While the Democrats are certainly their own worst enemies, as demonstrated by passing a healthcare bill which is overwhelmingly opposed by the public and will likely lead to the loss of the house and Senate in 2010, that may just be the beginning of the challenges to their current political ascendancy.
The voters you alienate in one year can probably be won back in the next, though the level of anger against the Democrats is so high now that it may take more than a year and more than a few more earmarks to get back in the good graces of the voters. But it’s a lot harder to fight against the implacable forces of demographics, and they’re turning against the Democrats too.
In an article in National Jounral, Richard E. Cohen observes out that preliminary projections of the 2010 Census have been released and they point to a demographic trend which is not surprising, but which is going to be very significant for the nation’s political future. Population is shifting from the northeast and midwest to the southeast and southwest and that means from Democrat-dominated blue states to Republican-dominated red states.
To some extent this is also a fate which Democrats have brought on themselves. The states losing population and seats in Congress are run by Democrat legislatures, administrations and city governments. These are states which Democrats have chronically mismanaged for years. They are overtaxed and burdened with debt, unfriendly to businesses and as a result saddled with high unemployment and declining populations. People want to get out of states like New York and Ohio and Indiana and Michigan and they’re moving south to states whch are better managed, where people are taxed less, the cost of living is lower and there are jobs. Not coincidentally these states like Texas and Florida and Georgia and South Carolina are largely run by Republicans.
The shift in seats in Congress is substantial. Cohen analyzes it as an 11 seat shift in Congress, but it’s really potentially much more than that. If you count borderline states which leaned Democrat in 2008 the shift is closer to 18 seats and that’s almost enough to turn the House of Representatives over to the Republicans even without any major change in voter preferences.
Perhaps the most significant sign of things to come is the fact that Texas is going to gain 4 House seats, four times as many as any other state. And Texas is the reddest of red states. It’s so Republican dominated that there are no Democrats holding any statewide office, and scores of Democrat office holders are switching parties like rats abandoning a sinking ship because they don’t think they can get reelected while bearing the Democrat brand. Some of the cities have strong Democrat contingents, but the state as a whole is turning redder rapidly, likely driven to some extent by thousands of new arrivals every day from northern states who have seen the failure of Democrat government first hand and want nothing to do with it now that they have escaped.
Short of some major tampering with the process of the census and subsequent apportionment of congressional seats, it’s going to be virtually impossible for the Democrats to hold onto the House. In 2012 this shift will also be reflected in the electoral college. Close elections like we saw in 2000 and 2004 would not have been close with the current population distribution, and in future elections candidates who can appeal to the growing southern states will have a meaningful advantage.
As the current administration’s policies continue to drive down the economy we can expect this democraphic shift to continue. The most vulnerable states will continue to suffer, while their population willl leave them and move to those states which make an effort to defend their citizens from economic mismanagement and federal excess. How far states like Texas will go in defense of their citizens will likely become a major issue in the next few election cycles. A rising anti-federal sentiment in state politics is already easy to see and it will likely get much more prominent, with more talk of state sovereignty, nullification and even secession coming not just from the fringe, but from mainstream political leaders.
The inevitable tide is turning against the Democrats. The question is how much damage can they do before they are removed from office and can that damage be repaired once they are gone.