Not Your Daddy’s United States

Posted on Nov 7, 2012 | 2 Comments

A simple piece of advice from Peter Drucker in his book Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices: “Because policy makers often neglect demographics, those who watch them and exploit them can reap great rewards.”

We’ve talked a lot about demographics here at the Dx, but after last night’s election, it’s hard not to return to the topic. As Mitt Romney supporters now realize, most of the election prognosticators who were telling them to be optimistic got their predictions wrong.

Writing about this today, pollster Dick Morris, who had promised a Romney “landslide,” asserted that he failed to realize “the shifting demographics of America,” which is “not your father’s United States.”  And pundit Michael Barone, who likewise predicted a big win for Romney, maintained that the “fundamentals were trumped” at least in part by demographics. Specifically: Latino voters and younger voters strongly favor Democrats.

The surprise, perhaps, is that this was a surprise. But it only underscores a point Drucker liked to stress: Most of us take a long time to notice what’s right in front of us.

Barack Obama’s team, meanwhile, seems to have done what Drucker, writing in Managing in a Time of Great Change, said successful innovators often do: “They exploit the time lag—in science, often 25 or 30 years—between the change itself and its perception and acceptance.”

Image source: Holly Exley

Republicans are probably correct that Romney would have won had the electorate looked as it did two or three decades ago, under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. But, as Drucker observed, campaigns that “fizzle” are ones that haven’t noticed that their model is outdated: “They haven’t tested it, and it turns out that ‘This was 20 years ago.’”

While Drucker considered rapid demographic change to be inevitable, however, he wasn’t entirely sanguine about it.  “For the next 20 or 30 years demographics will dominate the politics of all developed countries. And they will inevitably be politics of great turbulence,” Drucker warned in Management Challenges for the 21st Century. “Even in the United States the demographic changes are bound to create enormous political emotions and to bring about totally new—and unpredictable—political shifts.”

What political adjustments do you think Republicans and Democrats will have to make to appeal to America’s rapidly changing demographics?


  1. Maverick18
    November 10, 2012

    The biggest demographic change is the growing number of Hispanic votors. That will continue, and it didn’t even take 24 hours after the election for Hispanics to threaten the ouster of Congress in two years if they fail to pass comprehensive immigration reform. It is also apparent that Republicans failed to appeal to younger voters, and incorrectly predicted a low turnout of younger voters. That mistake is not new, it dates back to the Seventies. Republican’s would be well advised to assure that their 2016 Convention does not look like the 2012 Convention which appeared to be an old white folks club. Democrats will, of course, continue to promise change in favor of minorities, students entering the work force, etc. , whether or not they ever deliver on any promise.

  2. Greg Basham
    November 15, 2012

    The primary adjustments that politicians have to make is to first recognize the structural transformation of the economy that has taken place and recognize that good jobs that existed in manufacturing that got off shored aren’t coming back with better economic times. Getting to better times now is problematic. The second issue is the redistribution of the wealth. The fears expressed by the GOP and Gov. Romney if President Obama were re-elected would be just plain silly but for all those who voted GOP and believe this crap. This has been summed up by Warren Buffett when he said “There has been class warfare going on for the last 20 years and my class has won.”

    As Robert Reich notes consumer spending is 70% of all economic activity and the rich spend far less a proportion of their income than do middle income earners. So unless you have consumer spending you are like China where they struggle to develop internal consumption as too much is in too few hands and in savings and too little of it in the hands of the mass populace who will spend on goods and services that create good economies.

    Reich contends that President Obama’s plans aren’t bold enough despite the President articulating policy positions to educate people for jobs existing now where traditional skills aren’t good enough and hints at future policies to discourage off shoring of jobs and encouraging domestic production in areas where this makes sense.

    As long as the politicians espouse no compromise, no tax increases as adherents to Grover Norquist – an unelected lobbyist – and abetted by voters voting their biases it will be a challenge going forward.

    The US system of government can only work with politicians with some vision and courage to lead and deal with the real problems as an unhealthy US economy is threat to economies around the world.


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