Sunday, November 1, 2020

Joe Biden and The Emerging Democratic Majority

I recommend this very interesting article by David Byler on the Washington Post site. Byler considers Biden's likely successful candidacy in light of the analysis originally put forward in my 2002 book with John Judis, The Emerging Democratic Majority. Impressively, he appears to have actually read the book {!}, as opposed to absorbing the bowdlerized version of the thesis that entered the media ether.
"If — and it’s a huge if — the polls are right, Joe Biden is about to post the largest popular-vote victory in the six presidential elections held in the 21st century. There are plenty of obvious explanations for his lead, mostly having to do with his opponent’s disastrous presidency. But there’s a more revealing, if esoteric account: Biden is also the first candidate to follow the electoral formula laid out in “The Emerging Democratic Majority,” a 2002 book that promised Democrats a route to enduring dominance of American politics....
In the book, John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira argued that Democrats were poised to take advantage of America’s transition to a postindustrial society by, among other things, advocating for investment in education, taking on income inequality, championing LGBTQ rights and allowing instances of GOP racism to backfire in an approach they dubbed “progressive centrism.”
Those positions, they suggested, could create a party that would “consistently take professionals by about 10 percent, working women by about 20 percent, keep 75 percent of the minority vote, and get close to an even split of white working-class voters.” Given shifting demographics, the book said, those margins would make for a new, dominant electoral majority.
This theory captured the imagination of progressives who detested George W. Bush’s neoconservatism and longed for a durable, liberal approach to government. Some even argued that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were bringing about this new Democratic future — but neither nailed the formula.
In 2008 and 2012, Obama overperformed Judis and Teixeira’s benchmarks with the “emerging” pieces of the coalition while keeping enough blue-collar White voters onboard to win. But Democrats lost some of their underlying strength with White working-class voters, and Democrats suffered disastrous defeats in the 2010 and 2014 midterms. Clinton lost the 2016 election when she departed more decisively from the game plan and traded blue-collar Whites for suburbanites, rather than finding a way to keep both constituencies in the tent.
But Biden’s coalition, at least as captured in an October Pew Research Center survey, looks a lot like the one envisioned by “The Emerging Democratic Majority.”
Biden’s lead over Trump is bigger than Clinton’s ever was, and, according to Pew, Biden is accomplishing that by capitalizing on “emerging” groups. He’s ahead by 20 points among college graduates, 16 points with women and 34 points with Latinos. He isn’t close to “half” of the White working class, but multiple data sources show him improving on Clinton’s numbers by roughly 10 points. Biden is running slightly behind Clinton with Black and Hispanic voters — but that may just put him more in line with Judis and Teixeira’s benchmarks, which Obama exceeded.
And, among the candidates who sought the 2020 Democratic nomination, Biden is the best proponent of Teixeira and Judis’s package of ideas. They wrote that the movement would be “a corrective to this Republican counterrevolution — an attempt to come to terms with what was positive and enduring in the movements of the sixties and in the transition to postindustrial capitalism. It does not represent a radical or aggressively left-wing response to conservatism, but a moderate accommodation with what were once radical movements.” That certainly sounds more like Biden than it does Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren."
What can I say? He's not wrong! Byler goes on to discuss ways in which that majority is unlikely to become permanent. Fair enough. There are no permanent majorities. But I'm more optimistic than Byler that this new coalition--whose lineage Byler ably describes--can last more than one election.
Final note: Byler's article can be fruitfully read in conjunction with my recent on the Persuasion site looking back on The Emerging Democratic Majority argument. Link provided below.

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