Looking through the exit polls, several lessons come through pretty clearly. One is how clearly politics in America divides down racial lines. That has long been true for white and African-American voters. But with the Latino vote, once considered in play for both parties, breaking two-to-one for the Democrats even in a Republican wave year, that demographic also seems to be settling into a consistent voting pattern.
The second big lesson is that if you want to win, you have to participate.
In 2008, voters aged 44 and younger accounted for 47 percent of the electorate, and were strongly supportive of Democrats. In 2010, they accounted for just 33 percent of those who bothered to vote. This year, voters 45 and older dominated the mid-terms, casting 67 percent of the vote compared to 53 percent just two years ago.
Black participation fell as well, from 13 percent of the electorate in 2008 to 10 percent in 2010. Latino participation stayed roughly the same.
And as Bill Schneider would say on CNN, the seniors who flooded the voting booths this year really didn’t like the Democrats, voting 58-40 in favor of Republicans. (In 2008, that same demographic went 53-45 for McCain). It’s going to be interesting to see whether the Republicans will now dare to start meddling with the big entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, and how the seniors will respond if they do.