They are younger, more diverse, and less rigid in their party loyalty. More of them are women. And they are coming out in droves.
The voters who are shaping the Democratic primary race form a very different electorate than the one that awarded Senator John F. Kerry the party’s nomination in 2004. But while it is evident that voters this year are changing the face of the Democratic Party, the beneficiary of their influence is difficult to predict.
The spike in Democratic voter turnout in primaries and caucuses from 2004 to 2008 is staggering – a 90 percent increase in Iowa, 30 percent in New Hampshire, and 83 percent in South Carolina. Florida Democrats were on pace last night to more than double their turnout from four years ago, while Nevada, whose noncompetitive 2004 caucuses drew only 9,000 people, this year saw 118,000 people vote.
This is great news for America. But there are other demographic groups out there not being heard from. Like, Republican women. Emily Bazelon writes at Slate,
Gender has mattered a great deal in the Democratic race, with women tilting between Hillary (New Hampshire and Nevada) and Obama (Iowa and South Carolina), and voting in larger numbers and by different margins than men. But they haven’t been the key to any Republican victories. In Florida, tonight, they accounted for 44 percent of the vote in their party, compared to 60 percent among Democrats. …
… The virtue of a party without a gender gap is that it’s not dodging the potholes of identity politics. The downside is that it’s muddling along without thinking much about what its women want. Listening to Romney’s and McCain’s speeches tonight, I don’t hear anyone wooing the ladies. Not even in a throwaway sentence or two. …
… What do Republican women want, anyway? They support the Iraq war in far greater numbers than their Democratic counterparts. But they’re just as worried about the economy. Beyond that, and the obligatory pro-life nod, no one seems to ask them.
One suspects the loyal Republican woman, like the loyal Republican gay or the loyal Republican African-American, is so full of self-loathing she’s afraid to ask herself what she thinks.
And then there’s the ignorant yahoo demographic. New York Times reporter Adam Nossiter visits Columbia, Tennessee.
â€œI wish there was somebody worth voting for,â€ said Buford Moss, a retired Union Carbide worker sitting at the back table of Buckyâ€™s Family Restaurant here, with a group of regulars, in a county seat that â€” as the home of the 11th president, James K. Polk â€” is one of the ancestral homelands of Jacksonian Democracy.
â€œThe Democrats have left the working people,â€ Mr. Moss said.
â€œWe have nobody representing us,â€ he continued, adding that he was â€œsad to sayâ€ he had voted previously for Mr. Bush. He was considering sitting out this election altogether. â€œAnyone but Obama-Osama,â€ he said, chuckling at a designation that met with mirthful approval at the table.
In interviews around the courthouse square, voters stuttered over Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama in matchups with Republicans, particularly Senator John McCain, whose military credentials give him solid regional armoring. Some white voters voiced outright alarm over Mr. Obama, and though he is a Christian, allusions to his supposed Muslim ties were frequent, as were suggestions that he remained a disturbingly unknown quantity.
White men, in particular, expressed general fearfulness â€” over a possible terrorist attack, over an unnamed threat from Muslims, over Hispanic immigrants and over the weakening economy. These fears led them to reflect positively on Republican candidates, perceived as more hard-line on most fronts.
â€œI think our greatest fear is our terrorist enemies,â€ said Waymon L. Hickman, senior chairman of First Farmers & Merchants bank, whose headquarters building dominates Main Street here.
â€œYou get Peloski up there and they say weâ€™ve lost the war, and that just fuels our adversaries,â€ said Mr. Hickman, incorrectly pronouncing the name of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
We could spend all day speculating why America’s rural and small town white men are such a fearful lot, or why anybody in Columbia, Tennessee, spends more than 30 seconds a year worrying about terrorist enemies. Part of the problem is that these guys get all their information from Rush and Faux News, obviously. And their heads will explode before they’d vote for either a woman or a black man. These are the guys who will make John McCain a viable contender for the presidency, I fear.