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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: Revisiting The Emerging Democratic Majority

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

In 2002, John Judis and I published The Emerging Democratic Majority. I think it’s fair to say that our book had some influence on political thinking. So…how does it hold up almost 20 years later?

Matt Yglesias does a nice job on his substack–fair and balanced!–looking back on our book and seeing where we were prescient and where we failed to anticipate important changes.

“The Emerging Democratic Majority”…is one of those books that’s widely referenced years after publication but typically in a kind of caricature form. Obviously, the Democratic majority that Teixeira and Judis forecast — driven by the growing nonwhite share of the electorate and the increasing liberalism of college-educated professionals and big metro areas — did not exactly emerge.

Nevertheless, the big demographic trends that the book is about did emerge, and they played out roughly the way they forecasted.
Some other things broke less favorably. But broadly speaking, I want to defend the relevance of the book’s main ideas…..

Judged by how many people voted for whom [the popular vote for President, Senate and House], it’s a decent Democratic majority that emerged:

Now of course that’s not the system we have, so Democrats’ actual results are less impressive. But to me, this looks like the Judis/Teixeira thesis ended up wrong for a mostly unexpected reason — the growth in the geographic skew of the electoral system.

That’s especially true because policy has been evolving to the left during this period…..

To me, one big lesson of revisiting the book is that it’s a reminder of just how difficult it is to make accurate forecasts about politics.

I think Judis and Teixeira got so many big analytic points right. But their book is mostly remembered as wrong because its topline forecast was, in fact, wrong, and it was wrong for two subtle, interrelated reasons. One is they didn’t appreciate the extent to which the growing liberalism of college-educated professionals living in big metro (one of the big things they predicted correctly) areas would, over time, actually change Democratic Party ideology in a way that repelled non-college white voters who’d been okay with Al Gore. The other is they didn’t account for how this would intersect with the skews of the electoral maps.”

Very interesting assessment. I recommend it. You also might want to take a look at the essay I wrote on The Emerging Democratic Majority thesis for Persuasion. There’s some overlap with Yglesias but also some differences.

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