers to entry into the country’s political system. This is a message certainly some voters for both Romney and Obama could agree on.  But Republicans have been better at winning these voters since 1980.

Evidence suggests Reagan dominated among them in 80 and 84, HW did well with them in 88 until he ran into Clinton and Perot.  GW Bush did not do well with them in 2000 but won many of them in 2004.  Meanwhile, both McCain and Romney have failed to connect with these voters while every Democratic candidate since Jimmy Carter has somewhat or largely failed to get these voters support.  This makes these voters something of a wild-card in Presidential elections that slightly favors the GOP.

This creates a dilemma for the GOP.  The party needs to find a way to build a new coalition to win the White House and their efforts seem to center on winning young and Hispanic voters.  But the efforts the party is putting forth to do this are seen as lacking to these major electoral groups and could potentially alienate the party to these swing voters.  The 2012 election showed that actual candidate d0 matter to these voters, not just ideology, but a party seen as moving to the Left and ignoring their concerns does not seem likely to earn their support or trust.

Traditional conservative policies seem to hold little allure to these voters.  Reagan and George Bush were judged on the economy and national security credentials.  But a long-time Senator and veteran and a venture capitalist do not seem the best candidates to capture these voters.  Both Reagan and Bush had the advantage of being able to come from somewhere other than DC.  Perhaps the GOP might enjoy similar success with a Governor as their nominee.  Likewise, fresh faces such as Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, or Marco Rubio might speak to these voters in a way long-time politicians they see as part of the problem cannot.  Either way the GOP could benefit with a candidate that speaks to these voters.

Republicans should be wary of abandoning capturing these voters. They are situated in key swing states nationwide and can swing the electoral college.  They also may be a more natural fit for today’s GOP than the young or Hispanics.  Capturing the newest, glitziest thing is always the most alluring action to take.  But the GOP should not let these missing white voters get away.

 

Democrats hitching their future to Clinton may be making a mistake

It is official.  Democrats want Hilary Clinton to run in 2016.  Okay, we did not get an official announcement.  But the public might as well have received one with Senator Claire McCaskill’s (D-MO) endorsement of the former First Lady, before she has even hinted at her intentions. McCaskill was one of the first Democratic candidates to endorse Obama in 2008.  In fact, it seems very, very. few Democrats seem to banking on any other candidate than Clinton.

Democrats seem to be under the allure that Clinton has an appeal no Republican can match. They point to her favorable and approval ratings as Secretary of State that hover around 60% (they were around 70% before Benghazi).  They also point to the connection her husband has with rural whites across the country and the fact she still can claim to be the first female to ever run for the highest office in the land.  But while all these things might be true, they also seem to be very dubious on the surface.

Sure, if Hilary runs she will have history on her side as she tries again to break the “glass ceiling.”  But that glass ceiling has been shattered in everyday America more and more as ever-increasing numbers of women head the household, earn the majority of their family’s income and lead major corporations and states.  Barack Obama’s election also has stolen the thunder of a historic candidacy, especially since he beat Clinton in 08.  There are also other reasons a Clinton candidacy might be weak.

The claim that good old Billy Boy connects with rural whites in the country was shattered in 2012.  Mitt Romney won 59% of the white vote, more so in swing states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania.  In those states he also won more than 60% of the white, rural vote.  Clinton stumped for the President in these areas and it did not help the President win reelection.  So even if white, rural voters like Clinton it does not appear their personal like of him transfers over to pulling the lever for his partisan preference.

Lastly, her approval and favorable ratings as Secretary of State are not an indication of how she would fare in a national, deeply ideological and partisan campaign for the White House.  Call me crazy, but I can see those ratings dropping back down to Earth afterwards.  If this happens and the GOP nominates a smart, charismatic, conservative candidate (they have many options to choose from), Clinton could be in for a challenging campaign and far from the coronation some think she will have.

There are of course other issues with the belief that Clinton is likely to win in 2016.  Clinton, no matter how she distances herself from Obama, will likely be seen as running for an Obama third term.  She served in his cabinet, was and still is a mouthpiece for his priorities nationally and abroad and shares a partisan affiliation with the President.  Since the 1952 Presidential election no party has held the White House for three consecutive terms except Reagan and H.W.  H.W. bears the distinction of being one of the few incumbent Presidents to lose his reelection bid in the 20th century.

Clinton also does not appear to be a natural fit into the younger, majority-minority modern Democratic Party.  She has changed stances on the Iraq War, Healthcare, and gay marriage to appeal to the party’s new coalition.  But while that may work if she does not face any stiff competition in her party’s nomination process it might not turn out party partisans to back her in the general.  Then we get to the current administration’s scandals and how it might have soured Obama’s historic coalition to turning out again in an electoral process they see as corrupt and rigged (big brother is watching you).

Republicans could play a hand in making sure Clinton can overcome all these obstacles.  They could nominate an uber-conservative candidate that fails to swing minorities or the middle.  They also could nominate a young gun like Rand Paul or Marco Rubio who holds so much appeal now but could fall flat on the national stage.  The national party could reignite the social issues they lose on, gay marriage and abortion.

Even if the GOP does this however it only covers up Clinton’s flaws.  Yet, many Democrats do not see these flaws.  They think she is the perfect candidate for 2016.  An accomplished women who can connect with female voters and the middle on a visceral level.  Polls show Clinton besting the most likely GOP nominees but polls three and a half years out from an election do not usually make good barometers of public support in the future.

There is an irony in Senator Claire McCaskill and many of her centrist Democratic brothers and sisters supporting Clinton.  They think she can help revitalize the Democratic brand in red states.  This brand has been tarnished in three consecutive Presidential elections where the party has run an unabashed liberal.  But Clinton is now another unabashed liberal.  She has to be if she wants her party’s nomination.  And for McCaskill that will not help her in 2018 if Clinton is in the White House.  Nor will it help many other red state Democrats.

The real GOP test will be in the 2014 primaries

Republicans have an excellent shot to regain the Senate in 2014.  The Senate map is littered with a rich of opportunities for them to exploit.  But a good map does not equal good results.  In 2010 and 2012 the GOP blew several opportunities by nominating, if not extreme, at least weak candidates.

In 2010 many of these candidates were fueled by local and national Tea Party groups.  They nominated candidates at state conventions and showed up to vote for them in primaries.  While the Tea Party has been quiet, especially since 2012, it is far from dead.  Many of its has-run Senate candidates are thinking of Round 2.

Of course the Tea Party is not the only group/s that may stand in the way of a GOP Senate Majority come 2015.  A number of other conservative groups have come out of the woodwork to complicate the GOP’s plans for Senate domination.  These groups include the Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity.

Case in point of this complication.  In West Virginia, moderate to conservative Republican Congressman Shelly Moore Capito (WV-2) is running for the open Senate seat of Democrat Jay Rockefeller.  She announced early to scare off more conservative competition and it worked.  It also apparently has scared off any stiff Democratic competition.  But in a sign she is not conservative enough both the Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity are vowing to find a challenger to her.

Need another example?  In North Dakota, Democrat Tim Johnson is retiring.  The GOP has found a strong candidate (minus fundraising) in former Governor Mike Rounds.  Rounds governed as a conservative but steered clear of more divisive social and fiscal issues.  As a result, his candidacy has aroused the ire of Tea party groups and the Club for Growth.  Not even at-large GOP Congresswomen Kristi Noem fit the bill as conservative enough to get these groups support.  Noem announced recently she is not running regardless.

I cannot resist a third example.  In 2010 Tea party candidate Joe Miller ran in the GOP primary against Lisa Murkowski.  Murkowski lost in the primary but ran in the general as a write-in candidate and won with 41% of the vote in a three-way race.  Well, apparently Joe wants to try his hand again in a 1-1 with freshman Democratic Senator Mark Begich, the former mayor of Anchorage.  Not surprisingly this has state Republicans smacking their foreheads.  They have been encouraging Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell to run and he still might.  But if he does his path to the GOP nod will be complicated by Miller.  At the very least it helps Begich whoever he faces in the general.

There are examples where the GOP appears to be able to avoid a divisive primary in a state they can win.  In Arkansas the GOP appears to have cleared the field for freshman Congressman Tom Cotton should he choose to challenge Mark Pryor.  In Louisiana the GOP incentivized Congressman Bill Cassidy to challenge Mary Landrieu.  There is time however for conservative groups to find a candidate to be their standard-bearer as both Cotton and Cassidy lack the attributes they require.

For all the examples listed the one thing that stands out is that conservative groups are unhappy.  But nobody is ever happy with a party’s candidate.  Most voters still come out and support their party’s nominee regardless (unless you have an Alaska scenario).  Thus, it would be beneficial for the GOP to come out and support the best primary candidates come 2014.

This will not make conservative or grassroots groups happy.  In early 2009 the NRSC endorsed establishment candidates in both Florida (Governor Crist) and Kentucky (Secretary of State Trey Greyson).  Both ended up losing to now what look to be two of the GOP’s brightest future stars, Marco Rubio (Florida) and Rand Paul (Kentucky).  More recently, in early 2013 when Karl Rove started up a new group, Conservatives for Victory, to elect the most conservative, mainstream candidate possible.  The Super PAC was panned universally by both conservatives and liberals.

But in Virginia we have seen what the cost is of letting state convention or party activists  select candidates.  State AG Ken Cuccinelli knocked out moderate but better candidate Lt. Governor Bill Bollings for the gubernatorial slot.  And for Lt. Governor the party faithful selected a candidate who thinks gays should burn in hell.  Cuccinelli has a shot to win but his Lt. Governor companion, not so much.

Not all Tea Party backed candidates have been horrible.  A number of them at both the state and federal level are rock stars and potential 2016 presidential contenders.  But many more litter the electoral battlefield of elections past.  The national GOP should be wary of this.

The GOP still has yet to see who will declare in many Senate races, lean left, lean right or swing.  The national environment could also turn their way (it appears to be starting to).  But for the GOP to be successful in the Senate they need to win in the primaries with the right candidate.  The verdict is out on whether the party can.

Obama doing damage to the Democratic brand

For the first time since Obama’s second term Gallup has recorded the President being in negative approval territory.  His use of drone strikes indiscriminately targeting terrorists/American citizens and the warranted wiretapping of the AP and Fox News has angered the Left.  The Right is up in arms over the IRS being used as a political hammer to smash groups with dissenting political viewpoints.  The middle sees a struggling economy and is concerned about the number of scandals enveloping the administration.

But lost in this dynamic is the damage that Obama is doing to the populist, Democratic brand the party still enjoys among voters in states like Montana and a few quarters of the majority-white South.  Moreover, the entire civil-rights/liberties brand of the Democratic Party is slowly being brought down.  The repercussions this has for the party in the future, especially among their current core support groups of Millennials and minorities cannot be ascertained as of yet.  They still support the President’s agenda and approve of his job performance, but slowly, bit by bit, more of them are losing faith in the President.

In the short-term this benefits Republicans.  Republicans are planning to seriously compete in the open Senate seats of WV and SD; they look likely to win both.  They also plan to compete in competitive Arkansas, red Louisianan, purple North Carolina and quixotic Alaska.  All these states voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 and are ripe GOP pick-up opportunities.  A number of juicy House seats are also being targeted by the party. A major fall, or even a slight drop, in the President’s approval could depress Democratic turnout and hurt them next year.

Long-term, the brand the Democratic Party has built up to portray itself to its new coalition, appears to be fraying at the edges.  Its national defense edge in polls is gone, voters (traditionally older mind you) again trust the GOP on taxes and spending as well as the deficit.  On education, healthcare, entitlements and Afghanistan and Iraq the edge the Democrats have over the GOP is shrinking.  In polls the President still gets more trust from voters on these issues than the GOP however.

But polls cannot capture the damage a President can do to his party’s brand.  It was not clear until 2008 how much havoc Bush had wrought the GOP brand.  Even a Republican Presidential candidate who was a veteran could not earn voters trust, young and old, on foreign policy.  The only group who stayed loyal to the GOP during Bush’s entire tenure were social conservatives.  Apparently, not even Obama can claim his core support of liberals are remaining supportive of him.

The ACLU, a bastion of liberalism self-righteousness, among other things, has filed several lawsuits against the administration.  Among these lawsuits the two most prominent are the suits against the new DOJ and Department of Education’s university campus speech codes and the data mining apparently done by the NSA.  On other fronts there is also trouble brewing.

The GOP, despite its courting of social conservatives, appears to be edging towards offering a new vision of conservatism.  These visions are being articulated by Governors at the state level and by Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul at the federal level.  They differ of course on the particulars but their message is largely pro-family, pro-defense (even Rand Paul’s is) and pro-economy.

The problem for the Democratic brand is that it has been changed during the Obama administration.  When Obama came into the White House in 2008 he offered a brand of the Democratic Party to different groups.  Among Independents and fiscal conservatives it was that of a fiscal hawk.  Among minorities it was that of civil rights champion and among the young it was a non-interventionist candidate.  Some of this brand is untarnished (civil-rights advocate) but other parts are dead.  By 2010 the fiscal hawk brand was gone.  Barely six months into his second term the President’s non-interventionist brand is reeling.

Now, to be fair, a lot of the damage that is being done has yet to be thoroughly tested in polls.  After-all, the young and minorities are not abandoning the party or President in mass.  But they also appear more willing now to listen to another viewpoint.  And for Democrats and future liberal candidates that is an issue.  Come the right GOP candidate for President and the damage Obama did to the Democratic brand may be seen fully in the light. Needless to say, this would be bad for Democrats!

 

The politics of illegal immigration is more nuanced than appearances show

Perhaps one of the most interesting facets over the debate in Congress on immigration reform is the missed nuances of the issue.  Most of the commentary has focused on how the GOP needs to connect with these voters, Democrats favor citizenship, Republicans border security, the benefits and cons of differing approaches, etc.  But the nuances of the issue are missed, especially on the electoral coalition front.

Yes, it is true the GOP needs to connect with Hispanic voters.  I have written on this point here and here.  But immigration reform passage is not an instant panacea for the GOP’s ills with Hispanics nor will it usher in a new, permanent Democratic majority over the next few decades.  The reason is fairly simple.  The political coalitions that form in the US rarely stand the test of time.  If you want the long version just read RCP’s election analyst, Sean Trende’s, take on the political coalitions that have formed in the US over the years.

The short version is basically that political coalitions in the US come and go.  Most successful two term Presidents have formed their own coalitions.  Some of the most recent examples include Ronald Reagan’s blending of the suburban New Right, Evangelical Christians and fiscal and libertarian hawks.  Bill Clinton’s coalition was composed of fiscal hawks, suburban voters, minorities and Southern whites.  George Bush won suburban voters, Evangelical Christians and national security hawks.  Most recently Obama’s coalition was based on urban youth, minorities and the suburban vote.

Of course these are only preliminary looks at the political coalitions these Presidents have formed.  But one of the reasons why political coalitions fall apart fairly soon after their formation is the fact that the voting blocs that make them up are often at odds with each other on the same issues.  For example, Southern whites were at odds with African-Americans on many issues in 1992 and 1996 but they voted for Bill Clinton in both elections.  Once Clinton left office, those differences were revealed and exploited by the next Presidential candidates.

Most people do not have the patience, let alone the understanding, to grasp these concepts.  As a result, the media and analysts tend to play down this factor.  But it is important when it is brought into the context of the major issues of the day.  Enter immigration reform.  The main commentary on the issue focuses on the GOP needing to appeal to Hispanics (true).  Democrats want passage so they have a fresh source of new votes (true).  But massive, wide-ranging reform such as this is not that straight-forward and it has the potential to divide political coalitions; even long-standing political coalitions.

Much of this has been documented on the GOP side.  Fiscal hawks are split, national defense conservatives are battling with free market libertarians and conservatives and even the Evangelical Right is fractured.  Less documented are the fractures that are showing in the Democratic Caucus.  Primarily, it concerns their core minority support, Hispanics and African-Americans.  The Congressional Black Caucus is concerned about the Senate Immigration bill and becoming increasingly concerned about the forming House counterpart.  The Black American Leadership Conference is planning a rally in front of the Capitol against immigration reform.  Among their grievances, they worry the bill will allow undocumented immigrants on the path to citizenship to get the low-paying jobs African-Americans occupy and use to build their resumes.

This nuance of immigration reform is unreported and is often rarely considered.  Now to be fair, individual bills do not fracture voting blocs in a single election nor is there any guarantee they will.  After-all, it took decades for the Civil Rights Act and its accompanying bills to make Southern whites constantly vote the exact opposite of their African-American counterparts (Clinton as able to overcome this trend).

It is important to remember in the current context however that the GOP political coalition, homogeneously white and older, is more stable than the multi-generational and multi-racial coalition of the Democrats.  Democrats have yet to realize the inherent contradictions in managing a majority-minority party.  Hispanic and African-American interests are at odds with each other, especially in the current economic context where the economic is barely expanding.  The BALC represents this dynamic and nuance of immigration reform.

Political coalitions in America come and go.  But it is important to keep in mind that when major legislative battles over pertinent issues come up there are always nuances.  The first glance most Americans take on the issue may not always be the most accurate one and it might only reflect the short-term vs. long-term impact of the legislation.  If one can capture the nuance of the legislation, they can gather a more accurate assessment of the issue and its impact.