Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are bringing to the fore the most neglected demographic in more than half a century of empowerment of minorities.
In trying to explain why the surge for Obama failed to become a tidal wave on Super Tuesday, the pundits are honing in on the behavior of the largest silent segment of society--white men.
In parsing the results, Adam Nagourney of the New York Times concludes that 2008 has "cleaved the party neatly in two: the Clinton Democrats and the Obama Democrats. Age, race and gender have become the dividing lines; nothing comes close to mattering as much.
"The Obama Democratic Party is made up of younger voters (under 44), blacks, white men (to a more limited extent) and independents...The Clinton Democratic Party is the party of women, older voters, Hispanics and also some white men."
From this point of view, of all the demographic armies marching in lockstep, only white men have failed to jump into the ranks on one side or another and stay there.
According to the Times, "Mr. Obama split the white male vote nationally with Mrs. Clinton, but there was an important geographical disparity there: White men in California voted for Mr. Obama but white men in Southern states like Alabama did not. The question is what white men in Ohio will do next month, during what is shaping up as a critical showdown for Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton."
May an aging member of this indecisive species suggest the trendiness of identity politics is going too far? If there is a split in the Democratic Party, it is more attitudinal than demographic.
Those who see the world as a set of problems to be dissected, analyzed and solved are more likely to be drawn to Mrs. Clinton. Those who believe that hearts are as important as minds in shaping the future may rally around Obama.
There is much to be said for both points of view and, if voters don't let themselves get stampeded into categories, they can make their individual decisions about what matters most to them.
After all these years of Bush mindlessness and heartlessness, they can't go too far wrong.