In my latest for The Liberal Patriot, I attempt a more detailed explanation for why the cultural left is indeed a drag on Democratic party prospects.
"The cultural left has managed to associate the Democratic party with a series of views on crime, immigration, policing, free speech and of course race and gender that are quite far from those of the median voter. That’s a success for the cultural left but the hard reality is that it’s an electoral liability for the Democratic party. From time to time Democratic politicians like Biden try to dissociate themselves from super-unpopular ideas like defunding the police but the voices of the cultural left within the party are still more deferred to than opposed. These voices are further amplified by Democratic-leaning media and nonprofits, as well as within the Democratic party infrastructure itself, all of which are thoroughly dominated by the cultural left. In an era when a party’s national brand increasingly defines state and even local electoral contests, Democratic candidates have a very hard time shaking these cultural left associations.
That’s a huge problem because the median voter simply does not buy what the cultural left is selling. As Matt Yglesias recently noted (channeling David Shor): “the median voter is a 50-something white person who didn’t go to college and lives in an unfashionable suburb.” It’s not hard to see how such a voter would be put off by the cultural positions that are now fashionable within the Democratic party, especially given that so many of these Democrats seem to look down on all those with different views. This attitude is not a secret to these voters and they react accordingly.
To illustrate the sharp divergence between the cultural left and the median voter, consider this list of views that are likely to be held by such a voter:...
The Democrats’ ability to move in the direction of these views and closer to the median voter has been severely compromised by the influence of the cultural left within the party. That has consequences.
In terms of electoral math, these consequences can manifest themselves in two ways. The first is the most obvious. A group which is unfriendly to the Democrats but declining, like white working class voters, moves further against the Democrats, thereby cancelling out the pro-Democratic effect of their decline. The second is that a pro-Democratic group like Hispanics which is growing, moves against Democrats, thereby cancelling out the pro-Democratic effect of their growth. Both things can happen at once of course, but 2016 was notable for the first and 2020 was notable for the second.
These kinds of shifts, which are typically abetted by electoral reaction to cultural leftism, effectively put a ceiling on Democratic support in a country which, by raw demographics, should be steadily moving in the Democrats’ direction. The way to lift that ceiling is clear: move to the center to embrace the views enumerated above, all of which are compatible with a robust program of full employment, social safety net expansion and public investment. Indeed, the ironic aspect of this is that the public writ large, including the median voter, are more open to such a program than they have been in decades, yet the Democrats’ cultural leftism interferes with their ability to focus on their popular economic program and avoid unpopular positions that have little to do with that program."
Read the whole thing at The Liberal Patriot--and subscribe!