The Democratic Party is not a national party any more. It is an archipelago of inner cities and college towns, allied with the collapsing remnants of the labor-intensive manufacturing sector, embedded in a suburban/exurban nation-state. If a competitive Democratic Party emerges from the ruins of the 1968–2004 Democrats, it will be as unlike today’s Democratic Party as the New Deal Democrats of FDR and Truman were unlike the isolationist, agrarian populist Democrats of William Jennings Bryan.
The election of Barack Obama to the presidency may signal more than the end of an era of Republican presidential dominance and conservative ideology. It may mark the beginning of a Fourth Republic of the United States…. The election of 2004 was a fluke.
Clearly, the 2008 Democratic Party isn’t identical to the party circa 2004, but I don’t think anyone could seriously claim that there’s been a radical transformation. And of the transformations that have occurred, most have been primarily operational in nature, with the basic ideological and interest-group underpinnings remaining similar. Indeed, as we had occasion to observe the other day the Democratic coalition continues to have an archipelago structure:
Outside of New England, the Democratic-leaning counties tend to be the more densely populated areas. Consequently, the GOP has much more land mass and tends to surround and envelop relatively small (in a geographic sense) Democratic-leaning built-up areas. This was true in 2004 and remained true in 2008. But the archipelago got a bit bigger, so the Democrats won.