If the same electorate that turned out to vote in 2010 had turned out to vote in 2012, then President Romney would be planning his inauguration as you read this column. But the electorate that showed up in 2012 was very different. It was much younger, much more diverse and significantly less educated.
Only 12 percent of the electorate were 18-29 in 2010, but they made up 19 percent of the electorate in 2012. And while whites made up 77 percent of the electorate in 2010, they made up just 72 percent of the electorate in 2012. The percentage of college-educated voters also fell, from 52 percent in 2010 to 47 percent in 2012.
If African-Americans and voters ages 18-29, groups that admittedly overlap somewhat, had stayed home in 2012 the way they did in 2010, then Obama would have narrowly lost re-election. Our nation's young and black populations gave Obama his margin of victory. If Obama has any mandate at all, it must come from these voters.
But what do these voters want?
The exit polls tell us they support Obama's calls for higher taxes on the rich and a government that "should do more to solve problems." But what else do they want? As the New York Times' Thomas Edsall noted recently, both of these populations -- the young and African-Americans -- are far more supportive of socialism than the general population.
According to a December 2011 Pew Foundation study, while 60 percent of Americans view socialism negatively, a plurality of Americans ages 18 to 29 (49 percent to 43 percent) and a majority of African-Americans (55 percent to 36 percent) view socialism positively. Conversely, while a majority of Americans view capitalism positively (50 percent), again a plurality of Americans ages 18-29 (47 percent) and a majority of African-Americans (51 percent) view it negatively.
Only one other demographic in America views socialism as positively as the young and African-Americans: liberal Democrats. While 90 percent of liberal Republicans and even 51 percent of moderate Democrats oppose socialism, 59 percent of liberal Democrats view socialism positively.
This is Obama's base: liberal Democrats, the young and African-Americans. They are the voters that turned out in record numbers to save Obama's second term. They are the source of his mandate. And they want socialism!
Obama is listening. When Occupy Wall Street protesters commandeered one of his campaign events in New Hampshire, Obama told them, "You are the reason I ran for office."
Indeed, if anything, young Americans have gotten more socialist since Obama became president. When Pew conducted a similar survey in 2010, it found that Americans ages 18-29 had a net negative view of socialism, with 43 percent favorable and 49 percent unfavorable. That's a big change in just one year.
Can conservatives undo the damage Obama has done to capitalism's reputation? After all, if the only version of "capitalism" you are familiar with includes bailouts for bankers, government cash for favored energy companies and price-controlled health care markets, even the most ardent libertarian might begin to have doubts.
Which is why it is even more important that Republicans abandon the many crony capitalist policies they have embraced in the past. Subsidies for ethanol, loan guarantees for exporters and tax breaks for favored corporations all have to go.
The electorate that showed up in 2012 will not show up again in 2014. Republicans should add to their majority in the House and possibly take control of the Senate. In the meantime, the Republicans now in Washington must do all that they can to minimize what Obama's coalition wants to accomplish.
Conn Carroll (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior editorial writer for The Washington Examiner. Follow him on Twitter at @conncarroll.