TREND SETTING ELECTION FOR VOTERS OF COLOR, NEW STRATEGIES THAT WORK

Purple America: Voter Density (1960-2004)

Purple America: Voter Density (1960-2004) (Photo credit: methodshop.com)

By Kirk Clay

A Little Capital Goes A Long Way, Investing In Voters of Color Is A Sure Bet

The question leading up to the 2012 presidential election was whether or not the voter turnout from President Obama’s coalition of progressive whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, women, youth and unions would be at the same level as in 2008. The answer is “YES!”

Judging from the preliminary numbers, it is clear that there are a number of important states and districts in which progressive whites and Voters of Color (VOC) helped to decide election results. This election cycle, we witnessed the effect of expanding the electorate. Imagine what could happen in 2013, 2014, and 2016 if we continue to push every eligible voter to register and turnout? We could see major changes in Congress as well as state legislatures.

No longer should we portray progressive whites and VOC as incidental to the broader sphere of American politics. Their influences on the election results are validated by evidence-based demographic data which clearly demonstrates that consistently high VOC turnout levels produce reliable results. It’s also unmistakable that these turnout levels are connected to well-funded systematic political structure powered by evidence based data.

These voters lit the torch that led the Democrats to victories in races for Congress, Senate, and the White House. This isn’t just happenstance. With adequate resources, organizations began to connect the dots in late 2010. They pushed vintage campaign models for civic engagement into the 21st Century by building powerful political machines which utilized state-of-the art technology.

It is time for both parties to recognize that the future is here. The old strategy of “securing the independent voters in the last two weeks” did not pan out for many candidates this election.  It seems that the strategy of expanding the electorate to include more progressive whites and VOC proved to be a much more durable foundation for building a coalition rather than relying on swing voters. President Obama dropped independents in most states like Ohio, Nevada, and New Mexico but won each state with 50%, 52%, and 53% of the vote respectfully.  Even when his opponent began to gain momentum after the first debate, the President never trailed in these key states.

We believe that the pending certified results will show that voters of color made up 25% of the electorate nationally and at least 19% in 27 states– a dramatic increase from 2008. For the first time, Latinos were 10% of all voters and supported the President by 71%; African Americans were 13% of all voters and 93% voted for the incumbent, and Asians were 3% of all voters and well over 72% backed the Democrats.

On the ground, the political environment was similar to 2006 when wedge issues became a way to contrast the candidates. Just like in 2006, this strategy seems to have backfired on the GOP.  Comparable to the 2006 election, the Democrats gained a foothold in the Senate by winning 80% of the competitive Senate races.  They defeated moderate Senate Republicans in Hawaii, New Mexico and Virginia. They successfully defended gains from 2006 in Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Democrats won a majority of all votes cast in House races, gained eight seats in the House, gained 170 more state legislative seats nationwide and took over eight state legislative chambers including complete control of Colorado.

At the state level, progressive whites and VOC provided the momentum to help Democrats win seven of eight tossup House races in California and all three tossups in Arizona. Also, they gave the Democrats key wins in CA-36, FL-9, FL-26, and TX-23.

Nevada provides a good example of the impact that Latinos, African Americans and Asians had as the result of investing in their increased civic participation.  The state already gained a congressional seat and an Electoral College vote as the result of the 2010 U.S. census which pointed to 28% of the citizen voting age population being VOC. Voters of color represented 26% of the electorate in 2008, increased to 29% in 2010 and jumped to 33% in 2012. Census data shows that places like North Las Vegas grew by 87% to 216,961 residents of which over 46,000 were key VOC.

There is no doubt that the fundamentals of elections have changed. The beneficiaries of the civil rights movement have finally gained a foothold on political equality, uniting their collective guiding beliefs. The idea that “you have to be a friend to get a friend” will continue to reveal opportunities to work together towards creating an inclusive social, cultural, and economic apparatus. The fact is, if we invest political resources in this coalition, America will experience a positive return. That’s popping the clutch.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPac

YOUNG VOTERS OF COLOR, DRIVING HOME THE FACTS OF LIFE

By Kirk Clay

Regiones fisiográficas de Ohio.

Regiones fisiográficas de Ohio. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Young Voters of Color Could Be the Sweet Spot in Ohio, Virginia and New Jersey

Last week I had the privilege of keynoting the Toledo NAACP’s 99th Freedom Fund Dinner. The event attracted tons of media and more than 700 attendees.  In the audience sat Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, Mayor Michael Bell, loads of council persons, and plenty of candidates. It was a tremendous occasion and it felt good being home talking to hard working people who live outside of the beltway.

While in Toledo I was able catch up with a number of old friends, including a buddy from high school who I played ball with. We talked about our children and the “good old days.” He teased me about the 1964 Rambler I drove.  We laughed about how the passenger side floorboard had rusted out and no one wanted to ride shotgun when it rained. We talked about the places we would go and how owning our first car gave us a sense of empowerment.

He mentioned how Ohio’s young workers have and always will rely on the auto industry. As voters, they know what it means to have family members working over fifty-five hours a week on a Jeep Liberty line in Toledo.  Maybe that’s why they’re so disappointed about politicians falsely attacking an American institution like Jeep. The auto industry supports 1 of every 8 jobs in Ohio and many of these jobs are important for young job-seekers.

After talking with him, I started to wonder what the long term effects of their Jeep attacks would be. Would they widen the gap with young Voters of Color (VOC) on Election Day? Would it solidify the Democrat’s lead in Ohio for 2012 and also become a hurdle for the GOP in New Jersey and Virginia next year?

Looking at Gallup’s latest study, it seems that we are on track to have a similar electorate as 2008 where the youth made up 18% of the vote. As witnessed on the state level in 2008, an energized young VOC electorate gave President Obama the victory in Ohio, Virginia, and New Jersey. This could be clutch for the Democrats in 2012 and 2013.

While voters under 30 were 17% of the electorate for both Ohio and New Jersey in 2008, that number dropped for New Jersey to 9% in 2009. The same is true for young voters in Virginia; they were 21% of the electorate in 2008 and only 10% in 2009.

Why? A substantial number of young VOC decided to stay home and as a result the Democrats were unsuccessful in retaining the 2008 momentum in 2009.

A recent Harvard Institute of Politics study demonstrates the possible impact for 2012 and 2013. The President leads his challenger among 18-29 year old African Americans 91%-6% and Latinos 73%-13%. More importantly, 59% of African Americans and 31% of Latinos are enthusiastic about voting on November 6.  Young voters trust President Obama more than his challenger to deal with “major issues” like immigration reform 45% – 25%. Among young women, Romney loses on issues of concern 53% – 20%.

These numbers are going to be even more critical in November of 2013 for state gubernatorial races. In places like New Jersey where Democrats currently outnumber Republicans by 10 points, 59% of voters under 30 now say that they will not vote for Governor Christie. Note that VOC are 31% of New Jersey’s citizen voting age population and they comprised 28% of the electorate in 2008.

Adding to that, Hudson county population grew by 4% to 634,266 and Jersey City population increased 3% to 247,597. This is a solid majority Latino, African American, and Asian American city and has well over 95,000 key VOC.  Therefore, conservatives may have a tough time matching their ’09 bump with policies that center around the “virtues of selfishness.”  In these blue-collar states, economic patriotism is multifaceted and far more complex than a bumper sticker policy.

Looking deeper I began to realize how young people everywhere are positively impacted by the automobile industry. For many of us in Toledo, owning a car provided the sense of independence we needed to become responsible and effective citizens. If you were lucky enough to have a family member who worked for General Motors, you not only benefited from their labor but their product as well.

Plus, watching our family members go to work every day gave us a sense of pride and passion for building things with our own hands. That’s probably why the auto bailout is so important for young voters in Ohio and other states.

It’s always a momentous occasion when a young person drives for the first time as well as votes for the first time. For many young people, these are two of the first meaningful investments they will make in their own future and independence. Not to mention that buying a car is one of the largest purchases made by young people.

As Americans we believe that our politicians should match that seriousness in word as well as deed. They should defend our institutions as well as our democratic traditions. That’s popping the clutch.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPac