Monday, April 28, 2008

Increased Democratic Turnout = ???

Voters are registering in record numbers and participation has been at historic highs in the primaries in 2008. The question both parties must wrestle with is what, if anything, this means for November. Does the record turnout and the new registrants represent a turning tide in American electoral politics? Does it mean that people want to be part of what they perceive as a historic primary fight? Does it mean that Democrats in these latter primary states finally see their participation mattering? Does it represent crossover votes from Republicans, whether disenchanted with their own party or interested in shaping the opposition for the fall?

Obviously we do not know the answers to these questions. It seems evident that the historic, perhaps transformative, nature of the Democratic race plays the biggest role in all of this, but my guess is that once the party's candidate is chosen a lot of these newly registered folks will be in play for the general election. McCain is a formidable opponent and will be a popular one as well. What he does not enjoy in support from parts of the base he may well make up for among the so-called Reagan or Swing Democrats, not to mention among those for whom an Obama or Clinton candidacy is problematic.

What is also likely is the the Democrats have an opportunity. By mobilizing so many voters the party has the chance to bring about a sea change along the lines of 1994's midterm elections which shaped the American political landscape for a decade and more. I do wonder if wholesale realignment along the lines of 1932 will ever again be possible in what seems to be such a closely divided electorate and instead if tectonic shifts in the future will be less of the earthquake variety and more akin to temblors.

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