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?