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Election 2002: Emerging Dem majority?

By STEVE SAILER, UPI National Correspondent   |   Oct. 21, 2002 at 6:18 PM
(Part of UPI's Special Report on Election 2002)

LOS ANGELES (UPI) -- Perhaps the most talked about book of the year among political analysts has been "The Emerging Democratic Majority" by John B. Judis of The New Republic and and Ruy Teixeira of the Century Foundation.

They intended the title to bring to mind the 1969 book "The Emerging Republican Majority" by Nixon Administration aide Kevin Phillips. That won permanent acclaim when Republicans Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush captured four of the next five Presidential elections, all by solid margins.

Democrats have since won a plurality of the popular vote three straight times, however. In fact, 2000 marked the first election since 1964 in which left-of-center candidates (Gore and Ralph Nader) won a majority of the popular vote.

Judis and Teixeira argue that this is no fluke and that the trend toward the Democrats will intensify: In their analysis of the emerging "post-industrial America," Republican sources of strength are in shrinking sectors such as rural and industrial regions, whites, traditional families, hunters, and the religiously observant.

In contrast, they contend that Democrat power bases are on the rise. They see the Democrats as being well-positioned to win the votes of growing demographic groups such as professionals (among whom Gore beat Bush by seven points), working and single women (in the Oct. 11 Gallup Poll, 68 percent of single women say they'll vote for a Democrat for the House in November), and minorities (75 percent of whom vote Democratic).

They argue that Democrats do increasingly well in growing "ideopolises" -- culturally liberal urban-suburban regions such as the San Francisco Bay Area or Boston that grow up around left-of-center elite universities. In these prosperous areas, white people work more with ideas than with their hands, and lots of lower-levels jobs are created for Hispanic and black minorities. Many trendsetting residents of ideopolises pride themselves on having little tolerance for anyone suspected of intolerance.

Teixeira said by email from the Washington, D.C., area that the Democrats are well positioned to benefit if America continues to become more of an unequal "barbell society," because Democrats attract both the highly educated and the poorly educated.

Although their book focuses on the medium term (2004-2008), not the short term (2002), Judis and Teixeira graciously accepted UPI's challenge to pick races where their theory suggests Democrats should win this November. This represents a risk for them, since a poor batting average in predicting contests that might well be roiled by fast-changing current events could hurt their reputations as prognosticators.

In their book, they focused more on forecasting presidential elections, which tend to fully reflect the partisan balance of the country. In contrast, the struggles for control over the House, where a small number of races typically decide who has a majority, are more open to randomness.

House districts were so precisely gerrymandered following the 2000 Census that most of the races were predetermined by the state legislators who drew the boundaries. Veteran election analyst Charlie Cook said that among California's 53 House districts, for example, the only one up for grabs is the seat being vacated by disgraced Democrat Gary Condit.

Although it certainly wasn't the intent of the Framers of the Constitution, even senators are now more susceptible to the changing moods of the voters than members of the House. (The greater insulation of the lower house from fears of voter retaliation may help explain why 61 percent of House Democrats voted against the Iraq war resolution compared to only 42 percent of Senate Democrats.)

Judis and Teixeira chose six gubernatorial and four Senate races that they hope will illustrate the power of their analytical framework.

"California may be the harbinger of a new Democratic majority," they wrote in their book. Like most observers, Judis and Teixeira predict that "even the unpopular" California governor Gray Davis will beat his Republican rival Bill Simon.

They cite as reasons the power of pro-abortion rights women in California, and the growth of minorities. According to Census Bureau data, Hispanics grew from 11.4 percent of California voters in 1994 to 13.9 percent in 2000.

Asians-Americans are also growing rapidly in the Golden State, and they moved dramatically toward the Democrats between 1992 (when Clinton captured only 30 percent of the national Asian vote, according to the Voter News Service exit poll) and 2000 (when Gore won 55 percent).

In California, liberal idea industries like Hollywood have grown and conservative metal-bending industries like aerospace have shrunk. In 1983, aerospace employed twice as many people in Los Angeles County as did motion pictures. By 2000, after the post-Cold War downsizing of the military and the explosive growth in Hollywood, the movie jobs outnumbered aerospace jobs almost three to one.

Also, educational inequality has grown in California, making it more of a barbell society where Democrats thrive. It now has 2 million holders of graduate degrees, according to the Census Bureau. (Gore beat Bush two to one in 2000 among Californians claiming to have a graduate degree.)

Yet, the Golden State also has 2.2 million residents who have never even attended high school. That's 10.7 percent of the population versus 6.4 percent in the rest of the country. California has the lowest percentage of residents with mid-level educations (high school degree or some college).

Other states in which Judis and Teixeira see Democratic gubernatorial candidates benefiting from long-term trends include Pennsylvania, where the former Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell should do well in the growing Philadelphia suburbs. They are seeing an increase in culturally liberal professionals. In contrast, the more socially conservative center of the state is having trouble retaining population.

Teixeira suggests that Michigan's Democratic attorney general, the much talked about Jennifer M. Granholm, should profit in her race for the governor's office due to changes in suburban Detroit counties like Oakland, home of the high-tech side of the auto industry. "While much of the actual production [of automobiles] has moved southward, much of the research and development and engineering of automobiles (which now make extensive use of computer technology) is conducted in Michigan," the authors wrote.

Teixeira told UPI that Florida is "changing so much that even Jeb Bush, the incumbent president's brother, is vulnerable to a good candidate," which the often-underrated Bill McBride appears to be turning out to be. Largely due to immigration from Latin American countries besides Cuba and an inflow of Puerto Ricans from the New York City area, Florida is becoming more minority (up from 26 percent to 33 percent during the last decade), and thus more Democratic.

Likewise, Arizona's Hispanic population is growing quickly enough that the home state of the late Barry Goldwater could promote Democrat Janet Napolitano from attorney general to governor. (Another reason Arizona is trending away from the Republicans is that Tucson, home to the University of Arizona, is now pro-Democratic.)

In one of their more daring picks, Judis and Teixeira see Democratic challenger James E. Doyle, Wisconsin's attorney general, unseating Republican incumbent governor Scott McCallum. They attribute this in part to Wisconsin slowly shifting from a manufacturing economy to the kind of post-industrial economy that encourages greater social liberalism among workers. The fastest growing county in the state is Dane, which is home to the liberal University of Wisconsin at Madison.

In Senate races, they forecast that in the traditional bellwether state of New Jersey, with the scandal-tainted Democrat Robert G. Torricelli out of the way, his replacement Frank R. Lautenberg should win. Professionals "make up 23.3 percent of the workforce compared to 15.4 percent nationally. And these professionals, like those in California, are now strongly Democratic," they pointed out in "The Emerging Democratic Majority."

They also think Democrat Jean Carnahan will be returned to the Senate in Missouri, despite that state going for Bush in 2000.

The authors expect Republicans to win Senate races in the traditionally Republican-leaning Texas and Colorado, but with Democrats coming relatively close, due to the growth of Hispanics in those states.

After the elections, UPI will do a follow-up report on the accuracy of these predictions:

--Strong Democratic gubernatorial performances in California, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, Arizona, and Wisconsin.

--Strong Democratic senatorial results in New Jersey and Missouri, and possibly in Texas and Colorado.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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