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Demography as destiny

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Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, 8:53 p.m.

Come senators, congressmen.

Please heed the call.

Don't stand in the doorway.

Don't block up the hall.

For he that gets hurt

Will be he who has stalled.

There's a battle outside and it is ragin.'

It'll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls.

For the times they are a-changin.'

— Bob Dylan, 1963

Tammy Baldwin made history in two ways last Tuesday night. She became the first Wisconsin woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate. She also became the first openly gay politician, from any state, to be elected senator.

She won against a formidable opponent, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, a four-time governor and secretary of Health and Human Services in the George W. Bush administration.

Baldwin's successor in her legislative district is also openly gay, state Rep. Mark Pocan.

“At least 118 gay and lesbian candidates won their races,” reported the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.

Also, by voters in Maine and Maryland, gay marriage has been legalized for the first time via the ballot. Voters had previously rejected same-sex marriage in 32 out of 32 initiatives. President Obama had urged voters to approve the initiatives.

“This is a big day for gay women in America and, really, for all communities who aren't the typical straight, white, wealthy men elected to Congress,” said writer, activist and political commentator Sally Kohn.

Kohn, a former community organizer, worked at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and lives with her partner Sarah Hansen and their 4-year-old daughter Willa. Last December, with the times a-changin', Kohn was hired as a contributor at Fox News.

In August, the Democratic National Convention approved unprecedented language supporting gay marriage, following Obama's endorsement. The party platform at the Republican National Convention called for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

A Harris Interactive poll in August showed gays favoring Obama over Romney by 67 percent to 23 percent. In response to the question, “If the Republican Party and the Democratic Party held the same position on gay rights, how would that impact your attitude toward voting for Republican candidates,” 26 percent said they would be “more likely to vote Republican.”

Related to what's now being called “demography as political destiny,” Romney won the white vote 59 percent to 39 percent, the largest share of the white vote won by a Republican presidential candidate since 1988.

But that wasn't enough to win, with white voters making up 72 percent of the electorate, down from 74 percent in 2008 and 87 percent in 1992.

White men, now a third of all voters, went for Romney by a 28-point margin, 64 percent to 36 percent. By a smaller but still substantial margin, white women voted for Romney over Obama by 57 percent to 43 percent.

In contrast, exit polls showed Obama winning 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, 93 percent of the black vote and 73 percent of the Asian vote — three groups that make up 26 percent of the electorate.

Or as Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., described it in August, “We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”

Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur. His email:

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