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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

From Ronald Brownstein’s “The demographic makeup of the country’s voters continues to shift. That creates headwinds for Republicans” at CNN Politics: “Demographic change continued to chip away at the cornerstone of the Republican electoral coalition in 2022, a new analysis of Census data has found….White voters without a four-year college degree, the indispensable core of the modern GOP coalition, declined in 2022 as a share of both actual and eligible voters, according to a study of Census results by Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political scientist who specializes in electoral turnout….McDonald’s finding, provided exclusively to CNN, shows that the 2022 election continued the long-term trend dating back at least to the 1970s of a sustained fall in the share of the votes cast by working-class White voters who once constituted the brawny backbone of the Democratic coalition, but have since become the absolute foundation of Republican campaign fortunes….As non-college Whites have receded in the electorate over that long arc, non-White adults and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Whites with at least a four-year college degree, have steadily increased their influence. “This is a trend that is baked into the demographic change of the country, so [it] is likely going to accelerate over the next ten years,” says McDonald, author of the recent book “From Pandemic to Insurrection: Voting in the 2020 Presidential Election.”….these non-college voters remain a larger share of the electorate in many of the key states that will likely decide the 2024 presidential race (particularly Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) and control of the Senate (including seats Democrats are defending in Montana, Ohio and West Virginia.)….But even across those states, these voters are shrinking as a share of the electorate. And McDonald’s analysis of the 2022 results shows that the non-college White share of the total vote is highly likely to decline again in 2024, while the combined share of non-Whites and Whites with a college degree, groups much more favorable to Democrats, is virtually certain to increase….Especially ominous for Republicans is that the share of the vote cast by these blue-collar Whites declined slightly in 2022 even though turnout among those voters was relatively strong, while minority turnout fell sharply, according to McDonald’s analysis. The reason for those seemingly incongruous trends is that even solid turnout among the non-college Whites could not offset the fact that they are continuing to shrink in the total pool of eligible voters, as American society grows better-educated and more racially diverse.”

Brownstein notes further, “Ruy Teixeira, a long-time Democratic electoral analyst who has become a staunch critic of his party, argues exactly that kind of shift in voting preferences could offset the change in the electorate’s composition – and create a real threat for Biden. Even though Biden is aggressively highlighting his efforts to create blue-collar jobs through “manufacturing and infrastructure projects that are starting to get off the ground,” Teixiera recently wrote, a “sharp swing against the incumbent administration by White working-class voters seems like a very real possibility.”….Teixeira, now a nonresident senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, also maintains Democrats face the risk Republicans can extend the unexpected gains Trump registered in 2020 with non-White voters without a college degree, especially Hispanics….As Teixeira has forcefully argued in recent years, such demographic change doesn’t ensure doom for Republicans or success for Democrats. Among other things, that change is unevenly distributed around the country, and the small state bias of both the Electoral College and the two-senators-per-state rule magnifies the influence of sparsely populated interior states where these shifts have been felt much more lightly….Yet, even so, the long-term change in the electorate’s composition, along with the Democrats’ growing strength among white-collar suburban voters, largely explains why the party has won the popular vote in seven of the past eight presidential elections – something no party has done since the formation of the modern party system in 1828….And even though Whites without a college degree exceed their share of the national vote in the key Rust Belt battlegrounds of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, their share of the vote is shrinking along the same trajectory of about 2-3 points every four years in those states too, according to analysis by Frey. Meanwhile, in the Sun Belt battlegrounds of Georgia, Arizona and Nevada, more rapid growth in the minority population means that blue-collar Whites will likely comprise a smaller portion of the eligible voter pool than they do nationally….Trump, with the exception of his beachhead among blue-collar minorities, has now largely locked the GOP into a position of needing to squeeze bigger margins out of shrinking groups, particularly non-college Whites. It’s entirely possible that Trump or another Republican nominee can meet that test well enough to win back the White House in 2024, especially given the persistent public disenchantment with Biden’s performance. But McDonald’s 2022 data shows why relying on a coalition tilted so heavily toward those non-college Whites becomes just a little tougher for the GOP in each presidential race.”

Democratic moderates and centrists are much encouraged by the results of Tuesday’s elections, especially the results in the mayoral races in Jacksonville, FL (11th largest city in the U.S.) and Colorado Springs, CO (38th largest U.S. city). In Jax, voters elected Democrat Donna Deegan, who defeated former Republican state Rep. Daniel Davis, who was endorsed by Republican Presidential candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis. Jax was the largest city that had a Republican Mayor. Deegan campaigned as a moderate Democrat, who stressed the need for transparency in government. In Colorado Springs, Yemi Mobolade, who is not affiliated with any party, defeated Republican Wayne Williams in a run-off by about 15 percentage points, becoming the city’s first elected Black mayor and the first Colorado Springs mayor who isn’t a registered Republican in more than four decades. Mobolade ran as a “Business-friendly moderate.” In Philadelphia (6th largest U.S. city), former City Council Member Cherelle Parker won the Democratic nomination. She “had the support of the city’s Black establishment and a number of influential unions,” and beat a progressive favorite, Helen Gym. Parker will likely be Philly’s first Black female Mayor. The victories of Deegan, Mobolade and Parker are sort of a moderate/centrist answer to the recent wins of progressives Brandon Johnson in Chicago, Michelle Wu in Boston and Karen Bass in Los Angeles. But what they all have in common is that they are strongly opposed to Republicans. For news regarding other Tuesday elections, check out “7 takeaways from Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Florida elections” at CNN Politics, “Republicans keep having bad elections” at The Washington Post and “Winners, losers and lessons from Tuesday’s elections” at nbcnews.com.

Unfortunately, Tuesday’s political news also included the override of North Carolina’s Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of the Republican abortion restriction bill. The question now is whether or not NC Democrats can use the Republican override as a cudgel to help defeat NC GOP candidates next year. As Stephen Wolf reports in “Blame GOP gerrymandering for North Carolina’s new abortion restrictions” at Daily Kos: “North Carolina Republicans successfully overrode Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of their new abortion restrictions on Tuesday, but they were only able to do so for two reasons, neither of them good: partisan gerrymandering and an inexplicable recent party switch by a previously pro-choice lawmaker….That new law will ban most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy and also add significant other restrictions on abortions even before then, tightening the state’s previous 20-week limit and undermining its status as an oasis in a region with severe restraints on abortion access. But perpetually swingy North Carolina didn’t get here by accident….North Carolina’s legislative districts have been gerrymandered to favor Republicans to varying degrees ever since the GOP swept into power in the 2010 midterms. Because the governor lacks veto power over redistricting, the courts have been the only bulwark against Republican gerrymandering, leading to an endless cycle of litigation as the GOP’s maps would get struck down, replaced, and challenged once again….While gerrymandering was also crucial in the state House, it wasn’t enough by itself, since Republicans came one seat short in November when they won a 71-49 majority. But last month, Democratic state Rep. Tricia Cotham unexpectedly switched her allegiance to the Republican Party, despite having won a solidly blue open seat in the Charlotte suburbs last year….Going forward, gerrymandering will play a key role in insulating Republicans from any popular backlash for passing unpopular laws, including their new abortion ban. Cotham herself could be just such an example if she seeks reelection because, while her current district supported Biden 61-38 in 2020, Republicans could make it considerably redder. That would still leave her vulnerable in a general election but would also provide her with a path to victory that no longer exists in her current district….With GOP legislative dominance likely to grow ever more entrenched, the most plausible way forward for progressives in North Carolina will be for Democrats to regain control of the state Supreme Court. The soonest Democrats could flip the court, however, would likely be in 2028, which would require winning next year’s election for governor and several court races between 2024 and 2028.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Maria Ferrera on

    I really would like someone to conduct an analysis on the decreasing life expectancy of non college white voters and how much of this contributes to the decline as a percentage of the electorate. And in particular, how much this trend will affect rustbelt states with high percentages of non college whites.


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