Friday, November 6, 2020

The Wages of Wokeness

The excellent site Persuasion interviewed me about the election results and why the Democrats fell short in important respects.
"Persuasion: Commentators have said the Democratic Party’s most progressive wing put off some voters, particularly Latinos in Florida who had known socialist dictatorships in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. But what effect did progressive activists actually have? After all, the Democrats did select a centrist candidate in Joe Biden.
Teixeira: I don’t think there’s any doubt that wokeness, and the issues around that, helped brand the Democratic Party. The Democrats spent three months with a discourse dominated by the protests around George Floyd, racial justice and so on, culminating in the defund-and-abolish-the-police movement, which was basically of very little interest to the median voter. To the extent that the Democrats are identified with that rhetoric—from language-policing to terming the U.S. a White-supremacist society—the less able the party is to appeal to working-class voters of all races and moderate voters in general. It’s great for the Democrats and, I think, for the country that Trump is probably going to be a one-term president. But I think it’s fair to say the Democrats fell short of their goals.
Persuasion: Is it possible that racist dog-whistles from the president might’ve appealed to some minority groups? And his anti-immigrant sentiments too?
Teixeira: In terms of what the data are telling us, it’s not really clear to me that the Black vote subsided. It’s much clearer when you look at the Latino vote that it fell off nationally, most catastrophically in Miami-Dade and Florida, but also in other places around the country. The more bankable empirical finding from this election is that—despite all the characterization of Trump as a racist (that, to some extent, he probably is)— this did not appear to be enough to move Latinos in any significant degree over to the Democrats. In fact, they lost ground. Why would that be? Most Latinos are working class, and their issues are primarily around material things about their community, about healthcare, about the economy, about their jobs, about the recession, about Covid and its effect on their lives. It’s less that the more flamboyant Trump rhetoric around immigrants and race is hugely appealing to these voters, but rather they can discount it if they feel that Trump is still a guy who can shake things up, make things work. And they don’t really get what the Democrats are going to do for them. That was the money left on the table for the Democrats. Looking at the median Latino working-class voter, they didn’t hit the sweet spot, and they paid the price.
Persuasion: What did we learn about White voters from the results we have so far?
Teixeira: The data aren’t the greatest at this point for making judgments about any of these things. Exit polls are a highly vexed instrument in general, and they’ll get re-weighted eventually. So making inferences is difficult. But, if you look across these data sources, what they’re telling us is that the big shift for the Democrats in this election was certainly among White voters. The bigger movement was a reduction of the deficit among White non-college voters, both overall and in some of these key Rust Belt states that look like they are going to put Biden over the top. The assumption was that there would be this huge outpouring of White college-educated for the Democrats because they just detested Trump so much and his rhetoric and so on. For many voters, that was true. But it’s not clear to me that it produced the huge margins among these voters that people thought they would. One could argue that Biden’s strategy of concentrating on the Rust Belt, and trying to get back White non-college voters, worked to some extent.....
Persuasion: So what must the Democrats do?
Teixeira: They need to put a lid on the culture-war stuff, and emphasize issues that are of broad concern to working- and middle-class people of all races. That’s the Democrats’ brand historically: that they’re for the common good and therefore the use of government to enhance that common good. They believe government has a huge role to play in making people’s lives better on issues like healthcare, education, building the country back up, jobs, incomes and so on. And, yes, we are a party that’s opposed to racism. We are a party that’s opposed to discrimination. We are a party that’s relatively friendly to immigrants. But that’s all in the context of bringing us all together to make the country a better place. To some extent, that was Biden’s message. But I just think it got muddled by things that didn’t allow it to come through as loud and clear as it should to some voters. The idea isn’t complicated. The execution is tricky."

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