Millions of white men who voted for Barack Obama are walking away from the Democratic Party, and it appears increasingly likely that they'll take the election in November with them. Their departure could well lead to a GOP landslide on a scale not seen since 1994.
For more than three decades before the 2008 election, no Democratic president had won a majority of the electorate. In part, that was because of low support -- never more than 38% -- among white male voters. Things changed with Obama, who not only won a majority of all people voting but also pulled in 41% of white male voters. Suddenly, there were millions more white men voting the Democratic ticket.
Polling suggests that the shift was not because of Obama but rather because of the financial meltdown that preceded the election. It was only after the economic collapse that Obama's white male support climbed above the 38% ceiling. It was also at that point that Obama first sustained a clear majority among all registered voters, according to the Gallup tracking poll.
It looked for a moment as though Democrats had finally reached the men of Bruce Springsteen's music, bringing them around to the progressive values Springsteen himself has long endorsed. But liberal analysts failed to understand that these new Democrats were still firmly rooted in American moderation.
So here's the nut. We have to sell a moderate Congress and a moderate President as moderates to an electorate that has been brainwashed to believe he's a socialist and a Muslim and that the Congress is some Wermacht of socialism and fascism rolled into one. It's not that these white men who voted for him believe it, flat out, but they're willing to believe the lesser charge of being a progressive as a form of "well, there must be SOMEthing to these rumours!"
Look, like it or not, and most progressives I talk to do not, we cannot hold onto Congress without the votes of moderates and independents. That means we have to carefully pick and choose our fights with the administration.
Not for unity's sake, but to paint him as a moderate. We have to have a "gimme" issue where he can stand tough, as Clinton did with his "Sistah Souljah" moment. Something that white men can immediately identify as pushing liberalism to arm's length. As it stands now, we'll lose seats in Congress anyway, because that's what midterm elections usually mean (Bush was an outlier in 2002 and 2006), and the Republicans are masters of winning elections.
They can't govern for shit, but they know what it takes to get nasty and just dirty enough to attract white male voters without turning them off. Now, granted, the Teabaggers have done a lot of the grunt work towards turning anyone off, as I mentioned earlier this week, but we have to offer Obama and the Pelosians as a legitimate alternative or the midterm elections are going to come down to a referendum on Obama based on a far smaller turnout, which gives the Teabaggers an opportunity to steal some elections by voting en bloc.
We can't let this happen. We have to articulate an alternative and we have to paint Congress and Obama as necessary, vital even, to the nation's health going forward. We'll only have ourselves to blame if we screw this up.