This is from the The New Republic.
The coalition that Obama assembled in 2008—and is relying on again for re-election—includes minorities (not only blacks and Hispanics but also Asians and those of other races), professionals, the highly educated, singles, women (especially in the preceding two categories), seculars, and members of the Millennial generation. (It also includes a chunk of the white working class, albeit a distinct minority.) Prior to the first debate, Obama was matching or coming very close to his 2008 levels of support among all of these groups, and so far it seems that Obama is keeping most of that support.
What is holding this coalition together? The crucial factor isn’t anything that Obama has done over the past four years—though he does have some major accomplishments to his name—but rather how appalling the other side is from the perspective of the Obama coalition.
The so called Obama coalition fell apart years ago. Anyone who still believes it is intact is just not paying attention.
Within a year or so after the 2008 election I flew from DC to Albuquerque and ended up having a quite pleasant conversation with my seatmate who I’d never met before boarding the plane. He was a friendly guy who was easy to talk with. As it turns out he was a staunch liberal who was almost beside himself with disappointment and frustration with Obama. The new president, it turns out, was nothing like what my seatmate thought he would be.
I know my experience offers only anecdotal evidence, but having been exposed to the thoughts of my seatmate I was a little more sensitive to picking up on the vibe of those thoughts from that point onward. As it turns out, my seatmate was not alone in his frustration, not by a long shot. I think it is clear to all by now that disillusionment is common, even rampant, within Obama’s original coalition.
But with that said, I think the last bit of the quote above is correct. What’s left of the coalition is being held together by how appalled its members are with practically anything conservative. But what’s missing from the The New Republic’s interpretation is that it says more about those who are appalled than it does about those who are causing them to feel that way.
The liberal psyche, with its fixation on maximization of care of, and for, the individual as the fundamental definition of what is “moral,” and “good” really is appalled by any notion of any limits on the “free will” of the individual to do whatever he or she pleases as long as it does not cause direct and immediate harm to any other individual.
But the essence of human nature, and of morality, is that some amount of exactly that kind of limit is essential to the existence of a safe, caring, and prosperous civil society. The needs and desires of the individual must be balanced with the needs and desires of the society as a whole if that society is to have any chance of existing, never mind flourishing, in the long term. Some amount of rules and norms which reduce selfishness and limit breadth and depth of free riders on the backs of the rest of society is what makes cooperative society possible.
That balance is not only the essence of human nature, and what makes human society possible, it is also the essence of conservatism. This is the conservative argument: a healthy hive of society and culture is a necessary co requisite for the health and happiness of the individual bees.
But the liberal fixation on the individual prevents it from seeing the other half the equation of health and happiness, and instead causes it to interpret the needs of society as forms of oppression and repression, and thus, literally, sources of evil. Restrictions are evil. Conservatives and Republicans seem to advocate restrictions, so therefore Conservatives and Republicans are evil. They don’t “care.” They are cold hearted and unfeeling, and interested only in “profits.” They are “appalling.”
The Obama coalition may indeed be appalled at the other side, but the reason is not because the other side actually is appalling; the reason is that the myopic world view of the liberal coalition prevents it from seeing the whole picture, and leads it to misinterpret what it does see.
This election tilted toward Romney after the first debate because he successfully myth-busted the liberal meme of conservatives and republicans as cold hearted, uninformed, rubes. Instead he came across as somebody who does care, who does “get it,” and who, surprisingly, actually knows what he is talking about.
Of course, there will always be a significant number of people who cling to the liberal meme, but the ones who matter, the undecideds, the independents, those who actually listen with an open mind, when they got a chance to see the real human being rather than the caricature that is painted by Obama ads, realized that Romney is, well, human; and a human with a plan to boot.
The post-debate mood within the country seemed to be “Huh. Who knew?”
And the tide was turned.
Whether it was turned for good remains to be seen, but the trend is positive. And one thing is certain, the “Obama coalition” sure ain’t what it used to be, and if Obama is relying on it for his reelection he may be in for a rude awakening. The good news for the country is that that awakening will come the day AFTER the election.