Washington, D.C.—Today the Center for American Progress released a report titled, “The Obama Coalition in the 2012 Election and Beyond” at an event with CAP’s Ruy Teixeira, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research’s Anna Greenberg, Organizing for America’s Jeremy Bird, the National Urban League’s Chanelle Hardy, the Asian American Justice Center’s Mee Moua, and National Council of La Raza’s Clarisa Martinez De Castro. In 2011 and 2012, the Center for American Progress’ Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin correctly predicted that two large forces would determine the outcome of the election: the objective reality and voter perception of the economy in key battleground states and the shifting demographic balance of the American electorate. In the end, with growing concern about the economy, the rising electorate of communities of color, the Millennial generation, professionals, single women and secular voters once again came together to push President Obama to get to the 270 electoral votes needed for his reelection. Their final report of this election cycle examines exit poll data and county-level election results in the 12 most important battleground states to provide a detailed examination of the Obama coalition and its potential for future growth.
Additionally, Teixeira and Halpin’s new report also highlights what happens next and gives strategies that will harness the Obama coalition to sustain and achieve progressive policy change. The shifting demographic composition of the electorate has clearly favored Democrats and increased the relative strength of the party in national elections. Moreover, this transition toward a new progressive coalition was possible because of the ideological shift of the American electorate, one in which voters are moving away from the Reagan-Bush era of trickled-down economics and social conservatism and toward the more pragmatic approach of the Clinton-Obama vision that includes strong governmental support for the middle class, public investments in education, infrastructure, a fairer tax system that requires the wealthy to pay their fair share, and more inclusive social policies.
Despite all that, politics is never pre-determined, and demographics alone will not deliver more progressive gains and achievements. The fragmented American constitutional system—coupled with the ideological unity of congressional Republicans—gives conservatives multiple veto points over progressive legislation as they control many state houses and governor’s mansions, increasing their ability to block federal action on matters such as health care and encouraging further attacks on public employees and benefits for the poor, and punitive social policies aimed at communities of color and gays and lesbians. Teixeira and Halpin give the following suggestions based on what they know about the electorate and the ideological orientation of the country:
- A coherent way must be found to harness the rising electorate of communities of color, young people, women, and professionals, along with economically populist white working class voters, to give strong and consistent support to a progressive policy vision to benefit all Americans.
- It must be made clear to all Americans that in the progressive coalition, all voices are valued, all opinions are respected, and all ideas are taken seriously. Unlike the conservative coalition, progressives should seek to invite people in rather than push them out.
- Progressives must find ways to become a more permanent social movement that organizes and engages a diverse group of Americans to advocate for government reforms and progressive and social and economic policies. Gearing up for highly expensive campaigns every four years will be insufficient for achieving progressive change.
President Obama and progressives have proven they can build a powerful and growing coalition to win elections. Now they must find ways to permanently engage a diverse cross-section of Americans in support of government policies and investments that will produce a stronger middle class with rising opportunities and personal freedoms for everyone.
To read the full report, click here.
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