Sunday, June 10, 2018

Democrats Should Be Able to Walk Down the Street and Chew Gum at the Same Time

The New York Times Sunday Review treated us to an article by two history professors averring that, for Democrats, "Turning Affluent Suburbs Blue Isn't Worth the Cost". They posit a sort of zero-sum game between reaching these voters and reaching poorer and nonwhite voters. Sigh.
Fortunately, David Atkins at the Washington Monthly has an excellent takedown of this ridiculous--and politically harmful--contention:
"In order to clamber out of the political wilderness, Democrats over some Trump voters using economic arguments that many would like to dismiss as impossible, as well as continue to gain ground in many increasingly blue, well-educated suburbs that cause queasiness to many economic progressives. And they must do so simultaneously, while maintaining and increasing commitments to both social and economic justice through sentencing reform, jobs guarantees and much else.
How is this possible? It’s fairly simple, actually. The answer lies in the fact that most voters–and particularly most persuadable voters—are not pure partisans. They are often what political scientists call “cross-pressured,” which means they hold multiple strong views that don’t fit neatly within one political party or another and force them to choose what they might consider the lesser of two evils in a two-party system.
It is self-evident that Trump voters by definition didn’t see a problem with voting for a racist, sexist buffoon. But many Trump voters also proved remarkably indifferent to Republican economic orthodoxy, and many want high taxes on Wall Street, robust jobs programs and investment in domestic industry, and libertarian social policy on many issues like drugs. Neither party will give them everything they want, but a committed progressive economic agenda that rejects the muddled market-directed pabulum of education and retraining as a solution to all ills can be successful in winning many of them over, even though the progressive commitment to racial and gender equality might rankle them as just so much social-justice-warrior political correctness. This isn’t idle speculation: a very large number of registered Democrats are already just so cross-pressured. Appallingly, a full third of Democrats have a negative opinion of the Black Lives Matter movement, and a quarter of Democrats think millions voted illegally in the 2016 election. If they register as Democrats anyway, it’s a fair bet that economics are their top priority. It stands to reason their number could be increased to regain some of the voters who chose Barack Obama twice, and then flipped over to Trump.
So, too, can cross-pressured affluent suburban Democrats be won over by a stridently economically progressive Democratic Party in spite of their potential reservations about their tax bracket, mutual fund returns, McMansion values and budget deficits. Sure, these voters might not like the idea of transaction taxes on Wall Street impacting their dividends or affordable housing being built near their bungalows, but their commitments to social equality and their desire not to have jingoists running the country’s trade and foreign policy mean that they will generally choose the party of both Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders over that of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
Republicans have understood this for decades. The three legs of their electoral stool (social, economic and foreign policy) don’t particularly like one another or mesh well together, but they have largely held together due to combined mutual interest.
A Democratic Party that takes seriously commitments to both social and economic justice can do likewise, even though some of the former may not be palatable to part of the white working class, and some of the latter may not be desirable among the well-heeled. It must do so if it wants to regain power."
Yup, that's why they call 'em coalitions! Time to move forward past pointless either-or debates.
Cross-pressured voters give Democrats flexibility to be good on both economic and social justice.

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