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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall takes a deeper dive into the “Why Aren’t You Voting Your Financial Interests?” thing and comes up with some perceptive comments, including: “Partisan prioritization of cultural and racial issues has, to a notable extent, superseded the economic conflicts that once characterized the nation’s politics, leading to what scholars call a “dematerialization” of American electoral competition….On the right, millions of working- and middle-class whites have shifted their focus away from the goal of income redistribution — an objective Democrats have customarily promoted — to support the Republican preference for traditional, even reactionary, sociocultural values. At the same time, college-educated white voters have come to support tax and spending initiatives that subordinate their own financial self-interest in favor of redistribution and liberal social values….In “Identity, beliefs, and political conflict,” Giampaolo Bonomi, a doctoral candidate in economics at the University of California, San Diego, and Nicola Gennaioli and Guido Tabellini, professors of economics at Bocconi University in Milan, make a similar argument:

Economic shocks that boost conflict among cultural groups can also trigger a shift to cultural identity. We offer two examples: skilled biased technical change and globalization. If these shocks hurt less educated and hence more conservative voters, and benefit more educated and hence more progressive voters, they make cultural cleavages more salient and can induce a switch to cultural identity. As a result, economic losers become more socially and fiscally conservative.

In support of their argument, Bonomi, Gennaioli and Tabellini cite the work of David Autor and of Italo Colantone and Piero Stanig to “show that, both in the U.S. and in Europe, losses from international trade foster support for right-wing and conservative parties.”….Their analysis reveals how economic issues mesh with cultural issues in ways that make it difficult to define whether the economic framework creates the moral framework or vice versa.”

Edsall also quotes Jared Clemons, author of “From ‘Freedom Now!’ to ‘Black Lives Matter.’” As Clemons explains: “There are limits to white liberalism, as many Black activists noted when the civil rights movement attempted to transition from civil and voting rights (which, by and large, required little to no material sacrifice from affluent, white liberals) toward economic issues like equal access to housing and public schools, which white liberals supported at far lower levels. Martin Luther King Jr., in particular, spoke about the hollowness of racial liberalism and believed the best way to secure material gains for Black people was by building a cross-racial movement of working-class individuals that could make demands of the federal government (like full employment), rather than depending on the moral resolve of affluent white liberals….

My work suggests that a change in behavior is only likely when the political act in question is relatively costless. For as we know — as evidenced by places likely Berkeley, Calif., Boston, or D.C. — some of the most liberal cities are also the ones in which racial inequalities, particularly in the realm of housing and education, are their most pronounced. This is because it is much more costly to stake the more left-wing position on these issues. Once economic matters of this sort are on the table, research shows that white liberals’ progressivism wanes.

Some nuggets from “People Of Color Make Up 41 Percent Of The U.S. But Only 28 Percent Of General-Election Candidates” by Nathaniel Rakich at FiveThirtyEight: “Unsurprisingly, as has been the case for decades, Democrats had a more diverse candidate pool. At least 46 percent of their candidates this cycle were people of color, as opposed to only 19 percent of Republican candidates. But, in 2022 — possibly because white candidates were more likely to have advantages like incumbency and fundraising, possibly because of racism on the part of voters, possibly for other reasons — candidates of color from both parties had a harder time winning their primaries. As a result, when we mapped Fraga and Rendleman’s data onto the primary results, we found that people of color will constitute just 39 percent of Democratic general-election candidates and 16 percent of Republican general-election candidates….According to Fraga and Rendleman, 16 percent of all Democratic and Republican candidates for Senate, House and governor this cycle were Black. In comparison, 15 percent of the final nominees for those offices identified as Black. That’s slightly higher than their share of the U.S. population, which is 14 percent. But of course, one party had a lot more Black candidates than the other: 28 percent of Democratic candidates running in primaries identified as Black, but only 8 percent of Republican candidates did. And while at least 111 Black Democrats are on the November ballot, there are only 31 self-identified Black Republicans. Still, Black Republican members of Congress have been so rare in the past 150 years that there’s a good chance that the 118th Congress will have a record number.”

Rakich continues, “The researchers found that Hispanic and Latino Americans are the second-most-common minority group in 2022’s candidate pool, making up 8 percent of all candidates and 9 percent of the final nominees. But both numbers are much smaller than their share of the population (19 percent, though they constitute a smaller share of the citizen voting-age population). Hispanics and Latinos are also more evenly split between the parties: 53 Democrats and 31 Republicans are running in the general election. That mirrors the fact that, while Latinos still lean Democratic overall, they are much more of a swing demographic than Black voters….There are also interesting patterns among 2022’s Latino candidates. At least 26 Latino Democrats on the November ballot identified as being of Mexican descent, and at least five as Puerto Rican. But Fraga and Rendleman could identify only two who are Cuban American. By contrast, they found Republicans have nominated at least seven Cuban Americans. Fraga and Rendleman could find only 10 Mexican American Republican nominees and no Puerto Rican ones. This jibes with data that shows Cuban Americans are a Republican-leaning group, but Puerto Ricans and especially Mexican Americans are generally Democratic.” Such is the diminishing utility of the term ‘Latino’ in a political context.

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