The population of the United States just recently hit 300 million. For political candidates, their pollsters and the media, this huge collection of citizens must be categorically jammed into demographic cages for careful observation.
The demographics used to be easy to follow, because most elections saw only two distinct groups separated by the biggest issue of the day. In the mid 1800s, you were either “for” or “against” slavery. In the 1920s, when prohibition was the issue du jour, you were either a “dry” or a “wet.” Progressively throughout the mid-20th century, voting blocs were increasingly fragmented and dissected — most likely because it became possible to make a lot of money fragmenting and dissecting voting blocs.
More recent history saw the birth of the “Reagan Democrat” in 1980. This group can best be described as blue-collar folks who traditionally voted for Democrats, but who had their wallets emptied and their eyes opened during the Carter administration. Reagan Democrats saw a gas shortage and inflation rates so high that, from the time they picked something off the shelf at the store to the time they got it to the cashier, the price had gone up four bucks.
Reagan Democrats were bone weary from emotionally lugging around confusing and unfamiliar terms, such as “stagflation.” They lost their jobs in droves, had to spend their free time enduring disco, “general malaise,” and wives who spent a good deal of the unemployment check to make their hair look like Dorothy Hamill’s. They, understandably, lost their will to support Carter any further and voted for Ronald Reagan — twice.
Some Reagan Democrats may have even turned into “Yuppies” in the mid-’80s, but that voting demographic was short-lived. Junk bonds, “black Monday” and the cancellation of Miami Vice would soon turn many Yuppies into “angry white males.”
In 1994, “angry white male” was an accusatory finger that was wagged at nearly every suburban white man in America except the suburban white men who coined the phrase.
Then we moved into 1996, when it was decided that the angry white men were too dangerous to be courted anymore, so the politicians moved on to their wives — the “soccer moms.” Bill Clinton winked, nodded, blew in a few ears and won this group of female, suburban minivan drivers, with 2.7 kids and 1.4 dogs, hands down — not to mention on.
Clinton was aided in his victory over Bob Dole by Bob Dole, who tried to woo these “soccer moms” with riveting creative campaign slogans, the most dynamic of which was, “A vote for Bob Dole is a vote for Bob Dole.”
In the succeeding four years, “waitress moms,” “technician dads” and “minivan moms” filled the gap. During this period, pollsters discouraged waitresses from driving minivans, especially if it carried a technician dad, since it threw the data all off.
When we reached 2000, the “soccer moms” were still there, but thanks to some Florida voters, were being overshadowed by a group that will continue to be a problem — the “stylus challenged.” These were people who were drafted — against their will and yet with the unwitting permission of their subterranean I.Q.’s — into the Buchanan Brigades.
Then we got into “NASCAR dads.” Many in this group once fell into the “angry white male” category, but then something strange must have happened to cause them to refocus their rage toward auto racing. This anger, of course, led to safety concerns and created the “security moms.”
The supposed opposite of the blue-collar “NASCAR dads” demanded a category, so we started calling them “office park dads.” Forget the fact that many of us know office workers who are rabid NASCAR fans. You don’t get to be the most attended sport in the United States on just welders, truck drivers and line workers alone.
Now these voting blocs are becoming further fragmented to the point of absurdity. Every whim, hobby, career choice and religious belief is being targeted as a demographic group.
Someday, groups of people like “uncircumcised uncles,” “equestrian dads” and “African kids adopted by Madonna and Angelina Jolie,” “Foley IMers” and of course the “desperate housewives” will be courted by candidates, along with the “Zagnut lovers,” “Yahtzee moms,” “irritable bowel dads,” “bowling aunts,” “Enzyte Bobs” and the “Little purple pill poppers.”
The only Americans, it seems, who are not stereotyped into some superficial “group” by pollsters, politicians and the media, are pollsters, politicians and the media — which is amazing, since they now outnumber the rest of us.