All jokes about “real” versus “fake” America aside, the roots of the “real” narrative are, in fact, real enough. The Republican Party is, at this point, the party of America’s white Christian plurality. The Democratic Party is, by contrast, the party of non-whites and of white non-Christians. There are, of course, white Christian Democrats. But most Democrats are black, Hispanic, Asian, irreligious, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or (like me) several of the above.
Chris Bowers summarizes some of the key facts:
- Roughly 60% of all Democratic voters are now non-white and / or non-Christian (per exit polls).
- Democrats hold a 3-1 margin among non-whites and / or non-Christians (per exit polls)
- Non-whites and / or non-Christians now compose 39% of the electorate, their highest total ever (per exit polls)
- Over 60% of the country under the age of 43 is non-white and / or non-Christian (Source). Many commenters will justifiably ogle the huge, pro-Obama youth vote this year, but really the non-white and / or non-Christian vote are deeply intertwined.
- Over 100% of the population growth in America comes from non-whites and / non-Christians. That is, the white Christian population in America is actually slowly declining, even though the population of the country is still increasing on right pace with average world population growth. (Source)
In this context, Obama’s victory should not be seen as a historical fluke created by the confluence of disastrous Republican governing, a 2004 Illinois Senate field that collapsed around him, and a great speech at the Democratic convention four years ago. It is, instead, a harbinger of America’s future.
In other words, it’s the Emerging Democratic Majority, America’s demographic chickens coming home to roost.
But it has this consequence. When you ask if the typical American is white or non-white, the answer is “white.” And if you ask if the typical American is Christian or non-Christian, the answer is “Christian.” And if you ask how the typical white Christian votes, the answer is “for the Republican Party.” Thus by a certain logic, the typical American is a Republican and we live in a center-right nation. On another level, this is at least part of the reason why so many progressives find Barack Obama personally exciting.
The typical national Democratic campaign features a white person who at least professes devout Christian faith fronting for a political coalition that’s mostly composed of minority-Americans. Add on the fact that it’s usually a man leading a party whose voters are mostly women and things only get more severe. That’s sound political strategy in many ways — the most successful leader of the New Deal coalition of Southerners, Catholics, and Jews was northern Protestant Franklin Roosevelt who was able to help expand the brand’s appeal. But one likes to see oneself reflected in one’s coalition leaders. So a JFK, an Obama, is very exciting — not only to black voters (or, in the right moment, Catholic ones) but really to all members of the pluralist coalition. It’s a reaffirmation that we, too, are all Americans and not some kind of second-rate hangers-on who need a white (ideally southern) Christian to help shield the public from our ickiness.