Robert S. McElvaine, editor of Down and Out in the Great Depression: Letters from the Forgotten Man, blogs regularly for The Huffington Post. In his latest post, he discusses the demise of Nixon’s “southern strategy” and the new challenges for the GOP.
Prior to the start of the war in Iraq in 2003, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made a distinction between “Old Europe” that opposed the American war and “New Europe” that supported that war. Other members of the Bush Administration and neo-conservatives picked up on the distinction. Be that as it may, it is now crystal clear that New America is with President-elect Obama and the Democrats, while Old America clings to the Grand Old Party, with the emphasis on the middle name — a middle name that, ironically, had a greater impact on the outcome of the election than did that of the Democratic nominee.
The United States is changing and the principal question about this year’s vote was whether it would be the last of the old elections or the first of the new elections. If it was the former, John McCain might eke out a narrow victory. If the latter, Barack Obama would win.
A depiction of Old America would be as a black-and-white (or, more accurately, white-and-black) photograph. New America can be painted only from a full palette.
Look at the party conventions. One was monochromatic; the other presented the range of human colors. Aside from the presence of far more female delegates, the Republican gathering in Minnesota looked like a convention of either party from before the 1960s — or an all-white country club. The Democratic convention in Colorado looked like America . . . New America. Diverse America.
John McCain won Old America. He carried whites by 12 points, 55% to 43%. But Barack Obama won New America in decisive fashion, carrying 95% of African Americans, 67% of Hispanics, and 62% of Asians. And the Democrat won first-time voters by the astounding margin of 69% to 30%.