The 2016 Pack
We don’t know yet what issue will end up driving the autumn phase of the 2016 election. In 2008 a hectoring Obama thought it would always be Iraq -- an issue that he had scrubbed from his website by mid-2008 when the surge had rendered his anti-war traction irrelevant.
Instead, the key moment was not the war, but the sudden Lehman Brothers meltdown -- and the herky-jerky McCain reaction to it, coupled with Obama’s monotonous “Bush did it” blame-gaming of the crashing stock market. Before September 14, 2008, John McCain and Sarah Palin were consistently up over the supposedly transformational first African-American president by anywhere from 2 to 4 points; afterwards it was steadily downhill.
No one knows what will happen to the economy in the fall of 2016, much less what North Korea, Iran, Putin or ISIS will be doing. If nothing, Democrats benefit; if something, not so much. Obama last week reminded us of the rules of media and progressive politics for 2016: he announced that critics of his presidency were de facto unpatriotic -- apparently in the same manner that as a presidential candidate in 2008 he slurred a sitting president as unpatriotic. No one even noticed.
2008 was the first orphaned election since 1952. When an incumbent president or vice president does not run, things are wide open, and often favor the out-party. Unless Joe Biden jumps in, 2016 could be another.
We have not elected a non-politician since 1952; sixty-four years is a long time and suggests why it is a wise tradition. So far even on their best days, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Donald Trump are no Gen. Eisenhowers. Maybe we aren't overdue for someone new.
Unspoken are the majority/minority dynamics. Barack Obama’s community organizing has bequeathed a new election calculus. It goes like this: how much Democratic racial mongering and divisive identity politics is necessary to persuade minorities to (1) continue to turn out in record numbers, (2) vote in bloc fashion (e.g., 70% for Latinos and Asians, 95% for blacks), and (3) keep voting for a liberal old white guy or woman without Obama on the ticket, (4) without turning off the so-called Democratic share of the white vote down to levels around 35%.
Whites only make up about 72% of the voting electorate; it is also equally valid that, thanks to Obama, the shrinking Democratic share of that vote is reaching 1980s Reagan-era levels. So there are two Obama legacies, not one, in the 2016 race. Democrats must pick up a few percentage points of white voters lost to their pandering in order to make up for a few minority percentage points lost without Obama on ticket. Second, Obama’s legions of loyal minority voters must register, turn out, and vote in mass for Hillary or Joe Biden in the fashion that they did for Obama.