For the first time since before the New Deal, Republicans are now the majority party from the top of the ballot to the bottom. That's reality -- and we delude ourselves if we take false comfort in the closeness of our loss.
This was the second national election in a row -- 2002 was the first -- in which Republicans won a majority of the votes cast. That broke a string of three presidential elections and three congressional elections in a row in which neither party won a majority. Moreover, this election was the latest chapter in a four-decade swing to the Republicans that began after Lyndon Johnson's 1964 landslide victory.
The dimensions of that swing -- and our decline -- are staggering. In1964, Johnson won 60.6 percent of the popular vote and 90 percent of the electoral votes, and Democrats held 2-to-1 advantages in both the House of Representatives and the Senate and among governors and state legislators. Today, the Republicans not only control the White House and both houses of Congress, but a majority of statehouses and state legislatures. In the 10 presidential elections since 1964, the Democratic candidate has won a majority of the popular vote only once -- Jimmy Carter won 50.1 percent in 1976. President Clinton slowed our slide in the 1990s, but even he never reached that magic 50 percent mark. The trend in the vote for Congress has been the same. After 40 straight years of domination, Democrats have not won a majority of the cumulative national vote for the House since 1992.
In 1964, according to the University of Michigan, more than one-half of all Americans -- 52 percent -- identified themselves as Democrats, compared with 25 percent who identified themselves as Republicans and 24 percent as independents. In the 2004 election, party identification was dead even: 37 percent Democrat, 37 percent Republican, and 26 percent independent.
We cannot assume this trend will end on its own. We know the Republicans will do everything they can to keep it going. It is up to Democrats to stop it.
Analysts who believe changing demographics will lead to a new Democratic majority should take a careful look at this election. According to that theory, women and the increasing number of minority voters will lead to an emerging Democratic majority. In this election, the percentages of women and minorities in the electorate indeed increased. But President Bush made significant gains among both groups. He won white women by 11 percentage points, 10 points more than his 2000 margin. Among Hispanics, Bush cut a 27-point deficit in 2000 to just 9 points this time. In the critical battleground state of Ohio, Bush secured his victory by winning 16 percent of the African-American vote, nearly double what he won in 2000.
We got out our base, but our base is not what it once was. The biggest blow in this election is how badly we lost the middle class.
It's no surprise for Democrats to lose white men and evangelicals. But in this election, we also lost white women, married people, couples with children, high school graduates, college graduates, people over 30, and, by our estimate, voters in every annual household income category above $40,000. Our coalition consisted of high school dropouts (though we won them by only 1 point) and those with postgraduate educations. That coalition is not the foundation for building a durable Democratic majority.