When Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president in 1932, the “New Deal coalition” he forged maintained a grip on American politics for almost forty years—from 1932 to 1968. The New Deal coalition was composed of unions, liberals, white ethnics, blacks, and Southern whites. That the goals of these groups were frequently at odds did not seem to be a barrier to maintaining the coalition because they all thought they had something to gain.
I think that the Obama coalition is not only composed of different groups than the New Deal coalition but is different in kind, will behave differently than that prior coalition. Here’s Josh Kraushaar’s characterization of the Obama coalition:
White blue-collar voters, once a staple of Democratic coalitions past, have become estranged from their old political home over cultural issues. In their place are what my colleague Ron Brownstein labels “the coalition of the ascendant”—single women, minorities, and millennial voters.
I don’t believe that coalition is nearly as durable as the New Deal coalition. One thing of which we can be sure is that young voters won’t be young forever and as they mature I think we should expect that their interests will change. Whether that means that they’ll vote for somebody else or the programs they’ll insist on will change I couldn’t tell you. If recent history is any gauge it suggest they won’t vote at all.
That’s another difference. The New Deal coalition were reliable voters who would turn out in numbers at every election. Whether the “coalition of the ascendant” will be equally reliable remains to be seen.