My political science colleague Phil Klinkner, of Hamilton College, and I recently co-wrote one of nine articles published by The Forum as part of a post-2008 election analysis colloquium. In our piece, entitled "LBJ's Revenge: The 2008 Election and the Rise of the Great Society Coalition," we argue that the policies LBJ supported in the mid-60s led, not initially but eventually, to Barack Obama's winning general election coalition in 2008.

I have to give Phil credit for making the link between the Civil Rights Act (blacks, mostly), Immigration and Nationality Act (Latinos/as), and the Higher Education Act (upscale, educated whites), and the coalition Obama assembled last year. What LBJ could not have anticipated then -- or, more to the point, Hillary Clinton failed to prevent in 2008 -- was Obama's ability to also build a new coalition in the primary as well, specifically by taking the African-American vote away from its usual alliance with working-class whites and other non-whites and shifting it into coalition with young voters, college educated whites, and the liberal wing of the party. Absent the extra ballast from the black vote, that latter coalition has historically fallen short of the nomination, as candidates ranging from Eugene McCarthy to Bill Bradley to Howard Dean well know.

So, Obama built two new coalitions -- the first which no white Democrat probably could have, and for which the credit belongs almost exclusively to him and his unique appeal, and a second which he had to mobilize but would never have been available to him without a little help from his Democratic presidential predecessor.

Anyway, I would encourage people to check out the entire current issue of The Forum. There are some great analyses of the 2008 results from some fantastic scholars in there.

--Tom Schaller

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