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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Debate over country song is a right-wing trap for Democrats.

The debate over the song “Try That in a Small Town” is an excellent example of a particularly devious right-wing extremist trap – one that the GOP will use against Democrats again and again in 2024. Dems need to understand what the trap is designed to accomplish, how it works and how to defend against it.

Read the Memo.

A Democratic Political Strategy for Reaching Working Class Voters That Starts from the Actual “Class Consciousness” of Modern Working Americans.

by Andrew Levison

Read the Memo

Progressives need to apologize to Oliver Anthony

He understands working people better than they do, he can talk to them better than they can.

Read the Memo.

Why Don’t Working People Recognize and Appreciate Democratic Programs and Policies

The mythology of “Franklin Roosevelt’s Hundred Days” and the Modern Debate Over “Deliverism.”

Read the Memo.

Innovative Study Offers New Insight into White Working Class Voters.

Innovative Study Provides Startling New Insight About Working Class Voters
By Andrew Levison

Read the memo.

Democrats Will Lose Elections in 2022 and 2024 if They do Not Offer a Plausible Strategy for Reducing the Surge of Immigrants at the Border.

Read on…

The Daily Strategist

September 24, 2023

Edsall: The Roots of ‘Affective Polarization’

Some insights from “‘A Perfect Storm for the Ambitious, Extreme Ideologue’” by New York Times opinion essayist Thomas B. Edsall:

“Five political scientists — Shanto Iyengar, Yphtach Lelkes, Matthew Levendusky, Neil Malhotra and Sean J. Westwood — have constructed a definition of affective polarization:

While previously polarization was primarily seen only in issue-based terms, a new type of division has emerged in the mass public in recent years: Ordinary Americans increasingly dislike and distrust those from the other party. Democrats and Republicans both say that the other party’s members are hypocritical, selfish, and closed-minded, and they are unwilling to socialize across party lines. This phenomenon of animosity between the parties is known as affective polarization.

In their examination of affective polarization in advanced democracies, Boxell, Gentzkow and Shapiro tracked patterns in 12 countries over the 40 years from 1980 to 2020 and found that

The U.S. exhibited the largest increase in affective polarization over this period. In five other countries — Switzerland, France, Denmark, Canada, and New Zealand — polarization also rose, but to a lesser extent. In six other countries — Japan, Australia, Britain, Norway, Sweden, and Germany — polarization fell.

In 1978, they write, “the average (American) partisan rated in-party members 27.4 points higher than out-party members”; by 2020, the difference had doubled, to 56.3 points.

The authors stress that they are measuring the rate of increase in the levels of polarization, as opposed to comparing absolute levels of polarization in different countries.

“In the case of affective polarization, Edsall notes, “the authors collected “data on trends in economic, media, demographic and political factors that may be related to” partisan animosity and found that “trends in measures of inequality, openness to trade, the share getting news online, and the fraction foreign-born are either negatively or weakly associated with trends in affective polarization….Conversely, “trends in the number of 24-hour news channels, the nonwhite share, partisan sorting, and elite polarization are positively associated with trends in affective polarization. The association is strongest for the nonwhite share and elite polarization.”

Edsall shares a point made by Dartmouth professor Sean Westwood: “This subservience to party, in Westwood’s view, is driven by “activists on both sides of the aisle who have reframed political conflict as a battle over moral truth and not a conflict over issue positions. If you disagree with the other party’s stance on an issue, you are not just wrong, but amoral.” We don’t negotiate well in American politics; we just bellow at each other.

The phenomenon has gotten much worse in recent years, although it is not really all that new. Readers with a long memory may remember the Saturday Night Live ‘Point/Counterpoint’ skits with Dan Akroyd’s Jack Kilpatrick and Jane Curtin’s Shana Alexander, in which every liberal-conservative policy disagreement is paired with increasingly harsh personal insults. Or go back much further and check out the mud-slinging in the 1796 presidential election.

Edsall quotes NYU historian Steven Hahn: “A confluence of developments over the last several decades has led to polarization among parties and many voters. These include: the stagnation of wages and salaries for the white middle and working class since the 1970s; the process of deindustrialization and the weakening of the labor movement; the recognition that white people will become a numerical minority by the middle of the 21st century, and the related belief that people of color have become the political clients of the Democratic Party (a party which has until very recently abandoned social democratic ambitions and instead also cultivated segments of the college-educated upper middle class).”

Lots of fodder for argument there. But I would say amen to Hahn’s points about wage stagnation, deindustrialization and the weakening of the labor movement. Pair that with stratospheric tuition costs which make a mockery of the idea that one’s kids will have better living standards, and you have a ‘perfect storm’ for working class discontent, as well as “the ambitious, extreme ideologue.” Another amen for Jefferson Cowie’s observation that “In most social and political indicators of advanced industrial nations, the United States is an outlier in terms of inequality and the attendant negative social and political outcomes.”

Edsall also discusses the possibility that the two party system divides Americans into rigid ideological camps, while the multiparty democracies of other nations may reduce affective polarization. In these nations, there may be more of a “let’s split the difference, create a coalition and move on” attitude toward policy disagreements and governing. Check out the Danish TV series “Borgen” on Netflix for a few clues as to how this works.

Edsall has more to say about the causes of our deepening divisions. Anyone interested in getting a better understanding of the ‘affective polarization’ that has exacerbated America’s problems should give Edsall’s essay a thoughtful read.

Tim Scott Wants to Fire Strikers Like Reagan Did

Reading through the ambiguous to vaguely positive remarks made by Republican pols about the historic auto workers strike, one of them jumped off the page, and I wrote about it at New York:

One of the great anomalies of recent political history has been the disconnect between the Republican Party’s ancient legacy as the champion of corporate America and its current electoral base, which relies heavily on support from white working-class voters. The growing contradiction was first made a major topic of debate in the 2008 manifesto Grand New Party, in which youngish conservative intellectuals Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam argued that their party offered little in the way of material inducements (or even supportive rhetoric) to its emerging electoral base. Though Douthat and Salam were by no means fans of Donald Trump, the mogul’s stunningly successful 2016 campaign did follow their basic prescription of pursuing the economic and cultural instincts of white working-class voters at the expense of doctrinaire free-market and limited-government orthodoxy.

So it’s not surprising that Trump and an assortment of other Republicans have expressed varying degrees of sympathy for the unionized autoworkers who just launched a historic industry-wide strike for better wages and working conditions. But there was a conspicuous, even anachronistic exception among nationally prominent GOP politicians: South Carolina senator and presidential candidate Tim Scott. As NBC News reported:

“It’s the latest of several critical comments Scott has made about the autoworkers, even as other GOP presidential candidates steer clear of criticizing them amid a strike at three plants so far …

“’I think Ronald Reagan gave us a great example when federal employees decided they were going to strike. He said, you strike, you’re fired. Simple concept to me. To the extent that we can use that once again, absolutely.’”

Scott’s frank embrace of old-school union bashing wouldn’t have drawn much notice 40 or 50 years ago. And to be clear, other Republicans aren’t fans of the labor movement: For the most part, MAGA Republicans appeal to the working class via a mix of cultural conservatism, economic and foreign-policy nationalism, nativism, and producerism (i.e., pitting private-sector employers and employees against the financial sector, educational elites, and those dependent on public employment or assistance). One particularly rich lode of ostensibly pro-worker rhetoric has been to treat environmental activism as inimical to the economic growth and specific job opportunities wage earners need.

So unsurprisingly, Republican politicians who want to show some sympathy for the autoworkers have mostly focused on the alleged threat of climate-change regulations generally and electric vehicles specifically to the well-being of UAW members, as Politico reported:

“’This green agenda that is using taxpayer dollars to drive our automotive economy into electric vehicles is understandably causing great anxiety among UAW members,’ [Mike Pence] said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“Other Republicans followed suit, with a National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesperson calling out Michigan Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin — Democrats’ favored candidate for the state’s open Senate seat — for her Thursday vote allowing state-level limits or bans on gas-powered cars as choosing her ‘party over Michigan.'”

More strikingly, Trump, the 2024 presidential front-runner, is planning to hold an event with Michigan workers at the very moment his GOP rivals are holding their second debate next week, notes the Washington Post:

“While other Republican candidates participate in the Sept. 27 event in California, Trump instead plans to speak to more than 500 autoworkers, plumbers, electricians and pipe-fitters, the adviser said. The group is likely to include workers from the United Auto Workers union that is striking against the Big Three automakers in the country’s Rust Belt. The Trump adviser added that it is unclear whether the former president will visit the strike line.

“Trump’s campaign also created a radio ad, to run on sports- and rock-themed stations in Detroit and Toledo, meant to present him as being on the side of striking autoworkers, the adviser said.”

There’s no evidence Trump has any understanding of, much less sympathy with, the strikers’ actual demands. But in contrast to Scott’s remarks endorsing the dismissal of striking workers, it shows that at least some Republicans are willing (rhetorically, at least) to bite the hand that feeds in the pursuit of votes.

Meanwhile, the mainstream-media types who often treat Scott as some sort of sunny, optimistic, even bipartisan breath of fresh air should pay some attention to his attitude toward workers exercising long-established labor rights he apparently would love to discard. Yes, as a self-styled champion of using taxpayer dollars to subsidize private- and homeschooling at the expense of “government schools,” Scott is constantly attacking teachers unions, just like many Republicans who draw a sharp distinction between public-sector unions (BAD!) and private-sector unions (grudgingly acceptable). But autoworkers are firmly in the private sector. Maybe it’s a South Carolina thing: Scott’s presidential rival and past political ally Nikki Haley (another media favorite with an unmerited reputation as a moderate) famously told corporate investors to stay out of her state if they intended to tolerate unions in their workplaces. For that matter, the South Carolina Republican Party was for years pretty much a wholly owned subsidiary of violently anti-union textile barons. Some old habits die hard.

One of the useful by-products of the current wave of labor activism in this country is that Republicans may be forced to extend their alleged sympathy for workers into support for policies that actually help them and don’t simply reflect cheap reactionary demagoguery aimed at foreigners, immigrants, and people of color. But Scott has flunked the most basic test threshold compatibility with the rights and interests of the working class.


Are Biden’s Liabilities Overstated?

By now you’ve probably read some of the chicken little analysis explaining why President Biden and Democrats are screwed for 2024. If you haven’t read it yet, don’t worry. There will be more of it to read – lots more. The doomsayers may be right. There are some worrisome polls 14 months out from the election. But some of it is just premature nail-biting. Consider some of the more balanced takes.

For example, from Harry Enten’s “Three reasons Biden’s problems appear to be overblown” at CNN Politics:

“But while Biden clearly has problems – no president with an approval rating hovering around 40% is in good shape – some of his issues appear to be overblown at this time. Here are three reasons why”:

1. Biden’s going to win the Democratic primary, unless something drastic happens.

2. The impeachment inquiry isn’t damaging Biden … yet.

3. Voters don’t like the state of the economy; it may not matter that much.

Do read Enten’s entire article. And maybe check out some of the more optimistic takes, including here, here and here. For now, we’ll just quote a bit from Enten’s third point:

Stop me if you heard this one before: Biden is the president heading into an election, voters are unhappy with the state of the economy, and his party does much better in the elections than a lot of people thought.

That’s what happened in the 2022 midterms.

The inflation rate is lower now than it was then, but it’s on the uptick. Voters, both now and then, overwhelmingly disapprove of Biden’s handling of the economy. They even say the economy matters more than any other issue, like they did in 2022.

What none of this data takes into account is that Americans almost always call the economy the top issue, according to Gallup.

….It’s not as if the economy is helping Biden. I’m just not sure it’s hurting him.

After all, there’s a reason why Democrats have consistently outperformed the 2020 presidential baseline in special elections this year.

If things were really that bad for Biden and the Democrats, they’d most likely be losing elections all over the country. That simply isn’t happening at this point.

Yes, keep in mind that commentators and voters sometimes get a little tipsy on culture war distractions. Nonetheless, fourteen months from now, a lot of the more sober swing voters may be thinking versions of “Sure, Biden is kinda old. But Trump is no spring chicken. My economic situation could be better. But the economy seems to be on a modest upswing. Is now really a good time to bet everything on a guy with all of Trump’s messy problems and let him run the world? My guess is no.” (could be a rant for a Democratic ad).

So place your bets on chicken little or Walter Mitty or something in between. But no matter who says what, no one really knows what is going to happen on election day, 2024.

Political Strategy Notes

Get over yourself because “The Cake Is Baked. Deal With It. Stop moaning about replacing Biden and Harris. This is the 2024 Democratic ticket, whether you like it or not,” David Faris writes writes at Slate. The title is a bit misleading because the article is only about Biden replacing Harris, which clearly ain’t happening. As Faris, explains: “Like most recommendations brought to us by op-ed columnists with too much time on their hands, casting Kamala Harris aside is a dreadful idea—not only because it has almost zero chance of actually happening, but because it would clearly cause more problems than it would solve….“Maybe the president should dump the veep” is a Beltway parlor game as old as time. Or at least as old as the writers doing the speculating. There were calls for George H.W. Bush to replace Dan Quayle with Colin Powell in 1992, and gossip that George W. Bush would toss the gruff Dick Cheney overboard in 2004. Before the 2012 election, some thought that Barack Obama, reeling from his historic “sh ellacking” in the 2010 midterms, should eighty-six then–Vice President Biden and replace him with his 2008 rival, Hillary Clinton. In 2019, D.C. was rife with rumors that Mike Pence would be sacked as Trump’s running mate for former U.N. Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley….Not to give away the ending to Titanic here, but none of these incumbents cashiered their vice presidents. No elected incumbent in the binding primary era that began in 1972 has switched running mates before standing for reelection….it is hard to imagine a core Democratic constituency that Biden can less afford to deliberately alienate than Black women, who gave the president an 81-point margin in 2020, according to exit polls—especially at a time when pollsters keep warning that turnout among voters of color is one of the president’s worst potential problems….If Democrats are worried about her favorability ratings, they should remember that the best thing they could do for them is to somehow boost Biden’s.”

Salon’s “Just lean in, Joe: Biden needs to embrace his old age: The Ronald Reagan strategy is not working. It’s time for Biden to get serious about his biggest vulnerability” by Jason Kyle Howard makes some good points. As Howard writes, “Despite his numerous attempts to embrace the subject with humor, such as his jokes at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner in April, a decrease in concern about his age has not been reflected in polling numbers….Instead of joking about it, hoping the chatter will dissipate and dismissing concerns out of hand, Biden should follow the lead of his predecessors and give an address on aging, one that will kick-start a national conversation that is much needed, not only in our politics but also in our personal lives…. Kennedy and Obama knew that the central question voters had about their candidacies was this: can I come to terms with, can I accept, what I most fear? In their speeches, both had the confidence to allow themselves to, as the Poynter Institute’s Roy Peter Clark observed about Obama, become characters in narratives about religion and race. They had the confidence to act as mirrors for the public. Whether he likes it or not, Biden now occupies the same position. He reflects the declining conditions of our aging parents and grandparents, as well as fears for our own mortality. Like Kennedy with religion and Obama with race, Biden should refuse to allow such a complex, vital topic as aging to be reduced to a caricature created by fear….Everyone ages differently, and Biden could point to the stories of everyday Americans who continue to lead active and productive lives well into their late 80s and 90s. Sometimes, he should say, age actually is just a number….Crucially, he should also make a pledge to never lie or conceal information about his health, which would serve as a contrast with Trump’s most recent apparent lie about his health….Confronting his age head-on in a national address could serve to remind voters what they liked about Biden in the first place, and what polls indicate still resonates: his candor. For decades, he  has constructed his political image as an unfiltered straight-shooter who “stands up for what he believes in.” From the infamous “big f**king deal” observation to Obama at the Affordable Care Act signing ceremony, to pre-empting his boss by endorsing marriage equality in an interview in 2012, Biden has often been able to cut through the political noise with frankness. Leading a national conversation on aging would maintain his brand of candid talk.”

Ari Berman has a warning at Mother Jones, in his article “New Report: One-Third of States Have an Election Denier Overseeing Elections: The movement to subvert American democracy is far from dead.” As Berman observes, “Twenty-three election deniers in 17 states serve as either governor, attorney general, or secretary of state, according to a new report released this week by the States United Democracy Center, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for fair elections. That means a third of the country has an election denier in statewide office overseeing their elections….According to the group, three election deniers are running for president—Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and California radio host Larry Elder—while a number of other GOP presidential hopefuls have amplified false claims about the 2020 election. Five election deniers are on the ballot in key statewide races in Louisiana and Mississippi this year….Based on misinformation spread by far-right conspiracy theorists, nine GOP-controlled states have withdrawn from the Electronic Registration Information Center, an interstate partnership that helps make sure voter rolls are accurate by comparing voter registration data among states….  In Wisconsin, Republicans in the state Senate voted Thursday to oust the nonpartisan administrator of the state’s elections commission, Meagan Wolfe, in a bid to give election deniers and conspiracy theorists more control over how elections are run in the state. (The state’s attorney general is challenging the move in court, claiming Republicans don’t have the power to remove Wolfe because she was not formally renominated by the Wisconsin Elections Commission.)….In North Carolina, Republicans are on the verge of enacting two bills that would undermine fair elections. The GOP-controlled legislature passed one bill last month that undercuts Election Day registration, gives voters less time to cast ballots by mail, and expands voter challenges. The legislation was inspired, at least in part, by conservative activist Cleta Mitchell, one of the architects of Trump’s effort to overturn the election. Another bill that is close to final passage would prevent the state’s Democratic governor from appointing a majority of members to state and county election boards and lower the threshold needed to redo an election….In Texas, the GOP-controlled legislature voted in May to abolish the position of election administrator and give the GOP-appointed secretary of state the power to take over election operations exclusively in Houston’s Harris County, the most populous blue county in the state….“In some states, legislators are taking all sorts of steps to make life harder for trusted nonpartisan election officials, including firing them and stripping away their power,” Lydate says. “All fueled by conspiracy theories. This is just one piece of an entire election denier industry. It’s in state legislatures, on the campaign trail, in the media. It’s a whole movement that puts lies above free and fair elections, and we have to call it out everywhere we see it.”

In “With democracy on the ballot, the mainstream press must change its ways,” Margaret Sullivan writes at The Guardian, “The big problem is that the mainstream media wants to be seen as non-partisan – a reasonable goal – and bends over backwards to accomplish this. If this means equalizing an anti-democratic candidate with a pro-democracy candidate, then so be it….Add to this the obsession with the “horse race” aspect of the campaign, and the profit-driven desire to increase the potential news audience to include Trump voters, and you’ve got the kind of problematic coverage discussed above….It’s fearful, it’s defensive, it’s entertainment – and click-focused, and it’s mired in the washed-up practices of an earlier era….The big solution? Remember at all times what our core mission is: to communicate truthfully, keeping top of mind that we have a public service mission to inform the electorate and hold powerful people to account. If that’s our north star, as it should be, every editorial judgment will reflect that….Headlines will include context, not just deliver political messaging. Overall politics coverage will reflect “not the odds, but the stakes”, as NYU’s Jay Rosen elegantly put it. Lies and liars won’t get a platform and a megaphone….And media leaders will think hard about the big picture of what they are getting across to the public, and whether it is fair and truthful. Imagine if the New York Times, among others, had stopped and done a course correction on their over-the-top coverage of Clinton’s emails during the 2016 campaign. We might be living in a different world….Can the mainstream press rise to the challenge over the next year?….“When one of our two political parties has become so extremist and anti-democratic”, the old ways of reporting don’t cut it, wrote the journalist Dan Froomkin in his excellent list of suggestions culled from respected historians and observers….In fact, such both-sides-equal reporting “actively misinforms the public about the stakes of the coming election”….The stakes really are enormously high. It’s our job to make sure that those potential consequences – not the horse race, not Biden’s age, not a scam impeachment – are front and center for US citizens before they go to the polls….As Amanpour so aptly put it, be truthful, not neutral.”

Teixeira: The Democrats’ Oliver Anthony Problem

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter and co-author with John B. Judis of the forthcoming book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

By this I don’t mean that future political outcomes will depend directly on reactions to any specific song by any specific singer. But I do think that Democrats’ reaction to “Rich Men North of Richmond” by Oliver Anthony tells you a lot about where the party is today and where our politics is likely to go in the next year or two.

Consider that Anthony’s song is powerfully directed above all at economic unfairness and a system that screws the working class and favors the rich who want to “have total control.” Catnip for Democrats right? Wrong. Because Anthony neglected to scrub his lyrics of lines that might offend the tender sensibilities of the liberal commentariat his song has been excoriated as “welfare-bashing and conspiracy-tinged,” “in the wheelhouse of the Q-anon movement,” and of course racist. More generally, the song has been summarily right-coded and Anthony dismissed as an agent of the other side, despite Anthony’s stout denials that he is, in fact, on the right.

More to the point, does the fact that Anthony complains about those taking unfair advantage of government programs make him a screaming racist reactionary as many liberals seem to think? Andy Levison correctly notes:

[A]nyone who reads the hundreds and hundreds of pages of focus groups where working-class people complain about welfare cheating will notice one interesting fact. A vast number of the anecdotes the participants offer are not repetitions of conservative clichés about African-Americans and “welfare Cadillacs” but rather very specific stories about these workers’ able-bodied friends, neighbors and relatives who are drawing undeserved disability payments or workman’s compensation or cashing social security checks that should be going to someone else in the person’s family and their sense of contempt for these people who they know personally is far stronger than it is against any abstract stereotypes.

But might Anthony be influenced by conservative media, therefore disqualifying him and his songs from serious consideration by good Democrats? Levison has some choice words about that:

[W]hat alternative media do you expect a working-class person to be reading or listening to instead—the latest issue of the Nation? The 7 o’clock news on MSNBC? Special issues of Jacobin? The information world in which millions of working-class Americans live is filled with conservative material and if reading that stuff automatically makes a worker an extremist, even if he is as pro-worker as Oliver Anthony, then Democrats might as well give up any hope right now and move to Norway.

Just so. The fact that Democrats responded with visceral dislike to a song that expressed the complicated populist views of an actual working-class person shows how unwelcoming the party has become to actual working-class people, as opposed to mythological proletarians who combine hatred of (Republican) corporations with reverence for “Bidenomics” and careful usage of all the approved intersectional language.

Speaking of Bidenomics, it’s important for Democrats to understand just how poorly the Biden economy has played with working-class voters so far, which is interacting with these voters’ general sense that Democrats don’t much like them and their uneducated, uncouth manner of speaking and thinking. Take Biden’s approval rating on the economy. In the latest Quinnipiac poll, his rating on the economy is a shockingly low 25 percent approval vs. 71 percent disapproval (minus 46 net approval!) among white working-class (noncollege) voters compared to 52 percent approval vs. 46 disapproval (plus 6 net approval) among white college voters.

That’s quite a difference. What might explain such a chasm in outlook? A good chunk of this is differing reactions to a period of high inflation. As noted in a recent CNN article by Ron Brownstein:

[F]rustration over high prices is especially acute among voters with fewer resources and less financial cushion, which generally include those with less education. “Nobody likes spending more, but the degree to which you can absorb inflation, those at the higher end of the economic scale have less difficulty doing so,” said Democratic pollster Jay Campbell, who studies economic attitudes as part of a bipartisan team that conducts surveys for CNBC…

Biden’s ads are emphasizing the slowdown in inflation over recent months. But as Campbell points out, moderating inflation only means prices are rising less quickly; it doesn’t mean prices are returning to their levels before the Covid-19 pandemic. All voters, but especially those of moderate means, are acutely aware of that distinction, Campbell says.

“You are still paying more for eggs and your other necessities than you were a year ago, and you are paying a lot more than you were 2-3 years ago,” Campbell said. “And interest rates being really high compounds the problem in reality and in people’s minds, because now if you have to put something on your credit card you are paying even more—twice.” Higher interest rates are also making it more difficult for people to buy homes or finance cars.

Nor are these voters particularly sanguine about the future. In a new CBS News poll, 25 percent of white working-class voters say that looking ahead they are optimistic about the national economy, while 75 percent are pessimistic. And just 18 percent are optimistic about “the cost of goods and services”, compared to 82 percent who are pessimistic. These do not sound like happy campers about Bidenomics.

Perhaps the whole enterprise was just not what these voters—and most voters—had in mind when they elected Joe Biden. As Janan Ganesh has pointed out in the Financial Times:

His brief was to end the dark carnival of Donald Trump and lead the US out of the pandemic. What followed—profuse spending, subsidies on a scale that might scandalise a Gaullist—was not just startling. It also allowed Republicans to draw a circumstantially plausible (even if you think ultimately false) link between the administration and rising consumer prices…Since his cavalier early months, the president has grown more sensitive to concerns about inflation. But members of his government still talk with messianic bombast about a “new economic order” for the world, as though price rises are so much collateral damage in a grand experiment on behalf of the People.

This is the hard reality Bidenomics and the Democrats have run into. The typical working-class voter just sees and has experienced things in a way that does not comport with Democrats’ preferred narrative. These voters’ “lived experience,” as it were, is just too different to generate buy-in to that narrative.

Nor does recent economic news seem likely to help much. Inflation went back up in August, with gas prices shooting up over 10 percent. And the latest income datafrom the Census Bureau show continued decline in median household income in the first two years of the Biden administration, leaving it 4.7 percent lower than its pre-pandemic peak. But the pre-pandemic years of the Trump administration saw an increase of 10 percent in household income. Clearly, that colors voters’ perception of the recent past and is a key reason why the working class, by more than two to one, believes Trump did a better job handling the economy than Biden is currently doing.

Taking all this into account, it should not be too surprising that education polarization is stark in recent horse race polling between Biden and Trump. In a new CNN poll, Biden loses the working class by 14 points to Trump, while carrying college-educated voters by 18 points. That compares to Biden’s 2020 lossto Trump of “only” four points among working-class voters.

We’ll likely see more of the same in 2024. As Brownstein observed in the article referenced above, it is likely that Biden, despite his “middle class Joe” persona, will wind up relying more, not less, on upscale voters than he did in 2020. Those are voters who are less sour on the economy and more susceptible to appeals around abortion, democracy, and Trump’s boorish personality.

It just might work. Certainly it’s mathematically feasible to compensate for working-class losses by gains among the college-educated (though those gains have to be larger because the college-educated are a smaller group). But besides being risky, one has to wonder what kind of party the Democrats are becoming. Is this really the party they want to be, where the views, priorities, and values of the educated take precedence?

We are getting very far indeed from FDR’s party of the common man and woman. Both political prudence and the core historic commitments of the Democratic Party should lead them away from their current path and back toward the working class. And should they make this course correction, they might want to give Oliver Anthony another listen. I’ll give the last word to Andy Levison:

Progressives need to apologize to Oliver Anthony. He understands working people better than they do, he can talk to them better than they can and if Democrats ever want to regain their lost working-class support they need to shut up and listen to guys like him instead of telling him to shut up and listen to them.


Dems Should Address GOP ‘Excess Seat Edge’ to Be Competitive

Some ‘key points’ from “The Republicans’ ‘Excess Seat’ Edge in State Legislatures: Republicans punch above their weight compared to presidential results in more places than Democrats” by Louis Jacobson at Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

“We analyzed 48 states to see which have the most lopsided state Senate and state House chambers compared to how the state voted for president.

Both parties have some states in which the legislative breakdown significantly exaggerates the patterns of the presidential vote.

For Democrats, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Massachusetts have the most “excess seats” above the presidential vote threshold. For Republicans, the list is both longer and more varied, with Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin standing out as at least somewhat competitive states where the Republicans have large excess seat advantages.

In all, Republicans have proven much more adept than Democrats at leveraging presidential vote patterns into even larger majorities in state legislative chambers. The GOP has achieved significant levels of excess seats in about three times as many states as the Democrats have.

Gerrymandering is one reason for this, but it probably doesn’t explain the exaggerated legislative majorities in many states. Rather, the phenomenon of excess seats appears to be a natural consequence of minority parties being doomed into irrelevance once they start consistently losing presidential and statewide races, sapping their ability to recruit candidates and build party infrastructure.”

Jacobson provides a useful hover map of the U.S., which gives the details for each of the 48 states. At quick glance, it appears that Virginia, Oregon, Washington and Michigan have the smallest ‘excess seat’ ratios, which means the D and R percentages of their presidential vote and party distribution in states legislatures are closely aligned.

While gerrymandering accounts for a lot of the dissonance between state legislatures and presidential votes of each of the unaligned states, Jacobson notes, “My guess, though, is that gerrymandering, and even geography, matters less than one might think. I suspect that it has more to do with the minority party turning headlong into a spiral of irrelevance.” Substitute “incompetence” for “irrelevance,” and you have a more useful distinction, which may be corrected, in some cases, with a little house cleaning.

Political Strategy Notes

Are Biden’s strategic assets for 2024 being undervalued? “In a perfect world, we would not have a presidential election between two men who were born in the WWII era,” Heather Digby Parton writes at Salon. “It’s 2023 and it’s past time to pass the torch. But we are where we are and there are strong reasons to take a breath and realize that Joe Biden is going into this campaign with some serious advantages that would be stupid to toss aside….First of all, the power of incumbency cannot be underrated. In the past 11 presidential elections with incumbent candidates, only 4 were unseated. Both the Clinton and Obama re-elections that everyone was so worried about were helped immensely by the fact that there was no primary and they already had fundraising bases and successful campaign experience….It takes a while for people to catch up to economic good news and Biden has a good story to tell on that front. Reagan, for instance, was underwater in approval in August of 1983 before “Morning in America” and his 1984 landslide re-election. (I’m not suggesting that will happen with Biden — it’s a different world today — it’s just another illustration of how quickly things can improve.)….And there are some other issues in Biden’s favor that are extremely salient at this time such as abortion rights and the attack on democracy, which adds up to a powerful critique of Trump and the authoritarian assault by the Republican party. (Government shutdowns and idiotic impeachments will only help illuminate their extremism) After all, Biden is facing a man who is going to be on trial during most of the campaign next year and could be running as a convicted felon. Yes, his followers will stick with him through it all but the idea that Biden’s age will trump Trump’s criminal status is to suggest that otherwise normal people will prefer an old man who is also a criminal to an old man who has done a good job as president. It’s possible but I’m not convinced it’s likely….It’s in the Democratic DNA to be nervous nellies. And maybe that’s a good thing. It means they won’t be complacent and will work hard to win the election. For the most part it’s paid off in presidential politics for the past 30 years. But it’s 14 months before the election. Nobody should be losing any sleep just yet.”

Ronald Brownstein explains “Why ‘Middle-class Joe’ Biden may need upscale voters more than ever in 2024” at CNN Politics: “Biden’s opportunities with upscale voters are widening because polls show that, compared to working-class voters, they are more likely to view Trump as a threat to American democracy, as well as more likely to support abortion rights. Simultaneously, Biden’s position with working-class voters is eroding largely because they are expressing the most frustration and strain over the economy and inflation….Biden’s opportunities with upscale voters are widening because polls show that, compared to working-class voters, they are more likely to view Trump as a threat to American democracy, as well as more likely to support abortion rights. Simultaneously, Biden’s position with working-class voters is eroding largely because they are expressing the most frustration and strain over the economy and inflation….Biden has some important assets in trying to recapture support from working-class voters, including a moderating trend in inflation, increasingly visible effects of the investments triggered by the trio of big laws he passed in his first two years, and a big campaign budget to saturate the handful of swing states with television advertising burnishing his economic record….But so long as daily necessities in the fall of 2024 cost more than they did when Biden took office – a highly likely outcome – he faces the probability that most Americans, especially those operating on limited incomes, will remain discontent with his economic leadership. If there is a winning coalition for a second Biden term, it may rely on convincing voters who don’t believe the president has delivered for their interests to vote for him anyway because Trump (or another GOP nominee) represents an even greater threat to their values. And that dynamic, almost inevitably, could tilt Biden’s coalition even further toward upscale voters.”

“In the 2020 election,” Brownstein continues, “Biden ran several percentage points better than Hillary Clinton did in 2016 among voters with at least a four-year college education and carried a solid majority of them, according to each of the three data sources cited most often about the results: the exit polls conducted by Edison Research for a consortium of media organizations including CNN, the “validated voters” study by the Pew Research Center, and the estimates by Catalist, a Democratic targeting firm, based on analysis of voter records….That advantage among better-educated voters was enough for Biden to overcome Trump’s narrow edge among all voters without a college degree, according to all three sources. Generally, the analyses showed Biden in 2020 slightly gaining compared to 2016 among White voters without a four-year college degree (though Trump still won them decisively) and Trump gaining somewhat among non-White voters without a college degree (though Biden still carried them decisively)….Compared to his vote share in 2020, Biden’s standing today is weaker among almost every key group in the electorate. But his numbers are especially bleak among voters with less education. In the latest CNN national poll conducted by SSRS, only about one-third of all adults without a degree (and only one-fourth of non-college White adults) said they approved of his job performance as president. Among college-educated adults, Biden’s standing was much more respectable: just over half of them approved of his performance (including just under half of the college-plus Whites.)…not surprisingly, frustration over high prices is especially acute among voters with fewer resources and less financial cushion, which generally include those with less education. “Nobody likes spending more, but the degree to which you can absorb inflation, those at the higher end of the economic scale have less difficulty doing so,” said Democratic pollster Jay Campbell, who studies economic attitudes as part of a bipartisan team that conducts surveys for CNBC….Biden’s ads are emphasizing the slowdown in inflation over recent months. But as Campbell points out, moderating inflation only means prices are rising less quickly; it doesn’t mean prices are returning to their levels before the Covid-19 pandemic. All voters, but especially those of moderate means, are acutely aware of that distinction, Campbell says.”

Brownstein hones in on the economic strategy Biden needs to win next year: “Democratic pollster Geoff Garin says the 2022 midterm elections offer Biden a blueprint for closing that gap. Despite widespread concern over the economy then, he notes, multiple winning Democratic Senate and governor candidates in key swing states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona won anyway, partly by focusing on tangible actions they had taken to help families confront costs, such as the provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act allowing Medicare to bargain for lower drug prices….“When you get into the compare and contrast part of the campaign, Biden has a good story to tell about actions he has already taken and things he will do moving forward to lower prices for people,” Garin argues. “The contrast that Biden is setting up between growing the middle class and trickle-down economics is a good framework for next year.”….Still, Biden will likely face stubborn limits on his ability to win an argument about the economy next year so long as many voters feel that they have less money left at week’s end….Tulchin, the pollster for Sanders, predicts Biden’s effort to make a case for his economic performance “will only have limited impact because he’s an incumbent and people aren’t feeling better off.” Instead, Tulchin says, “The way you win elections as an incumbent is you disqualify your opponent.”….Like most Democrats, Tulchin believes Biden’s best weapons to disqualify Trump, if the two face off again, will be abortion and the fear that Trump would unleash “chaos” if he returned to the White House. And for all Biden’s focus on recapturing non-college voters, those are arguments that inherently detonate more powerfully among those with advanced education – whose support “middle-class Joe,” as Biden called himself at the Labor Day rally in Philadelphia, will likely need more than ever next year to secure another term.” Perhaps a related message could help give Biden – and Democrats – some much needed traction: “Trump and his party have divided, exhausted and paralyzed America.  The only way to restore our national vitality and move forward is a landslide defeat for them in 2024.”

Voter Perceptions of the Economy vs. Statistics a Problem for Dems

Some insights from “Why Bidenomics Isn’t Working for Biden:The economy is improving, but Americans aren’t giving Biden credit for it,” a pundit chat at FiveThirtyEight:

Monica Potts: To start at the beginning, Biden inherited a really weird economy. The COVID-19 shutdowns caused a severe and dramatic recession, but then the economy started to bounce back. But people’s behavior had also changed. More people were working from home and moving, they had cash to spend and supply chains were slow to restart. So Americans were generally sour on the economy from the time he took office.

The recovery was afflicted by super-high inflation, as you noted at the beginning, Nathaniel, and a lot of what the Biden administration has done on economic policy is the kind of slow-moving, behind-the-scenes policymaking that voters don’t really notice. Even though inflation is cooling, prices are still much higher than they were before the pandemic; borrowers are still seeing much higher interest rates; etc. So I think a lot of it is that Americans are generally unhappy with the new normal we find ourselves in.

gelliottmorris: I think that last point is a really good one, Monica. The share of people telling pollsters that the broader economic situation is poor is still around the highest it’s been since 2018. At first, that seems hard to square with the rosy economic indicators we talked about. But I think it’s possible that people just have longer-term memories about economic growth and remember a time when prices were meaningfully lower.

Lots of the discussion on this topic is pegged to tracking annual change in the consumer price index or job market or what have you. But if you take a longer view, for a lot of families, things are just permanently more expensive now. Even if their wages are up, I doubt they enjoy spending 15 percent more at the grocery store than they were before the pandemic. And it will take a while for those memories to fade.

Ameliatd adds, “I’m not sure voters were ever going to give Biden credit for an improving economy, especially because the inflation increase happened under his watch. It’s not like he can come in and say, “Look at this mess my predecessor left for me.”

I think Potts hits on a core problem in noting “Even though inflation is cooling, prices are still much higher than they were before the pandemic.” Voters are not impressed that the rate of “inflation is cooling.” It’s more about perception of their family’s economic realities than national statistics. To amplify Morris’s point, not many workers got a 15 percent pay raise during the last year to cover the new normal.

The covid checks voters received during the pandemic have been spent. Here comes a lot of stressful kitchen table budget discussions. Student loan debt outlays will be back soon. The strategic petroleum reserve is looking low, and let’s not count on the Saudis, the petroleum industry or Putin to do Biden any favors. It won’t be pretty.

Some of this downer scenario will be offset by fears among moderate voters in swing states about eradicating reproductive rights and/or the very real possibility that U.S. democracy will become completely dysfunctional if Trump wins, setting up decades of angry polarization and authoritarian rule.

It appears that a patriotism vs. pocketbook conflict may be emerging for 2024 voters. It would be folly for Democrats to bet the ranch on patriotism.

It’s possible that enough voters will get used to sticker shock at the gas pumps and meat counters a year from now, and their memories of better prices will fade away. But fading possibilities are not a solid foundation for campaign strategy.

Admittedly, all of this is close to the bleakest possible scenario. And there is a fair chance that the opposite will happen, good will win the day and Democracy will be preserved for future generations. It’s also possible that the election outcome will fall somewhere between disaster and a newly-functional democracy.

As for the persuasion vs. turnout choices for Democratic campaign strategy, there may not be enough time for the former to have an impact in 2024. But make no mistake, for Democrats, it’s all hands on deck for what may be the most pivotal election in America’s history.

Political Strategy Notes

In her article, “How States Can Prevent Election Subversion in 2024 and Beyond,” Alice Clapman reports at brennancenter.org that “the country has made progress toward insulating future elections from subversion attempts. Most notably, Congress passed the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act of 2022 (ECRA), closing some loopholes and resolving ambiguities that the Trump campaign tried to exploit in 2020. Among other reforms, the ECRA clarifies that only a state’s governor or other predesignated executive official may submit official election results; bars state legislatures from changing the rules for appointing electors after Election Day; and makes it harder for federal legislators to overturn election results. Several states went further. Notably, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, and New York clarified their certification processes and took steps to combat disinformation and protect voters and poll workers from harassment and violence….the United States remains at risk for election subversion (that is, the overturning of an election outcome through disruption or manipulation of the vote counting, canvassing, or certification processes, or other acts of large-scale disenfranchisement)….Election denial is still rampant within federal, state, and local governmental bodies and among segments of the public. Although many of those who attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021, have faced criminal consequences, so far the officials and politicians who incited them to violence have not. Election deniers won numerous congressional and state legislative seats, party chairs, and state and local election administrative positions….Republican activists have recruited poll workers and observers in large numbers with the false and inflammatory message that U.S. elections are being stolen and must be “taken back.””

Clapman continues, “While the ECRA included necessary reforms, Congress has failed to pass broader protections, including baseline national election standards. footnote9_86caho09 This failure puts the onus on states. Each state has different vulnerabilities and different options for addressing them. Every state should start with these five measures:

  • Strengthen laws requiring timely certification based solely on verified vote totals, with effective enforcement mechanisms.
  • Strengthen laws channeling election disputes through the state judiciary, and set clear standards governing how these disputes are resolved.
  • Finalize a plan for putting out accurate information about the election process and preempting disinformation, starting well before Election Day and backed by adequate state resources.
  • Bolster election administration with training, written guidance, and investment in equipment, security, scenario planning, staffing, and supplies.
  • Enact stronger measures against intimidation of voters and election workers, including gun restrictions and privacy protections for election officials.

In some states, legislatures will be in session again before the 2024 vote; in others, they could be called to a special session. Elsewhere, administrative officials could implement many of these measures. And state policymakers at every level should continue to push for these reforms after 2024, because election subversion will remain a risk.” Clapman provides extensive details for each of her five proposals towards the end of her article.

Clapman has another post at brennancenter.org with co-writer Lauren Miller, entitled “Are Swing States Ready for 2024? Here’s how Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Nevada can stop election subversion.” In this article, the authors focus on specific remedies for vote theft and related scams for the aforementioned states. Here’s an excerpt describing what Georgia can do: As Clapman and Miller write, “Georgia officials must implement best practices for preventing, detecting and confirming physical breaches. These include restrictions on access, reporting protocols, keycard systems, and video and log surveillance, with review, to track access to sensitive equipment. Georgia should also prepare plans to promptly investigate and, if necessary, decommission and replace those systems to ensure that potentially corrupted equipment is replaced before the next election and with enough time for pre-election testing….Most recently, the chair of Georgia’s State Election Board — who sought to debunk unfounded claims of fraud in the 2020 election — announced that he was resigning after just 14 months in office….Georgia should take steps to protect election officials and workers from threats. The state should fund physical security protections and training and revise statutes to offer a broader set of protections against harassment and doxing. Those protections should include, for example, shielding officials and workers’ personal information from public information requests and creating meaningful civil and criminal liability for individuals who intimidate or harass them at any stage of the election process….Georgia must also protect its voters from unwarranted challenges. Georgia’s S.B. 202, passed in 2021, invites people to challenge an “unlimited” number of voters in their county. Predictably, groups and individuals in at least eight counties subsequently challenged an estimated 92,000 voter registrations in the 2022 election cycle. In Gwinnett County alone, the group VoterGA worked with local residents to challenge at least 37,000 voters (over 6 percent of the county’s active voters). Local election officials threw out most of these challenges….Election deniers appear ready to recklessly challenge hundreds of thousands more voters in the next election cycle. To prevent those efforts, Georgia too should consider reforms to constrain baseless mass challenges, including by clarifying that challenges cannot be based on unreliable data and that targeting voters for challenges based on protected characteristics such as race is illegal.”

Here’s another excerpt from Clapman’s and Miller’s article focusing on Pennsylvania: “Pennsylvania has seen a number of subversion efforts in recent years: fake electors and legislative interference schemes in 2020, certification refusals in 2022, various lawsuits attempting to invalidate whole tranches of absentee ballots, and a concerted effort by Republican lawmakers acting at the behest of the Trump campaign to gain unauthorized access to voting equipment (successful in one county), to name a few. The state has election deniers in many local positions of power, including officials who previously voted to remove drop boxes and refused to certify valid results, an official who helped the Trump campaign access voting equipment, and even one fake 2020 elector….Pennsylvania is also one of a few states, particularly among battleground states, that bar clerks from preprocessing absentee ballots before election day. Because absentee ballots have skewed heavily Democratic in Pennsylvania in recent years, this unnecessary legal bar often causes a “red mirage,” which in turn fuels election denial. Pro-democracy lawmakers have repeatedly tried to reform the law, including this year, only to be outvoted by Republican colleagues. (The proposed legislation also would have allowed voters to cure ballot defects and have their votes counted.)….Some of the same lawmakers who voted down preprocessing have sued to overturn no-excuse absentee voting, a reform that passed with bipartisan support in 2019. Republican-appointed appellate judges struck the law down based on an originalist reading of the state constitution, but were overruled by a divided state supreme court…Without legislative reform, wrangling over the counting of absentee ballots — including wrangling over whether defects can be cured — will continue. Votes will be discarded if they arrive after election day, or for purely bureaucratic reasons. And another red mirage is also likely. Politicians, officials, media outlets and advocacy groups must continue to call out the partisan gamesmanship over absentee ballots and the repeated efforts to disqualify them en masse. These ballots are not abstractions, or some political football, but actual votes from citizens who are exercising fundamental rights.”

Teixeira: The Democrats’ Nonwhite Voter Problem

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter and co-author with John B. Judis of the forthcoming book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

I have written quite a bit about the Democrats’ emerging problem with nonwhite voters (for example, here, here and here), manifest in steadily declining margins among this demographic. Well, now it’s official.

Or at least strongly confirmed. The release of a characteristically thorough analysis by Nate Cohn in The New York Times provides abundant and persuasive evidence that this trend is real and shows no signs of going away. As Cohn notes, Biden leads Trump by a mere 53-28 percent margin among these voters in a merge of 2022-23 Times/Siena College polls. This is not only a sharp fall-off from Biden’s support in the 2020 election, but also from Biden’s and previous Democratic candidates’ support in analogous pre-election polls.

All this has left Democrats scratching their heads, given the nature of their opponent. Cohn points out some of the paradoxes that now confront Democrats:

Democrats have lost ground among nonwhite voters in almost every election over the last decade, even as racially charged fights over everything from a border wall to kneeling during the national anthem might have been expected to produce the exact opposite result. Weak support for Mr. Biden could easily manifest itself as low turnout—as it did in 2022—even if many young and less engaged voters ultimately do not vote for Mr. Trump.

Many of Mr. Biden’s vulnerabilities—like his age and inflation—could exacerbate the trend, as nonwhite voters tend to be younger and less affluent than white voters…Issues like abortion and threats to democracy may also do less to guard against additional losses among Black and Hispanic voters, who tend to be more conservative than white Biden voters. They may also do less to satisfy voters living paycheck to paycheck: Mr. Biden is underperforming most among nonwhite voters making less than $100,000 per year, at least temporarily erasing the century-old tendency for Democrats to fare better among lower-income than higher-income nonwhite voters.

The Times/Siena data suggests the emergence of a fairly clear education gap among nonwhite voters, as Mr. Biden loses ground among less affluent nonwhite voters and those without a degree. Overall, he retains a 61-23 lead among nonwhite college graduates, compared with a mere 49-31 lead among those without a four-year degree.

Clearly there’s a very real and very large problem here. Democrats may simply have misjudged what is most important to nonwhite voters, reflecting perhaps the increasing domination of their coalition by white college graduate voters, virtually the only demographic among whom the party has been doing steadily better. The agenda of white college graduates, particularly the progressives who support the party so fervently and fuel the party’s activist base, is less coterminous with that of nonwhite voters than Democrats seem to believe.

Reviewing recent data on the views of nonwhite voters makes it less mysterious why they can contain their enthusiasm for Biden.

1. A May Washington Post/ABC News poll asked, “Who do you think did a better job handling the economy (Donald Trump when he was president), or (Joe Biden during his presidency so far)?” Nonwhite respondents felt, by 48 to 41 percent, that Trump had done a better job on the economy than Biden is currently doing.

2. In an August Fox News poll, two-thirds of nonwhite voters rated their personal financial situation as only fair or poor and barely over a quarter (27 percent) said the Biden administration had made the economy better, compared to 42 percent who thought Biden had made the economy worse. Respectively, 46, 54 and 56 percent of nonwhite voters say gas prices, grocery prices and utility costs are a “major problem” for them and their family. Biden’s net approval (approval minus disapproval) among these voters is minus 25 on handling inflation, minus 22 on handling border security and minus 8 on handling the economy.

3. In a recent 6,000 respondent survey conducted by AEI’s Survey Center on American Life (SCAL) and the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), 57 percent of nonwhite voters say Biden has accomplished not that much or little or nothing during his time in office. About half consider the Democratic Party too extreme, think it bases its decisions more on politics than common sense and supports policies that interfere too much in people’s lives. Over two-fifths don’t see the Democrats as sharing their values. And over a third think Democrats look down on people like them, don’t value hard work and aren’t patriotic.

The Democratic Party has been all-in on the idea of “structural racism”—that idea that racism is “built into our society, including into its policies and institutions”, rather than coming “from individuals who hold racist views, not from our society and institutions.” In the SCAL/NORC survey, about half of nonwhite voters choose the latter view, that racism comes from individuals, not society. And two-thirds of these voters reject the idea of reducing police budgets in favor of social services, preferring instead to fully fund police budgets in the interest of public safety.

4. In The Liberal Patriot’s recent survey of American voters conducted by YouGov, most nonwhite voters believe the Democratic Party has moved too far left on both economic and cultural/social issues. On economic issues, 57 percent of these voters say Democrats have moved too far left. On cultural and social issues, 56 percent say the same.

As examples, only about a quarter of nonwhite voters identify with the standard Democratic position on transgender issues—that “states should protect all transgender youth by providing access to puberty blockers and transition surgeries if desired, and allowing them to participate fully in all activities and sports as the gender of their choice”. And only around a third support the standard Democratic position on climate and energy policy—that “We need a rapid green transition to end the use of fossil fuels and replace them with fully renewable energy sources.” The latter finding is intriguing because so much of Democrats’ industrial and economic policy is built around just this transition. But perhaps not surprising because climate change is just not a particularly important issue to the typical voter, including the typical nonwhite voter.

None of this means that nonwhite voters are now going to become a Republican constituency, despite these voters’ concerns about the Democrats and cross-pressures on issues. Hardly; Biden will likely carry these voters by a healthy margin in 2024. But it does mean that Democrats’ hold on these voters may well slip further in 2024, cutting Democrats’ margins dangerously among a group that has been the bedrock of Democrats’ electoral strategy.

That strategy has been based around the presumed effects of rising racial diversity. This demographic change is generally understood to be beneficial to the Democrats’ electoral fortunes (as John Judis and I argued in our 2002 book, The Emerging Democratic Majority). That’s a reasonable viewpoint based on a very simple idea: If voter groups favorable to the Democrats (nonwhites) are growing while unfavorable groups (whites) are declining, that should be good news for the Democrats. This is called a “mix effect”: a change in electoral margins attributable to the changing mix of voters.

These mix effects are what people typically have in mind when they think of the pro-Democratic effects of rising diversity. But mix effects, by definition, assume no shifts in voter preference: They are an all-else-equal concept, as we were careful to stress two decades ago. If voter preferences remain the same, then mix effects mean that the Democrats will come out ahead. That is a mathematical fact.

But voter preferences do not generally remain the same. Therein lies the reason why, in some cases, rising diversity has not produced the dividends for Democrats that many activists and advocates anticipated. And why it may not pan out for the Democrats in 2024, judging from the data reviewed above.

Democrats may have thought that they were on the right track in the wake of the “racial reckoning” of 2020. Surely if Democrats went all-in on social justice and racial “equity,” that would lock down the nonwhite vote. That was a chimera as a careful examination of actually-existing opinions and priorities among actually-existing nonwhite voters would have quickly revealed. Perhaps now that declining nonwhite support for the Democrats is “official”, that much-needed examination can take place.