US Shifting Blue
by Todd Beeton, Tue Aug 05, 2008 at 11:50:50 AM EDT
The New York Times has a new piece on the national trends away from the GOP, both registration-wise and at a local electoral level. What's most interesting to me is that there's absolutely no attempt at forced balance in the article. There's not one "GOP consultants say..." to be found, which is refreshing. It's content to report the facts, even if they are all bad for the Republican Party.
Check out these registration statistics:
In several states, including the traditional battlegrounds of Nevada and Iowa, Democrats have surprised their own party officials with significant gains in registration. In both of those states, there are now more registered Democrats than Republicans, a flip from 2004. No states have switched to the Republicans over the same period, according to data from 26 of the 29 states in which voters register by party. (Three of the states did not have complete data.)
In six states, including Iowa, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, the Democratic piece of the registration pie grew more than three percentage points, while the Republican share declined. In only three states -- Kentucky, Louisiana and Oklahoma -- did Republican registration rise while Democratic registration fell, but the Republican increase was less than a percentage point in Kentucky and Oklahoma. Louisiana was the only state to register a gain of more than one percentage point for Republicans as Democratic numbers declined. [...]
Among the 26 states with registration data, the percentage of those who have signed on with Democrats has risen in 15 states since 2004, and the percentage for Republicans has risen in six, according to state data. The number of registered Democrats fell in 11 states, compared with 20 states where Republican registration numbers fell.
In the 26 states and the District of Columbia where registration data were available, the total number of registered Democrats increased by 214,656, while the number of Republicans fell by 1,407,971.
What's interesting is that this shift is not seen as merely a function of the enthusiasm generated by the presidential primary. In fact, it's been a trend that's been evident for several years, which in itself speaks to the likelihood that the shifts we're seeing are sustainable in the longterm.
"This is very suggestive that there is a fundamental change going on in the electorate," said Michael P. McDonald, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an associate professor of political science at George Mason University who has studied voting patterns.
Mr. McDonald added that, more typically, voting and registration patterns tended to even out or revert to the opposing party between elections. [...]
But for a shift away from one party to sustain itself -- the current registration trend is now in its fourth year -- is remarkable, researchers who study voting patterns say.
As the piece makes clear, the voter registration numbers are just a product of underlying shifts taking place, a perfect storm that has included profound disillusionment with Bush, changes in the demographic landscape ("including the rise in the number of younger voters and the urbanization of suburbs") as well as the adoption of a more pragmatic approach by the Democratic Party to run more conservative candidates in conservative districts and states. The big questions are whether this movement toward the Democrats is sustainable and whether it will manifest in a wave election in November that sweeps Barack Obama into the presidency along with larger congressional majorities.
"Major political realignment is not just controlling the branches of government," said Mr. McDonald of the Brookings Institution. "It is when you decisively do it. We haven't seen that in modern generations."
For it is only with decisive victories that the sort of shifts in demographics, voter registration and voting behavior we're already seeing throughout the country can lead to the sort of transformative policy shifts we've been working toward for years.