It wasn’t a dream

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  December 28, 2006

“There really is a genuine concern that Republicans in the House of Representatives did long-term damage to the party by pursuing an approach to the immigration challenge that was largely perceived as anti-immigrant,” says Adam J. Segal, former director of the Hispanic Voter Project at Johns Hopkins University.

Segal and other experts caution that Hispanic voting patterns are hard to predict; Hispanic-Americans consist of many different cultures and communities, each of which will take their own political path.

But a make-or-break point could be looming in the 2008 Republican presidential-nominating process. In it, John McCain, a senator from a heavily Hispanic state who co-authored immigrant-friendly reform legislation, will face a swarm of immigrant-bashers like Mitt Romney. If the party rejects McCain, that might seal the deal — and the Hispanic vote could be the Democrats’ for a generation.

Meanwhile, 2006 pretty well proved that the Republican plan to draw in the Black vote, primarily using social issues like gay marriage, has come a cropper. Every significant black Republican candidate lost, and the black vote went as high as ever to Democrats — thanks in part, perhaps, to George “Macaca” Allen and perceived racist ads against Harold Ford Jr. and Deval Patrick, but probably due more to the corpses returning from Iraq and a longstanding preference for Democrats’ stands on civil justice and economic issues.

And the gender gap continues to increase. Unmarried women supported Democrats for Congress by a two-to-one margin this year. Working women, married or not, are voting solidly Democratic, and young women overwhelmingly so.

4) This is the modern world
Young voters — those 18 to 29 — were by far the most likely age group to vote Democratic in the 2006 congressional election, at 60 percent. A majority of those in the “millennial generation” voted for John Kerry in 2004. There is strong reason to suspect that this will be the most solidly Democratic generation since the Progressive Era.

That’s not because they’re a bunch of lefties; they aren’t. What they are is residents of 21st century America, a place where the Republican Party seems incredibly ill at ease.

Young adults needn’t hold a shared opinion about John Maynard Keynes to agree that 82-year-old Alaska Senator Ted “Tubes” Stevens shouldn’t be in charge of Internet regulation.

Millennials, immersed from birth in science and technology, have a strong moral compass, but simply don’t share the skittishness that the Republican Party seems to have about global warming, embryonic stem-cell research, end-of-life issues, sex education, and indecency on the airwaves.

This rising generation is also far, far removed from the era when America underwent its turbulent 20th-century reshaping of attitudes about race, gender, and religion. For those under 30, diversity and equality are a given: two-fifths of their peers are something other than white and non-Hispanic — compared with one-fourth among those over age 40. Their gay friends are not only out, they are holding hands in public. And geography no longer separates those who are different in today’s interconnected culture. The old collective yearning for some idealized, 1950s-style homogeneity makes no sense among MySpace friends.

Which is why this year’s immigration debate was about much more than race and nationality, suggests Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network in Washington. It was, he thinks, part of an even more fundamental decision to accept or reject the modern world — a world filled with people of different nationalities, languages, tastes, and sexual preferences.

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