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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: New Census Data Not All That Great for Dems

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

I’ll have more to say about these data presently but for now, I’ll refer you to Nate Cohn’s article which makes the important point that the news for Democrats is not quite as good as some are making it out to be.

It’s also worth reading, if you haven’t already, my piece on “Demographic Change Giveth and Demographic Change Taketh Away

Cohn:

“At first blush, Thursday’s release of census data held great news for Democrats. It painted a portrait of a considerably more urban and metropolitan nation, with increasingly Democratic metropolitan areas bustling with new arrivals and the rural, Republican heartland steadily losing residents.

It is a much less white nation, too, with the white non-Hispanic population for the first time dropping in absolute numbers, a plunge that exceeded most experts’ estimates, and the growth in the Latino population slightly exceeding forecasts.

But the census paints a picture of America as it is. And as it is, America is not very Democratic.

Besides the census, the other great source of data on American politics is the result of the 2020 election, which revealed a deeply and narrowly divided nation. Despite nearly the full decade of demographic shifts shown by the census, Joe Biden won the national vote by the same four-point margin that he won by as Barack Obama’s running mate eight years earlier — and with fewer votes in the Electoral College….

Yet despite the seemingly favorable demographic portrait for Democrats depicted by the 2020 census, the 2020 election returned another closely divided result: a 50-50 Senate, one of the closest presidential elections in history, and a House majority so slender that it might be undone by the very data that Democrats were celebrating on Thursday.

The nation’s electoral system — which rewards flipping states and districts — has tended to mute the effect of demographic change. Many Democratic gains in vote margins have come in metropolitan areas, where Democratic candidates were already winning races, or in red states like Texas, where Democrats have made huge gains in presidential elections but haven’t yet won many additional electoral votes.

But Democrats haven’t fared much better over the past decade, as one would have expected based on favorable demographic trends alone. It’s not clear they’ve improved at all. Barack Obama and Joe Biden each won the national popular vote by four percentage points in 2012 and 2020. Demographic shifts, thus far, have been canceled out by Republican gains among nonwhite and especially Latino voters, who supported Mr. Trump in unexpectedly large numbers in 2020 and helped deny Democrats victory in Florida.”

So contain your enthusiasm. These results don’t really change anything in terms of Democratic prospects and challenges.

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