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Opinion

May 10, 2014

Shribman: Long term vs. short term

WASHINGTON — Ten days before he died, John F. Kennedy met in the White House for several hours with his political advisers. The 1964 campaign was taking shape — Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller were the leading Republican rivals — and the president was worrying about what his party had to offer to average voters.

“(W)hat is it that we can (do to) make them decide that they want to vote for us, Democrats and Kennedy?” the president asked. “We hope we have to sell them prosperity, but for the average guy the prosperity is nil. He’s not unprosperous, but he’s not very prosperous ... And the people who really are well-off hate our guts ...”

That very conversation could be held in Barack Obama’s White House. He’s not running for re-election, but his Democrats face the voters in November’s midterm congressional elections, and then his political heirs do so again in the presidential election two years hence. And now, as on Nov. 12, 1963, when Kennedy thought out loud in front of his advisers, the average guy is not very prosperous and the people who really are well-off hate the Democrats’ guts.

The Democrats do have some advantages. Three of the four biggest states have growing Hispanic populations and the fourth, New York, seems permanently out of reach for the GOP. Mitt Romney took only a quarter of the Hispanic vote in 2012 and John McCain won only a third four years earlier.

But that is not to say the Democrats have smooth sailing ahead. They face several substantial problems in 2016:

The solidification of the Solid South.

The Republicans can count on the support of white voters who are as loyal to the GOP as black voters are to the Democrats. Though Obama will not be on the ballot in 2016, the Democrats speak a language white Southerners do not embrace.

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