Ron Brownstein's got a great piece in the National Journal on the decades in motion exodus of white voters from the Democratic Party. There is good news here for the Republican Party, but also some cautionary notes.
Democrats got shellacked among white voters in 2010, heaviest among non-college educated whites--who used to be part of the famous "Democratic coalition". No more. From the piece:
Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University, says that blue-collar disaffection from Democratic candidates reflects not only immediate economic distress but also a longer-term process of alienation from the party. “The noncollege whites … see themselves as a declining minority within the national Democratic Party, where they have very little control or influence on the policies,” he says. “The party is controlled by the coastal elites and nonwhites, and that is a very different kind of Democratic Party” than a generation ago.
Clinging to guns and God, blue collar whites look around and see a Democratic Party beholden to organized labor, illegal immigrant enablers, opponents of traditional family values and structures, and those who would more closely impose government upon everyday life--and they've decided that's not what they want. They have moved steadily to the Republican Party, and this is a good thing.
Interestingly enough, whites of all educational and socio-economic groups have moved more to the right, including that most lefty of all groups, highly educated women.
The question must be asked--and certainly it will be answered by some on the left--is this movement away from the Democratic Party racist? Many will think racism and a disdain for minorities is the driving force in this movement, rather than a growing discomfort with the priorities of the Democratic Party and its immoderate policies. This is the easy answer, the answer of those who presume the unquestioned wisdom of their ideas and then ascribe base motives to those who disagree, as principled disagreement is incongruous with such clear and rational thinking. Put another way, it MUST be racism, because Democratic and Liberal ideas are so darn reasonable.
Time for Republicans to pop the cork and celebrate a governing majority for the ages? Not by a long shot. The plain truth of the matter is that those groups making up the Democratic coalition display fertility rates dramatically greater than whites of all strata, thereby providing a self-sustaining base in each subsequent generation. Not that all will vote as their parents or friends do, but enough to keep the movement growing.
So, what's to be done?
The Republican Party must seek to identify those issues where non-college educated whites AND minorities share interest, and move forward with enlightened, Conservative policies to address them. Republicans don't have to attract huge chunks of the minority vote to gain and sustain a governing coalition; they simply have to peel enough off to offset the growth of the Democratic Party due to natural population growth. This means that the Republican Party doesn't have to become more like the Democratic Party--it simply needs to demonstrate that it has ideas and policies that are responsive to voter needs.
This demographic shift seems to me to be the most important trend in US politics for the next several decades, and a strategically thinking Republican Party would be planning now to be on the right side of it.