There is a sea change coming in the United States. It will swamp some boats and lift others.
In the Republican Party, the hegemony of the social conservatives is coming to an end. To no one’s surprise, Governor Huckabee carried the Republican caucuses in Kansas, where school boards want to teach creationism as science and prosecutors want to jail physicians who offer abortions. But Senator McCain carried Virginia, making substantial inroads among conservatives there.
Social conservatives will remain powerful in some regions of the country, but as a national force they are divided and spent.
Whether McCain, Obama or Clinton next resides there, social conservative leaders wedded to the old litany of so called moral issues can expect no invitations to the White House any time soon. There will be no amendments to the United States Constitution to ban abortion or gay marriage.
But among an emerging generation of new evangelical leaders, those embracing concerns for the environment, the plight of the world’s poor and a more compassionate and less coercive approach to abortion, there are those to whom the doors at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue may be open.
This change is taking place simultaneously with an important change in the Democratic Party, and the two may combine to be of profound importance for the future of the United States.
Senator Obama is attracting a legion of new, younger voters of both gender’s and all races, while Senator Clinton’s appeal has been to white women, the lunch bucket (white) males who deserted the party for Reagan and Bush, and Hispanics to replace the wholesale desertion of black voters to Senator Obama.
But in Virginia and Maryland earlier this week, Obama attracted significant support in the former Clinton base among women and Hispanics, especially among younger voters.
The young voters whom Senator Obama is ushering into the political process could well combine with the moderate Republicans and independents gravitating to John McCain to create a new political center of gravity, one with the combination of enlightened self interest and foresight necessary to replace the old failed center of the Clinton and Bush years.
For example, exponentially expanding entitlement spending for older Americans is effectively mortgaging the future of the country and especially the young. All attempts at reform have so far failed, as legislators who know better have been cowed by the threat of reprisal at the ballot box by older Americans.
These young voters represent a potentially countervailing political will, principally within the Democratic Party, that could combine with fiscally responsible Republicans to challenge the appetite of older Americans for an ever larger share of the pie.
These younger voters may also see the debate over health care in a way that offers room for common cause with Republicans.
The largest group among the uninsured in the United States are the young. At the end of the day, they may see the Clinton proposal not so much as “universal,” but rather as “compulsory” as it affects them.
Most Americans do not like being told what to do, and certainly not by their government. But Clinton’s generation has got used to it. For all their complaining to pollsters, they have largely surrendered to the bureaucracies of Medicare, Medicade, Social Security, the IRS and others in that phalanx of federal agencies that regulate so much of their lives.
Not so these young voters. They may be prepared to push back with Republicans against regulation and for choice. They may insist on the same degree of choice in the selection of primary physicians, health care and retirement plans as they are accustomed to have in their selection of lap-tops, iPods, cell phones and automobiles.