Barack Obama greets young people at the College of Charleston. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast.)
I've been arguing in this series that the voting behavior of demographic voting blocs isn't stable in any truly predictable way, and may well confound confident predictions of a generation of Democratic hegemony. Seemingly stable blocs can shatter in something like an instant. Even, for example, urban blacks, which Democrats can reliably count on to vote their way at numbers upwards of 90 percent in every election. Little more than a generation ago, though, urban blacks in industrial states were considered a swing vote. Teddy White energy to the point in Making of the President 1960: Yes, a majority would vote Democrat, but the Party of Lincoln still retained the loyalty of a significant number of "Negroes" that just how many voted Republican in states like Illinois would determine—did determine, in fact—whether John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon became president. Within four short years, of course, that once-solid conventional wisdom had melted into air. It changed in a flash: A Democratic president signed a historic Civil Rights Act and the Republican presidential nominee voted against it. Lyndon Johnson told Bill Moyers "I think we just delivered the South to the Republican party for a long time to come." There was a corollary: just as indubitably they'd delivered themselves the loyalty of blacks.
There's a moral to this story: it is what a party and its leaders do that determines the loyalty of its voters.
As much so, what determines the loyalty of voters is how well a party and its leaders tell clear, effective stories about what they do. Obama did Obamacare. And how does Obamacare pass these tests? Well, for one thing, it hasn't done that much yet. Some of the things it might do are bad (Los Angeles Times headline this past week: "Healthcare Law Could Raise Premiums 30% for Some Californians"). The main thing it does, meanwhile, establishing easy-to-use online healthcare markets ("exchanges"), still doesn't kick in for nearly a year—if that's not badly delayed: The White House, plainly not grasping the intransigent nature of the opposition whose good faith they still presume, was underprepared at how many Republican-run states would refuse to cooperate. Said one healthcare consultant, “They definitely did not envision this many federally run exchanges. It was considered a fallback. The idea was it would be mostly state run and in the event of an anomalous state that didn’t do it, the feds would step in.”