Hope did not win this election for Barack Obama. Demographics did. Compared to 2008, the president lost ground with the female vote, the youth vote, and the overall electorate; the Hispanic vote was the only group that actually moved more in favor of Obama in 2012. While many people rightly wonder how sweeping a mandate Obama has won, a more basic question is what he actually has a mandate to do. And demographics, not hope, provides an answer.
There were strong hints in Obama’s victory speech that comprehensive immigration reform will be the next big domestic item on the president’s legislative agenda. The issue — unlike health care — is one where, succeed or fail, it’s still a win-win for the Democrats, substantively and politically. The party has no interest in helping Republicans figure out the way to square their fierce no-amnesty instinct with the public’s overwhelming willingness to give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. Immigration reform is more than the right policy for domestic and international purposes; it is also salt on the wound of a party that bet way too heavily on angry white guys.