Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The Importance of Diversity Among Democrats (And I Don't Mean by Race)

David Leonhardt's column today dwelt on the under-appreciated diversity (by ideology and policy preference) among Democrats, a fact underscored by the NYC Mayoral results. This, in turn, shines a light on the current situation where a relatively small, relatively white, highly educated sector of the party--the "solid liberals", in Pew's terminology--contributes disproportionately to the Democrats' brand and approach. That has political implications, as Leonhardt outlines. Note particularly his point about the large numbers of nonwhite *and* non-liberal Democrats.
The Pew Research Center, which does some of the country’s best polls, classifies all Americans as being in one of nine different political groups. The categories range from “core conservatives” on the right to “solid liberals” on the left, with a mix of more complicated groups in the middle.....
Among Pew’s nine groups, the group that’s furthest to the left — solid liberals — made up 19 percent of registered voters in 2017 (when Pew last did a full update of its categories). These voters have the views you would expect: strongly in favor of abortion access, affirmative action, immigration, business regulation, a generous social safety net and higher taxes on the rich.
Solid liberals are not as white as most Republican-leaning groups in Pew’s classification system, but they are less racially diverse than the more moderate Democratic-leaning groups. Solid liberals are also the most educated of the nine groups, and they are essentially tied with core conservatives as the highest-income group.
Much of the recent political energy in the Democratic Party has come from solid liberals. They are active on social media and in protest movements like the anti-Trump resistance. They played major roles in the presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as the rise of “The Squad,” the six proudly progressive House members who include Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
All six of those House members, notably, are people of color, as are many prominent progressive activists. That has fed a perception among some Democrats that the party’s left flank is disproportionately Black, Hispanic and Asian American.
But the opposite is true, as the Pew data makes clear.
Black, Hispanic and Asian American voters are to the right of white Democrats on many issues. Many voters of color are skeptical of immigration and free trade. They favor border security, as well as some abortion restrictions. They are worried about crime and oppose cuts to police funding. They are religious.
One way to make sense of these patterns is to focus on social class. Many professionals, with college degrees and above-average incomes, have political views that skew either strongly right or strongly left, largely lining up with one of the two parties’ agendas. Many working-class voters have mixed views.
In recent years, working-class voters — across races — have grown uncomfortable with some of the progressivism of the Democratic Party. The white working class’s move away from the party is a familiar story by now, and it’s one that certainly involves racism, as Donald Trump’s appeals to white identity made obvious. Yet the shift is not only about racism.
If there were any doubt about that, the 2020 election — when voters of color shifted right — should have cleared it up. And last week’s New York mayoral election has become the latest piece of evidence..."
Leonhardt's conclusion to his column is spot-on in my view. The Democrats will either move in the direction suggested by the diversity of their own party or they are likely to fall short of the consistent and strong electoral majorities they so desperately need.
"To win elections and hold national power, the Democratic Party does not merely need to win a majority of the vote. Because of gerrymandering, the Electoral College and the structure of the Senate, Democrats have to win a few points more than 50 percent. That’s not easy. And it requires appealing to working-class voters across racial groups.
The good news for the party is that public-opinion data shows a clear majority of Americans lean left on economic issues and are much more moderate on social issues than many Republicans.
The bad news for the Democratic Party is that this national majority is not as liberal as many high-profile Democratic activists and politicians. It isn’t clear whether those activists and politicians are willing to moderate their positions to win more elections."

New York's Working Class Message

Tom Edsall's latest column should be required reading for all Democrats. He has very interesting data from the initial New York mayoral returns courtesy John Mollenkopf.
"Adams’s biggest margins were in Black majority non-college tracts, where he won with 59.2 percent to Wiley’s 24.4 percent and Garcia’s 4.7 percent. In Black majority college-educated tracts, Adams won a plurality, 37.5 percent, to Wiley’s 32.5 percent and Garcia’s 13.0 percent.
Counting all the census tracts with a majority or plurality of adult voters who do not have college degrees, Adams won decisively with 42.1 percent — compared with Wiley’s 19.7 percent and Garcia’s 10.3 percent. Both Wiley and Garcia continue to pose a threat to Adams because they have more support among college educated voters, who make up roughly 40 percent of the Democratic primary electorate. According to Mollenkopf’s data, in census tracts with a majority of college-educated adults, Adams’s support fell to 14.7 percent, Wiley’s rose to 26.2 percent and Garcia won a plurality at 34.9 percent."
Edsall ferrets out a slew of interesting comments on the implications of these results. My favorites are from Nolan McCarty and Jonathan Rieder:
McCarty, author of Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches and many other seminal political science studies:
"The outcomes are more evidence of an innumerate punditry that conflates the share of educated, professional voters who support the Democratic Party with their electoral clout. It remains true that a majority of Democratic voters are working class without college degrees. So it is the same dynamic in New York that played out in the presidential race. While other candidates battled over of the support of the highly educated segments (of all races), Biden understood where the votes were."
A point I've been know to make!
Rieder, author of the classic Canarsie: The Jews and Italians of Brooklyn Against Liberalism:
"The local discussion of crime gets entangled in the national culture war within the Democratic Party and within “liberalism.” As with “limousine liberalism” before it, what some dub “woke” liberalism flourishes in the zones of the educated and often affluent whose lives, neighborhoods and moral understandings differ from those of working and middle class people."
[The party remains caught in what has become a 50-year] battle between what used to be called ‘lunch-pail’ Democrats and more righteous ones, between James Clyburn and AOC.
For all the gradual shrinkage of white non-college voters, the Democrats still require a multicultural middle to include non-affluent and lesser educated whites in their majority coalition. And that will be hard to secure if the party is identified with ceding the border, lawlessness, ignoring less privileged whites, exclusionary versions of anti-racist diversity that smack of thought reform, phrasing like Latinx that large numbers of Latinos find off-putting, esoteric or perplexing, and so much more."
What he said. Anyway, I recommend the entire Edsall column.

Monday, June 28, 2021

What to Run Toward, What to Run Away From

Future Majority is a Democratic PAC that generally concentrates on swing areas of the country, particularly the midwest. A recently released set of findings, based on poll data since the 2020 election by Change Research, includes an interesting chart on which issues elicit the most and least support from voters overall and from independents. Note the bottom five issues. The Green New Deal also does poorly.
These data are consistent with similar data I have seen from David Shor.
Future Majority's five general recommendations for Democratic messaging for the midterms also seem solid.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

The Nonwhite Working Class Isn't Buying What a Lot of Progressives Are Selling

The default approach of a lot of self-declared progressives includes not just a lot of reasonably popular left economic stances but also a wide range of views on cultural/social issues that are not popular with the broad working class. The general reaction by said progressives when you point this out is that, oh well, those are white working class voters and they're hopelessly reactionary.
After all, we still have the nonwhite working class. They are not put off by progressive cultural positions right? Right?
That might be due for a rethink. If nonwhite working class voters start bailing out on progressive cultural politics, the presumed coalition in favor of such politics completely falls apart.
Note well this article by Lisa Lerer in the Times, which appears to be noticing something is going on that previously had escaped their notice:
"Can progressives win broad numbers of the Black and brown voters they say their policies will benefit most?
That provocative question is one that a lot of Democrats find themselves asking after seeing the early results from New York City’s mayoral primary this past week.
In a contest that centered on crime and public safety, Eric Adams, who emerged as the leading Democrat, focused much of his message on denouncing progressive slogans and policies that he said threatened the lives of “Black and brown babies” and were being pushed by “a lot of young, white, affluent people.” A retired police captain and Brooklyn’s borough president, he rejected calls to defund the Police Department and pledged to expand its reach in the city.
Black and brown voters in Brooklyn and the Bronx flocked to his candidacy, awarding Mr. Adams with sizable leading margins in neighborhoods from Eastchester to East New York....
His appeal adds evidence to an emerging trend in Democratic politics: a disconnect between progressive activists and the rank-and-file Black and Latino voters who they say have the most to gain from their agenda. As liberal activists orient their policies to combat white supremacy and call for racial justice, progressives are finding that many voters of color seem to think about the issues quite a bit differently.
“Black people talk about politics in more practical and everyday terms,” said Hakeem Jefferson, an assistant professor of political science at Stanford University who studies the political views of Black people. “What makes more sense for people who are often distrustful of broad political claims is something that’s more in the middle.”
He added: “The median Black voter is not A.O.C. and is actually closer to Eric Adams.”
I believe this is a point I have made a number of times.
Also interesting is another article in the Times pondering the phenomenon of Adams appealing to working class nonwhites.
"As the national Democratic Party navigates debates over identity and ideology, the mayoral primary in the largest city in the United States is highlighting critical questions about which voters make up the party’s base in the Biden era, and who best speaks for them.
Barely a year has passed since President Biden clinched the Democratic nomination, defeating several more progressive rivals on the strength of support from Black voters and older moderate voters across the board, and running as a blue-collar candidate himself. But Democrats are now straining to hold together a coalition that includes college-educated liberals and centrists, young left-wing activists and working-class voters of color.
“America is saying, we want to have justice and safety and end inequalities,” Mr. Adams declared at a news conference on Thursday, offering his take on the party’s direction. “And we don’t want fancy candidates.”
Mr. Adams’s allies and advisers say that from the start, he based his campaign strategy on connecting with working- and middle-class voters of color.
“Over the last few cycles, the winners of the mayor’s race have started with a whiter, wealthier base generally, and then expanded out,” said Evan Thies, an Adams spokesman and adviser. Mr. Adams’s campaign, he said, started “with low-income, middle-income, Black, Latino, immigrant communities, and then reached into middle-income communities.”.....
Interviews on Thursday with voters on either side of Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway illustrated vividly Mr. Adams’s appeal and limitations. In parts of Crown Heights, the parkway was a physical dividing line, early results show, between voters who went for Ms. Wiley and those who preferred Mr. Adams.
Among older, working-class voters of color who live south of the parkway, Mr. Adams held a commanding lead.
“He’ll support the poor people and the Black and brown people,” said one, Janice Brathwaite, 66, who is disabled and said she had voted for Mr. Adams.
Ms. Brathwaite ruled out Ms. Wiley after hearing her plans for overhauling the Police Department, including a reallocation of $1 billion from the police budget to social service programs and anti-violence measures.
“She is someone who is against the policeman who is protecting me, making sure nobody is shooting me,” Ms. Brathwaite said.:
On the other side of the tracks, so to speak, this proletarian fighter and progressive has a different view:
"[Wiley's] approach appealed to Allison Behringer, 31, an audio journalist and podcast producer who lives north of the parkway, where Mr. Adams’s challenges were on display among some of the young professionals who live in the area.
“She was the best progressive candidate,” Ms. Behringer said of Ms. Wiley, whom she ranked as her first choice. “She talked about reimagining what public safety is, that really resonated with me.”
Audio engineers and podcast producers of the world unite! Meanwhile, perhaps Democrats need to to reimagine this reimagining public safety stuff.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Do the New York Mayoral Results Mean We're Past Peak Woke?

Well, Eric Adams, the moderate black candidate who emphasized public safety and most definitely was not the woke candidate, did rather well in initial results from the primary of a very large and very Democratic city. While we await the results of the ranked choice voting system, he seems quite likely to be the next mayor of New York City. From Andy Newman in the Times:
"Can Wiley or Garcia still win?
Mathematically, yes. Ms. Wiley could win if she makes it to the final round and is ranked ahead of Mr. Adams on around 60 percent of all ballots where neither is ranked first. Ms. Garcia’s threshold in the same situation is a few points higher.
What’s the likelihood of that?
Low. Mr. Adams would have to be enormously unpopular among voters who did not rank him first, and one of the few polls done late in the race showed broader support for him than for Ms. Wiley or Ms. Garcia."
Adams himself suggested that his (probable) election represents a new direction for the Democratic party:
“Look at me and you’re seeing the future of the Democratic Party. If the Democratic Party fails to recognize what we did here in New York, they’re going to have a problem in the midterm elections and they’re going to have a problem in the presidential election...America is saying, we want to have justice and safety and end inequalities and we don’t want fancy candidates...“We have allowed a group to hijack the term progressive....So what I’m saying to the Democratic Party — stop believing a numerical minority is what the numerical majority is.....New Yorkers and Americans want to be safe and they don’t want to exist on programs; they want to exist on possibilities and opportunities,” he added. “I believe my message is going to cascade across the entire country.”
Strong words! Anusar Farooqui on his excellent substack thinks Adams may be onto something.
"For a while it seemed that the woke shall rule the world. That hardline, theory-infused, color-conscious Boasian antiracism — the ideology of the cultural elites from the wrong side of the two cultures divide within the Ivory Tower — had emerged as the hegemonic ideology of the professional class. That turns out to have been too broad-brush. Turns out that there is resistance; not just from Tucker and the GOP, and the white working class behind nationalist populism — but from within the professional class and within the Democratic Party....
Early pushback began when Democratic politicians started facing severe penalties for espousing the hare-brained scheme of defunding the police. From the time the idea emerged from the bowels of prestige schools, Democratic strategists with a leash to reality, including yours truly, had warned that defunding the police was going to be a political and policy catastrophe. It was guaranteed to be a political catastrophe for Dems because poll after poll showed weak to non-existent support for the defund outside the narrow confines of the prestige-schooled professional class. And it was going to be a policy catastrophe because of its effect on police morale, resulting in underpolicing and greater violence in American cities — whose principal victims were going to be black. Both these predictions have obtained.
After yesterday’s mayoral election in New has become clear that defund is an unambiguous loser. If you can’t sell it in New York City, where exactly can you sell it? But before we turn to the election, I should also note another catastrophe that is brewing for Dems. The conflict over teaching theory to kids is coming to a boil. Resistance is growing not just among Republicans and working class, but also the middle class and Democrats.
In general, it is clear that the woke ideology will, in fact, not became hegemonic. Yes, it is not going to decline and vanish. But what I am saying is that we are past peak woke — the high tide of woke hegemony is behind us. Formidable forces, going all the way up to the White House, have now mobilized to contain the woke counterrevolution. In a sense, the message here is reassuring: the pushback from below has, through the electoral-strategic computations of Democrats, generated forces that will almost surely contain this corrosive elite ideology."
Farooqui backs up his case with some quantitative analysis of the election results:
"Rentiers, not renters, supported AOC-endorsed Wiley. Rentier support was even higher for NYTimes-endorsed Garcia.
Turning to economic class, whether we use median household income, median family income, or median gross rent, we find the same pattern: Garcia and Wiley found support in posh districts; Adams and Yang found support in poorer districts.
As we have seen many times before, and Piketty has shown more recently, education gives a stronger handle on political affinity than income in the United States. The share of the district’s populace with a high school diploma is an excellent proxy for the working class. We find that they threw their weight behind Eric Adams....Adams had unambiguous support from working-class New Yorkers; Garcia was the choice of the highly educated elites....
The story that emerges from this analysis is that Adams assembled a powerful coalition of working-class and middle-class New Yorkers to win the election. Meanwhile, Garcia and Wiley split the professional class between them."
Farooqui concludes, perhaps a bit too optimistically:
"The result of the New York mayoral Democratic primary is going to accelerate the process that has been underway since the presidential election. It will provide ammunition to the forces now committed to containing the woke counterrevolution. It will become harder and harder to find a Democrat willing to toe the woke party line. No Democratic politician is going to touch defund with a pole. Prestige-schooled woke education policy wonks seem unlikely to back down. But they will find a great deal of pushback; not just from without (GOP/FOX) but from within the Democratic Party.
The NYC election marks a decisive turning point not just for the woke counterrevolution but also for Democratic politics and the future of the republic. The prospects for an exit from the secular downcycle have improved as risks associated with the woke counterrevolution have receded. Perhaps Powell, Yellen and Biden can pull it off after all. This is excellent news."
Well, as we pundits say....only time will tell. But it's certainly possible this election could mark a sort of turning point. Here's hoping.