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Column: New 'conservative Minority' Most Likely Overblown

This story was written by Jack Millman, The Lantern


Four years ago, following George W. Bush's victory, Fred Barnes of the conservative Weekly Standard wrote an article on the new conservative majority. Titled "The Incredible Shrinking Democrats," it outlined how the Democratic Party was being driven to New England. With the Republicans increasing their hold on Congress, it seemed a new era of conservative dominance had begun.

Bush had, after all,won 97 of the 100 fastest growing counties. It seemed that Democratic states were shrinking, and Republican states' populations were growing. Karl Rove was Bush's brain, the genius behind a new political majority.

The last bit of that prophecy died on Nov. 4, when the Democrats dealt another crushing blow to Republican electoral hopes. In addition to winning the presidency, Democrats increased their House and Senate majorities to greater levels. After this election, the Republican Party appears to be the regional party, confined to the Deep South and plains states. In retrospect, the Republican's new majority was overblown, its weaknesses obscured by the events of the times.

In 2004, Bush was able to use the threat of terrorism and a positive economic climate to win a surprisingly weak majority for re-election. It was the lowest margin of victory for a second-term president since Woodrow Wilson's 1916 victory. Bush was able to carry around 45 percent of the Hispanic vote, which proved to be a short-term accomplishment. The increasing leftward shift of the 18- to 29-year-old vote was also becoming apparent.

In 2000, the youth vote essentially followed the popular vote, according to exit polls. These exit polls showed a Democratic advantage of 6 percent in 2004 compared to their share of the national vote.

This year, the youth vote was 14 percent more Democratic than the national vote. A new wave of liberals is entering the electorate.

It was easy to predict a new emerging majority. In the same way, pundits now talk of Republicans in the wilderness and a new Democratic majority as America changes into a nation of minorities. While this is certainly a possibility, a lot more rests on Obama and the Democratic Congress's shoulders than pundits realize. Like 2004, a major realignment, while a possibility, is by no means certain.

The Democrats are now solely responsible for governing and will not be able to rely upon an incredibly unpopular president and an economic crisis to cruise to victory. This, of course, raises another point: John McCain faced insurmountable odds. His percentage of the popular vote is double Bush's approval rating, despite Republican blame for the economic crisis. Barack Obama had the largest advantage in fundraising dollars in American history, but he was only able to claim 52 percent of the popular vote. Democrats were unable to win a thrashing mandate in Congress and may have reached their limits, even running conservative candidates.

It is likely that 2010 and 2012 will be good years for Republicans, especially with the horde of problems facing the Democratic Party. While the Republican Party under Bush has suffered greatly and become ideologically corrupt, it is not as far gone as many currently assume. The next four years will be the true determining factor.

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