Democrats are kidding themselves about Obama's demographic problems

(3) Winning minority voters and white voters is something of a zero-sum game.

In a little more than a month, my book, “The Lost Majority,” hits the stands. The central argument of the book is that the famous permanent Republican and Democratic majorities that many commentators foresaw emerging in the 2000s were mirages, precisely because long-term, permanent majorities are almost always impossible in this country.

There are myriad reasons for this, but two are of particular importance here. First, as new issues emerge, the party that is in power will inevitably have to choose winners and losers on these issues from among its coalition. This is even more pronounced in a time of economic stagnation, when the question isn’t “who gets the new slices of pie?” but rather “who is going to have to give up their share of the pie?” Second, the party that is out of power will adapt, and will chase after groups that the other party either takes for granted or ignores.

So, for instance, Obama can try to shore up his support among Latino voters by embracing immigration reform and combating Arizona’s profiling law. But in doing so, he risks alienating white working-class voters and, to a lesser extent, upscale white voters. In fact, this is precisely what happened in Arizona in 2010. Jan Brewer won the state by three points more than John McCain, despite running about 13 points behind McCain among Latino voters. She more than made up for this decline among Latinos by increasing her share among whites (who are still three-quarters of the Arizona electorate) by three points. The idea that there is a zero-sum game at work here is an inherent assumption underlying the argument that Obama has to choose between a “Colorado strategy” focusing on upscale whites, or an “Ohio strategy” focusing on downscale whites.