The party’s ultimate nominee will have serious wounds to heal.
There are four groups this year that have given shape to the Democratic primaries. Each has a sense of unique passion, a sense of historical destiny and a very personalized sensibility about how they view the two candidates. These sensibilities have in many ways become wounds, even open sores, which begs the question of whether or not the party’s ultimate nominee can heal these wounds.
Women Older Than 45
Older women have been one of the mainstays for Sen. Hillary Clinton. These Baby Boomers and beyond have experienced great transition, including a battle for equality, respect and appreciation. They understand—from their lives and their mothers’ lives—the meaning of being told to limit their goals. If they did not experience discrimination, they have known plenty of women who have. They have seen women break many glass ceilings, but the ultimate glass barrier is the presidency of the United States. After Clinton won the New Hampshire primary, many older women discussed the meaning of her candidacy and why they supported her. The central theme? Her struggle is our struggle. When Clinton became teary before the New Hampshire primary, many older women saw the moment as genuine and were reminded that this might be the last time in their lives when a woman will be so close to the top. Older women continue to support Clinton in big numbers.
Let’s review the litany. Hispanics were 4 percent of 92 million voters in 1992, 5 percent of 95 million voters in 1996, 6 percent of 105 million voters in 2000, and 8.5 percent of 122 million voters in 2004. We are looking at Hispanics being perhaps 11 percent of 135 million total voters in 2008. Their numbers are huge, and they are enraged about the movement against illegal immigration. Hispanics are not a one-issue group, but immigration has produced a tremendous level of alienation and anger. Their sheer numbers are vital for the Democratic candidate in November and, to date, they have been heavily supporting Clinton.
It is no surprise at all that African-Americans have supported Sen. Barack Obama once they saw he had a chance to win the nomination. Early polling suggested a split vote between Obama and Clinton, who has been very popular among African-Americans. While older and middle-class African-Americans have needed persuasion that Obama has a chance, younger African-Americans have been energized on his behalf since early on. But this generation gap has now closed. Clumsy efforts by both Clintons in South Carolina drove African-Americans into Obama’s camp, and since then he has been scoring more than 80 percent of this vote.
Many 18- to 29-year-olds are included in the group I refer to as America’s first Global Citizens. A key motivation is their concern over America’s negative image in much of the rest of the world. Now, obviously, they are concerned about the economy and their future, as well as joining the work force without health insurance. But this is also the group that is most opposed to the war in Iraq and to foreign policy unilateralism. It’s a group that has been most exposed to diversity in their lives and is most favorable toward immigrants, gays and people of other races. To them, Obama represents the country presenting a new face—both literally and figuratively—to the rest of the world. He’s also meaningful because they recognize him as part of a future key demographic in the next America. They are especially enthused about his candidacy.
Four groups, each with a driving passion for their candidate. Will that passion translate into support for the other candidate if their choice loses? Will they be as intense in their support as they are right now? The honest answer is that I don’t know, but it’s something I’ll be watching very closely.
John Zogby is president and CEO of the polling firm Zogby International. You can post comments on political topics in the Zogby Forums at Zogby.com.