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."
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