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December 27, 2007

Richard Florida

Turning Blue

« Pop Pop | Main | Most Ridik-a-lus City List Ever »

Two of America's leading political analysts, John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira have an intriguing op-ed piece in Sunday's Washington Post (must have missed it while traveling) on the demographic, economic and geographic trends they believe will lead to a new Democratic majority.

[T]here are professionals, once the most Republican of all occupational groups. In 1960, they backed Nixon over JFK by 61 percent to 38. But as professionals -- including nurses, teachers and actors as well as doctors, scientists and engineers -- have become a larger proportion of the workforce (about 7 percent in the 1950s, and about 17 percent today), they have turned decidedly blue. In the four presidential elections from 1988 to 2000, professionals backed Democrats by an average of 52 percent to 40 percent. The reason: Professionals typically used to see themselves as pro-business entrepreneurs, but by the 1990s, most had become salaried workers, wary of big corporations and the untrammeled free market. ...

One key to this shift has been the development of post-industrial metropolitan areas -- places that combine city and suburb, that are devoted to the production of ideas and services, and that act as powerful magnets for precisely the professionals and minorities who are most likely to vote Democratic. These areas include greater Los Angeles (which now employs more entertainment workers than aerospace ones), Seattle, Chicago, Boston and even Austin in Bush's home state. Call them ideopolises, and color them bright blue.

On one level, they're onto something. The rise of the creative economy and the creative class is coincident with the rise of what Ronald Inglehart calls post-materialist values and politics.  And large metropolitan areas do skew heavily blue. But it's a great leap of faith to conclude this will lead to lasting majority of either party. That's because neither of them has come anywhere near embracing those post-materialist values. The way I see it we're in a period of simultaneous polarization and dealignment - with lots of "true believers" on the one hand and lots and lots of others who are disillusioned with the process, parties and candidates. I tried to map this out a couple of years ago in this paper with Jerry Mayer - while it's a bit dated, the gist of the analysis still holds up fairly well.

If you asked me who will win today, my guess is Mike Huckabee for three reasons - he comes across as a regular guy, he is relatively undefined in the popular mind, and he's a governor. Plus he lost weight, hunts and, plays the bass - more evidence he's a regular guy - sort of a cross between the old Bill Clinton, John Madden, and Dr. Phil.  And, if we use the simple but effective "congress people never win rule" that means none of the Democratic candidates - Clinton, Obama or Edwards will win, and the next president will be either Romney, Guiliani, or Huckabee.  The first two are self-destructing in real time, while Huckabee is rising. Huckabee is to 2008 what Clinton was to '92 and "W" was to 2000. As for what that means for American politics, have another look at my paper with Mayer. While Huckabee will come across as a "uniter" in the campaign, American politics will veer further away from our scenario 1, and toward some morphing of scenario's 2 and 3. 

My hunch is that of the major candidates only Obama can set in motion dynamics that would put the US back on course toward scenario 1.  But I am not so sure he can win either the Democratic nomination or the general election. Though given what I've just said, I'd be more than happy to be proven wrong on both scores and for Judis and Teixeira to be right.

What say you?

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Comments

Brian

Link to an interesting analysis on Huckabee by Chris Hedges. http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/12/24/5984/

In the short term, seems more likely that if Huckabee wins Iowa, it opens the way for McCain, especially if he can win NH. Not sure that the neocons and the corporate oligarchy will tolerate Huckabee. In the long term, the trends begun by Huckabee and described by Hedges could develop.

Jim Russell

I'm not sure I understand the "Congress people never win" rule, since five of our last nine presidents were former Congress people. Well, Ford wasn't elected, so four of the last eight elected presidents, anyway.

Charles Rostkowski

Jim, the difference is executive experience. Executives and legislators develop different skill sets. The most obvious is that executives act and are held accountable for their actions. Legislators bolviate and are protected by a myriad of rules from any accountability for their actions. That is the reason why in the 20th Century only two men (Kennedy and Harding) went directly from the Senate to the Presidency. Neither had executive experience. You could kind of count Truman since he had only six months as VP between his time as Senator and President. But he had had executive experience in both business and the military before he became a Senator. Contrast that with the number of Senators and Congressmen/women who ran for president and failed. Their number is legion. Legislators simply do not know how to run large organizations nor do they know how to be decisive. They always get the chance to change their minds the next day and rarely have to suffer the consequences for that change of direction. In prresidential campaigns such indecisiveness nearly always leads to failure as the voters find out what the legislators are really made of.

Frank

My feelings are that Huckabee, while he may get the "regular guy" vote, will only push those disillusioned with the process further away from participating in politics. If Clinton or Obama are to win the nomination and/or the general election, they need to inspire thousands of people who have not voted in the recent past. I'm not sure that either are doing a very good job of that right now.

phaedrus

Although he may be playing one on TV, Huckabee is anything but a 'regular guy' - he is a Baptist Minister. Americans would never elect a Catholic Priest, Jewish Rabbi or Muslim Imam as President, so why are they even considering electing a Baptist equivalent?

It is amazing after the profiling the Lieberman received last time around for being Jewish and that Romney has revived recently for being Mormon, -- even though they are both laypeople in their respective religions -- that Huckabee's whose religious occupation has been (relatively) unquestioned, especially since his faith and profession require him to view the New Testament as a "complete and infallible guide and standard of authority" and that every area of life needs to be subject to the written Word of God.

This will undoubtedly come out at some point during the election campaign, and has the potential to really hurt his chances, unless he can clearly explain how he will balance the requirements of his religious position with the requirements of the Oval Office.

RF

Thanks all. Brian, thank you especially for that link. Chris Hedges is one of the most prescient analysts of American political culture our there. Ingelhart defines American political culture as split between two poles - the open-minded self-expression secular values of the new political culture, and the religious, community-oriented values of traditional society. The latter is mighty pissed off at the perceived arrogance and self-interest of the former. For the first time they have a candidate from their ranks, who not only reflects their values but expresses a powerful economic populism. Hedges is right: this is not a short term thing. A very real and very powerful movement has come into existence. I have long said that Bush is a transitional figure. With a broken progressive movement who's leaders are unable or unwilling to understand and communicate how to extend the benefits of the creative economy across the population, the time is ripe for truly reactionary - and by that I mean backward looking - political movements based on restoring traditional values. What comes after Bush could well be much worse. That's what my paper with Mayer tries to outline.

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