David Jarman at Daily Kos Elections (don't read the site?; you should!) provides a comprehensive rebuttal to the loony argument that Democrats trying to turn affluent suburbs blue are biting into the poison apple.
Jarman's piece begins:
"Over the weekend, the New York Times ran a baffling and potentially harmful opinion piece by two history professors, Lily Geismer and Michael Lessner, titled “Turning Affluent Suburbs Blue Isn't Worth the Cost.” In short, they argue that affluent suburban districts, if they elect Democrats, are likely to elect centrists who won’t pass the kind of progressive legislation that will adequately address economic and racial inequality. The short-term benefits of winning races in those districts, they say, will eventually be outweighed by the long-term harm created from a Democratic congressional caucus that’s too heavy on economic elites and not enough “real Americans.”
I’m going to propose a counterargument that may blow some minds with how off-the-wall it is: Maybe Democrats should contest as many races as possible, and try to win elections in as many places as possible, regardless of income, education, or race. There are different aspects to the Democratic agenda that can appeal to different types of people, and historically, electoral success for one party or the other has generally relied on putting up a big tent that can house a broad coalition capable of earning and sustaining a majority.
Moreover, this isn’t the right time to be writing off any seats or any capable Democratic candidates because they’re too hot or too cold. Given the existential threats to American democracy currently posed by those in charge of Washington, DC, I can’t even imagine the level of detached privilege that would lead one to say that we shouldn’t try to target some of the seats that are likeliest right now to fall into our grasp, and instead focus on the groundwork for a purer and more perfect party at some point in the future."
He also notes:
[T]here’s been a lot of recent research showing that college-educated whites (presumably, the authors’ vision of who lives in these affluent suburbs) are now somewhat more liberal in their policy preferences than non-college-educated whites. This is a reversal from, say, the mid-to-late 20th century. You can see this if you look at the changes in county-level election results over the decades, broken out by education level. You can also see it if you look at long-term studies that track the electorate’s views over time.
Researcher Sean McElwee has been one of the main proponents of this line of thought; he’s used data from the American National Election Studies (a long-term polling project conducted by political scientists that asks a battery of demographic and policy questions) to show that college-educated whites are now more liberal on questions about progressive economic policies than non-college whites are.
For instance, college-educated whites answer “yes” at a higher rate to questions like “Favor millionaires’ tax,” “Government should reduce inequality,” and “More regulation of banks.” Similarly, Democratic primary voters have become significantly less racist in the last decade: The number of Democrats who “strongly disagree” with the proposition that “If black people would try harder, they could be just as well off as whites” shot up between 2008 and 2016."
After a very informative analysis of who currently represents these affluent suburban districts and who is now running in these districts, he concludes:
"[A]re people who’ve won the housing lottery via either privilege or simply by virtue of having gotten there first, but who are generally progressive in their values and policy preferences—who, at the national level, want a more equitable tax system, who want a higher minimum wage, who want more government involvement in providing health care to everyone, and above all, who want a non-embarrassing, non-threatening president, but who are NIMBYish in their beliefs about their own neighborhood—to be welcomed into the big tent, even though they’re imperfect? Or are they to be cast aside in pursuit of a Democratic Party unicorn that looks more like the one of old—when, it should be pointed out, they repeatedly lost presidential elections, under the banner of fellows like Adlai Stevenson, Walter Mondale, and George McGovern? I know which one I’d prefer."
Me too. And so should you.