Not Your Daddy’s United States

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 But, as Drucker observed, campaigns that “fizzle” are ones that haven’t noticed that their model is outdated: “They haven’t tested it, and it turns out that ‘This was 20 years ago.’”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?