With the Front Range as a backdrop for the Democratic National Convention, this is the second of a multi-part series on Colorado. It may help the questions Why Denver and Why now? One answer is demographics.
There is one clear reason the Democratic convention [is being] held in Denver: Colorado is ground zero in a crucial shift in the partisan balance of power that has the potential to restore Democratic dominance in presidential elections and bring an end to the conservative era of the past 40 years.
The demographic trends here and in New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona all tilt the playing field in favor of the Democrats and threaten traditional Republican strength in the mountain states of the west. There are similar, but not as strong, trends in such Northwest mountain states as Montana and North Dakota.
One reason these [Intermountain] states are increasingly “in play” is the rapid population growth among two key demographic segments—Hispanics and white college graduates—and the concomitant decline of the white working class.
In Colorado, these trends could have their strongest impact in the “battle of the suburbs” within the Denver metro (50 percent of state population), where Democrats need to expand their 2004 margin and the GOP needs to hold the line, and in the “battle of the metros” elsewhere, which pits the Democratic-trending Fort Collins metro, now the fourth largest in the state against the smaller GOP-trending metros of Grand Junction and fast-growing Greeley. Overall, the GOP will be looking to maintain their strong support among the declining white working class, the key to their electoral prospects. The Democrats will be relying on white college graduates, who are rapidly growing and have been moving toward the Democrats, especially since 2000 and Hispanics, who have been driving the growth of the minority vote and vote heavily Democratic.
More on the implications of this in a future post.
In a release, the DNC points out that turnout on Super Tuesday was stunningly high throughout the West -- which bodes well for the general election.
• In Colorado, Democrats saw twice the number of caucus-goers as Republicans—119,184 to 55,845. Yesterday’s turnout was eight times higher than that of turnout from 2004 when only 15,000 participated. [Denver Post, 2/6/08]
• In Idaho, 21,224 people caucused for Democrats, far exceeding anyone’s expectations, and forcing officials to print more ballots. [AP, 2/5/08; cnn.com, 2/6/08]
• In Arizona, 368,828 people turned out for Democrats, far exceeding the record of 239,000. [cnn.com, 2/6/08]
• In New Mexico, more than 152,000 ballots were cast, far surpassing the 2004 number of 104,000 in 2004.
• And in Utah, 122,617 people came out for Democrats, far exceeding the 33,839 who participated in the 2004 primary. [cnn.com]
It's going to be a good year.
America’s population is making a diagonal shift from the Northeast to the Southwest. Five of the nation’s largest cities are in the Southwest: Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, and San Jose. Phoenix is now that nation’s fifth largest city, displacing Philadelphia, now at number six. Mesa and Fresno are now bigger than Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Buffalo. Seven of the ten largest American cities lie within 500 miles of the Mexican border. In 1910, in contrast, the ten largest American cities were all within 500 miles of the Canadian border.
What this means to the Democratic Party is that the Northeast and Midwest aren’t a sufficient base by themselves for the future of the party. With the GOP dominating the once solidly Democratic South, Democrats must look Southwest for growth and electoral majorities. Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico have a combined 29 votes in the Electoral College and a corresponding number of seats in the Senate and House of Representatives. Moreover, the 2010 Census will undoubtedly raise that number beyond the current 29. Meanwhile, neighboring blue California’s population will continue to grow, reaching perhaps 60 million by 2050 with a Hispanic majority possible by 2042.
Newsweek is already predicting that the 2008 Presidential race will be decided in the Southwest. Their analysis:
The rise of the Swing-State Southwest (and the power of the Latino voters in it) is a function of timing, geography, demographics—and the Electoral College....The Southwest's ascendancy is linked to one key demographic: its vast, rapidly growing—but still politically unsettled—Hispanic vote….Generally speaking, [Hispanics are] culturally traditional, religiously devout and open to conservative appeals from the GOP. Economic populists, all too familiar with the trials of race-based discrimination, they feel an emotional bond with Democrats, too….In 2006 the Hispanic vote that went to the GOP dropped precipitously, to 30 percent. The war in Iraq was one reason, analysts say, but the main one was the war over immigration.
Given the mean-spiritedness of the recent immigration debate, the trend away from the GOP is likely to continue and even accelerate, strengthening the future Democratic base in the Southwest.
Leo Brown | July 11, 2007 | Comment on This Post (3 so far)
The Denver Post has a great editorial by our pals Matt Singer and Steve Fenberg. They take an interesting look at the changing demographics of the West:
The Millenial Generation, generally characterized as Americans born between 1978 and 2000, is the largest in American history. And as Millenials grow up and enter the voting booth, they are reworking the political landscape of the Mountain West.
In Montana, Millenials are credited with Sen. Jon Tester's margin of the victory. These voters made up 17 percent of the electorate and went for Tester over Republican incumbent Conrad Burns 56-44, according to exit polls.
In Arizona, Jim Pederson lost to Republican Jon Kyl, but young voters broke for Pederson by 15 percent.
In Wyoming, a state that hasn't sent a Democrat to Congress since 1978, Gary Trauner nearly upset Barbara Cubin. If young voters had their way, Trauner would be Wyoming's new congressman. They backed Trauner by 16 percent.
Here in Colorado, young voters went for John Kerry over George W. Bush, the only age bracket to do so.
Just seven years ago, Republicans had a near lock on the region, holding every governor's office in the region. One by one, they've fallen to Democrats so that Democrats now hold the governorships of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico - a solid trail of mountain states tracking from Canada to Mexico.
It should come as no shock that this Democratic ascendance would track closely with the coming-of-age of the region's Millenials. The instincts of the Millenial Generation are at direct odds with the Sagebrush Rebellion mentality that has governed the West for the past 30 years.
Arizona grew by 3.6 percent last year and Nevada grew by 3.5 percent. And the West outstripped every other region in growth, including the South which had half of the top ten largest gainers, but also the largest loser, Louisiana.
The Baltimore Sun also notes the topsy-turvy nature of Arizona politics that is beginning to favor Democrats:
Long a Republican stronghold, Arizona now has a moderate Democrat as its governor. Democrats picked up two congressional seats in last month's midterm election, and voters rejected a ballot initiative banning gay marriage.
Arizonans are used to a certain amount of political turmoil caused by the constant influx of new residents, said Marshall Vest, an economist at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
"Whenever you have a vote on any particular issue, you never know what it's going to be," because a large chunk of the electorate has just arrived, he said.
Emmett O'Connell | December 22, 2006 | Comment on This Post (1 so far)
With Ciro beating Bonilla in the TX 23 tonight, there is a big blue line from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico (except for one district in New Mexico) that has elected to send Democrats to Washington. Including two new ones this year.
A big part of the West, El Norte is Blue.
This is wonderful:
The New West Project, headquartered in Denver, will conduct research and develop strategies to secure and exploit recent Democratic gains in the Western states, party sources said.
At least four Western governors - Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Brian Schweitzer of Montana and Bill Ritter, Colorado's governor-elect - are expected to lead the group's advisory council, the sources said. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado and other members of Congress will provide "strategic guidance."
Reid confirmed the creation of the new organization, which he said would "build upon the leadership of people such as governors Napolitano, Richardson and Schweitzer" and "work to focus attention on the West."
This is a high level group. Consider the Western Strategy in play, my friends. It is wonderful to see this sort of institutional arrangement that will only benefit our local, state and national candidates long term. It looks like part think tank, part strategy firm, part communications development - all aspects that will be welcome by the plethora of candidates that will be running these next few cycles to take advantage of our our new promise out here in the west.
The best part of the article? The quote from an unnamed "Western Democrat":
As an example of what the new organization may do, the Western Democrat said that political professionals would analyze such questions as "the difference between first- and second-generation Hispanic voters, ... what motivates them and how we communicate with them," as well as "why a recent transplant from California, who has voted Republican all her life, is now voting for Democrats."
Good question, "Western Democrat" - it just leaves me amazed to see our namesake invoked so strikingly in an article. Methinks the author of the article, John Aloysius Farrell , might just be an reader of our humble site. If so, thanks for the article John - we'll be watching for you in the future.
It's great to have a new project designed for this express purpose and examining the multitude of new questions that are arising from the new political climate in the West. Now, if any of those people involved in the project are paying attention it would behoove them greatly to include netroots and blog outreach as an element of the project. You see, since major political focus has been absent from the West for awhile the netroots and blogosphere have been proliferating and recruiting top candidates all over the place. It would be an essential element of any plan that you should put together.
Here's the The New West Project!
Landon Mascareñaz | December 6, 2006 | Comment on This Post (0 so far)
Can we have a serious debate about Health Care in our country? If you had followed the 2004 election - you'd probably think not. But things are changing...
As health care becomes a larger and larger issue for most Americans, we are likely to see the dimensions of the health care debate take on a greater electoral value. According to the Albuquerque Tribune:
The survey of 800 registered Latino voters in states, including California, with the highest density of Latinos showed a striking level of concern over access to quality, affordable health care...
Access to health services is seen by 91 percent of Latino voters as a basic human right; 87 percent believe that the government should guarantee that right...
Significantly, with control of Congress at stake this fall, a substantial majority of Latino voters - 62 percent - say they would be more likely to support a candidate for Congress who supported universal health care coverage even if it meant having to raise taxes to pay for it.
This has major implications for the Western United States. Arizona, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada all have large hispanic populations and are some of the fastest growing states in the country.
Western Democrats should champion health care and win, win, win.
There is some sort of bizarre notion universal health care is some rich, white liberal obsession that comes out only in the Democratic presidential primaries and then should vanish as a true issue around when the general election comes around. Consultants be damned - Democrats, especially Western Democrats need to lead on this issue. What a study like this shows is that this issue has an ability to unite various groups into the Democratic column during election season and beyond.
Mitt Romney has won praises from the pundit class from his health care victory-of-sorts in Massachussetts. There are various aspects to be critical of his plan, but he did it, plain and simple. The last thing we would want in the entire world would be to get pre-empted in the health care debate instead of walking into the next election with a full-throated support for universal health care (maybe state based?) and supporting it a basic right.
George Lakoff argues in Moral Politics that some issues are cascade issues because they accomplish a policy task with a simple aim and then proceed to affect other outcomes (hence the cascade). Health care is a simple cascade issue. With an American universal health care system, we can cover everyone and create a society of greater health. Furthermore, it has positive implications down the ballot line for other candidates that offer full support toward coverage among a fast growing democraphic group. Also, it increases the electoral possibilities for victories in crucial swing states based on that fast growing demographic. It also could possibly thwart the efforts of conservatives to successfully woo Hispanics into their fold.
I'll be watching and waiting for a Western governor to take on the health care issue full-on and play the presidential foil to Romney's own ambition. C'mon Sweitzer, Richardson, Kitzhaber, Napolitano...the West, the Democratic Party and dare I say the Nation are waiting.
Landon Mascareñaz | July 14, 2006 | Comment on This Post (1 so far)
As we've been arguing here at WesternDemocrat, it's critical to change the political map. If we continue to rely on the solid Northeast, the solid West Coast, and the 18 or so swing states, Democrats will continue to lose at the national level.
The DLC has just released a new report that argues the same:
We believe it is important that Democrats look at the country as it is, and as it is likely to be, and dedicate themselves to an effort to expand their ranks into what has previously been considered "enemy territory."
From the report itself, the Ken Salazar win in Colorado is "success story #1":
Centrist Attorney General Ken Salazar of Colorado took away a Republican Senate seat in 2004, winning 52.4 percent of the vote against GOP nominee Pete Coors, even as John Kerry, in a performance that exceeded Al Gore’s, won just 47.6 percent of the vote.
Salazar’s win was clearly not attributable to better performance in Democratic base areas.
His total vote exceeded Kerry’s by 79,456; the two big Democratic base counties, Denver and Boulder, contributed only 4,362 votes to that margin. Heavily Republican and incredibly fast-growing Douglas County, with 39 percent VAP growth from 2000 to 2004, alone contributed 5,764 votes.
Appendix 2 divides Colorado’s counties into five groups based on VAP growth rates between 2000 and 2004. The first quintile (11 percent VAP growth) produced 46,832 more votes for Salazar than Kerry, well over one-half of his statewide margin. The second quintile produced another 17,371 votes. In percentage terms, the same picture is evident. In large Colorado counties, Salazar’s percentage of the vote exceeded Kerry’s by 2.7 percent in Democratic counties, by 5.3 percent in marginal counties, and by 4.2 percent in Republican counties. In smaller counties, he improved on Kerry’s vote by 3.6 percent in Democratic counties, by 5.8 percent in marginal counties, and by 8.3 percent in Republican counties.
Ken Salazar’s advantage over Kerry in large Republican and marginal counties was really the difference, since together they gained 169,000 in VAP, even as large Democratic counties lost 20,000 in VAP.
Salazar’s campaign placed special emphasis on his law enforcement experience, his national security views, and his mainstream cultural values, helping him address several persistent voter concerns about the Democratic Party. This strategy paid off in significantly lower Republican margins in fast-growing counties.
Latinos like Democrats three times more than Republicans, and it has to do with Tom Tancredo and his Southern, immigrant not liking friends (Houston Chronicle):
Because Hispanic voters are turned off by the conservative-led push for tougher penalties on illegal immigration, they are more likely to support Democrats than Republicans in November, according to the 2005 National Latino Survey released Thursday.
Regardless of a political candidate's views on issues such as gay rights, the economy, taxes or health care, a candidate's views on immigration will rank as the most important among Hispanic voters, said Robert Deposada, president of The Latino Coalition, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that commissioned the survey.
The press release:
"Being in touch with the Hispanic community"
Republicans in Congress (2005): 16 percent
Democrats in Congress (2005): 57 percent
President Bush (2004): 37 percent
John Kerry (2004): 37 percent
This is important in the West because, well, Arizona, California, New Mexico, etc, etc, are a huge part of the El Norte region.
I'm not sure what a great score would be on the "represents my interests" question (maybe around 80 percent), but its easy to see that just about half of Hispanics don't think either party in Congress represents them. Great for us if we think Hispanics will hold their nose and vote for a Dem over a GOPer, but it looks like we can try a bit harder though.
Emmett O'Connell | January 8, 2006 | Comment on This Post (0 so far)