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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Political Strategy Notes

“If there’s one state in the nation you can call MAGA country, it’s Iowa,” Heather Digby Parton writes at Salon. “It’s something like 95% white, older than most states, extremely rural and the Republican Party there is as conservative as it gets. And yet, 40% of the voters who came out voted for someone else. Yes, sure, a good many of them voted for Trump-plus and Trump- X (DeSantis and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy), but nearly 20% of them voted for the daughter of immigrants positioned as the “moderate ” in the race. Recall, Trump beat Joe Biden statewide by 53% in 2020. He won the Republicans by an even smaller majority on Monday. That is not a good sign….Only 110,000 people turned out, which comes out to about 15% of registered Republicans. This means that he only won 7% of GOP voters in the state of Iowa, a MAGA stronghold. Considering that this is the beginning of his supposed big comeback, that’s pretty underwhelming….The Des Moines Register poll which was released last weekend showed some other rather surprising numbers about the Republican electorate in Iowa. It found that if Trump is the nominee 11% said they would vote for Joe Biden while another 14% said they would vote for a third party candidate or someone else. That adds up to 25% of the party saying they will vote for someone else in the general election. That seems worth pondering. And we hear constantly about how all these criminal and civil proceedings just make his base love him more, but even more concerning for the Trump campaign should be the fact that according to the entrance polls, 32% of caucus participants believe that if Trump is convicted he will be unfit for the presidency.”

Parton continues, “All this does raise the question: Why are the national polls so close?….In the last few months, the polls have shown Trump and Biden neck and neck within the margin of error. You would think that if there was really a substantial faction of Republicans and GOP-leaning Independents who aren’t going to vote for Trump it would be showing up. But remember, the data we’ve been discussing was all from Iowa, a state that has been inundated with campaign ads and personal appearances by the Republican candidates for the past year. Unlike the rest of the country, they’ve been forced to pay attention to this race. They are the canaries in the coal mine….As evidence of how important this is, CNN reported that “the majority of undecided voters simply do not seem to believe – at least not yet – that Donald Trump is likely to be the Republican presidential nominee.” If you’re reading this you probably find that to be absurd. He’s the front-runner! But most of America has tuned out the Trump show since he left office. When they realize that he’s going to be the nominee and the show is unavoidable again, they are going to see what at least a quarter of Iowa Republicans and all of Iowa’s Democrats have been seeing these past few months and it’s not pretty. Let’s just say, that show has not aged well….Sure, Trump won Iowa and he’s highly likely to win New Hampshire and all the rest of the states as well. The Republican Party establishment will back him to the hilt and he’ll have plenty of money to wage his campaign. But there are some very big cracks in his coalition and they are becoming more and more pronounced. Remember, if the election is close, as it may very well be, it would only take a small number of GOP and Independent defections in the right states to put the country out of this misery at long last.”

Food and gas costs are frequently cited as pushing the public’s concerns about inflation. Could the increase in out-of-pocket spending for health care also be a leading cause of President Biden’s low approval ratings? According to Caitlin Owens at Axios, “Families with workplace health insurance may have missed out on $125,000 in earnings over the past three decades as a result of rising premiums eating into their pay, according to a new JAMA Network Open study….While employers, rather than workers, typically bear the brunt of rising health insurance costs, the study is further evidence that rising premiums are costing workers through wages they would have otherwise received….Premium growth has long outpaced wage growth, meaning that health insurance has become a larger and larger part of workers’ total compensation as employers pay out more in health benefits….a larger percentage of total compensation for low-income workers — who are disproportionately people of color — than those with higher incomes….Employer insurance has gotten more and more expensive as health care itself has gotten more expensive — the average workplace health plan last year cost $24,000 for family coverage, with employers covering about three-quarters of the cost, according to KFF….Although workers most directly feel the impact of their health care spending through out-of-pocket costs, economists have long argued that soaring premiums have suppressed wage growth….In 1988, health care premiums on average accounted for 7.9% of a worker’s total compensation, which includes wages and premiums. By 2019, that had increased to an average of 17.7%, the study found.”

The Biden campaign has handled its share of incoming flak during the last year for its sunny view of economic trends. Despite the common wisdom that their optimism is not justified, there is some new polling data which suggest otherwise.  In “Americans are actually pretty happy with their finances” by Felix Salmon at Axios Markets. writes, “Americans overall have a surprising degree of satisfaction with their economic situation, according to findings from the Axios Vibes survey by The Harris Poll….That’s in spite of dour views among certain subsets of the country — and in contrast to consumer sentiment polls that remain stubbornly weak, partly because of the lingering effects of 2022’s inflation….The Axios Vibes poll has found that when asked about their own financial condition, or that of their local community, Americans are characteristically optimistic….GDP growth is the highest in the developed world, inflation is headed back down to optimal levels, and consumer spending keeps on growing….63% of Americans rate their current financial situation as being “good,” including 19% of us who say it’s “very good.”….Americans’ outlooks for the future are also rosy. 66% think that 2024 will be better than 2023, and 85% of us feel we could change our personal financial situation for the better this year….That’s in line with Wall Street estimates, which have penciled in continued growth in both GDP and real wages for the rest of the year…. 77% of Americans are happy with where they’re living — including renters, who have seen their housing costs surge over the last few years and are far more likely than homeowners to describe their financial situation as poor….The survey’s findings were based on a nationally representative sample of 2,120 U.S. adults conducted online between Dec. 15-17, 2023.”

Why People Think the Economy is Doing Worse Than It Is: A Research Roundup

The following article by Clark Merrefield is cross-posted from The Journalist’s Resource  (January 12, 2024).

The U.S. economy is in good health, on the whole, according to national indicators watched closely by economists and business reporters. For example, unemployment is low and the most recent jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows stronger than expected hiring at the end of 2023.

Yet news reports and opinion polls show many Americans are pessimistic on the economy — including in swing states that will loom large in the 2024 presidential election. Some recent polls indicate the economy is by far the most important issue heading into the election.

Journalists covering the economy in the coming months, along with the 2024 political races, can use academic research to inform their interviews with sources and provide audiences with context.

The studies featured in the roundup below explore how people filter the national economy through their personal financial circumstances — and those circumstances vary widely in the U.S. The top tenth of households by wealth are worth $7 million on average, while the bottom half are worth $51,000 on average, according to the Institute for Economic Equity at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

We’ve also included several questions, based on the research, which you can use in interviews with policy makers and others commenting on the economy, or as a jumping off point for thinking about this topic.

The economic state of play

Toward the end of 2023, inflation was down substantially from highs reached during the latter half of 2022, according to data from the Center for Inflation Research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

Gross domestic product from the third quarter of 2023, the most recent available, is in line with or better than most GDP readings over the past 40 years. GDP measures the market value of all final goods and services a country produces within a given year.

Unemployment has been below 4% for two years, despite the recently high inflation figures. The U.S. economy added 216,000 jobs in December 2023, beating forecasts.

The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is nearly $3 nationally, down more than 70 cents since August 2023 (though attacks on Red Sea shipping lanes have recently driven up oil prices).

Despite these positive indicators, one-third of voters rate the economy generally, or inflation and cost of living specifically, as “the most important problem facing the country today,” according to a December 2023 poll of 1,016 registered voters conducted by the New York Times and Siena College.

The economy was the most pressing issue for voters who responded to that poll, outpacing immigration, gun policy, crime, abortion and other topics.

Crime, for example, registered only 2%, while less than 1% chose abortion as the most important problem in the country. The margin of error for the poll is +/- 3.5%, meaning there is a high probability that concerns about the economy among U.S. voters easily eclipse concerns about other issues.

Similarly, 78% of people who responded to a December 2023 Gallup poll rated current economic conditions as fair or poor. Gallup pollsters have reported similar figures since COVID-19 shutdowns began in March 2020.

Explanations and insights

The tone of news coverage is one possible explanation for the disconnect between actual economic performance and how individuals perceive it, according to a recent Brookings Institution analysis. Since 2018 — including during and after the recession sparked by COVID-19 — economic reporting has taken on an increasingly negative tone, despite economic fundamentals strengthening in recent years, the analysis finds. The Brookings authors use data from the Daily News Sentiment Index, a measure of “positive” and “negative” economic news, produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

The six studies featured below offer further insights. All are based on surveys and polls, some of which the researchers conducted themselves. Several also explore economic perception in other countries.

The findings suggest:

  • Economic inequality tends to lead people into thinking the economy is zero-sum, meaning one group’s economic success comes at the expense of others.
  • In both wealthy and poorer countries, belief in conspiracy theories leads people to think the economy is declining — things were once OK, now they are not.
  • In the U.S., political partisanship may be a more accurate predictor of economic perception than actual economic performance.
  • Households at higher risk of experiencing poverty are less likely to offer a positive economic assessment, despite good macroeconomic news.

Research roundup

Economic Inequality Fosters the Belief That Success Is Zero-Sum
Shai Davidai. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, November 2023.

The study: How does economic inequality in the U.S. affect whether individuals think prosperity is zero-sum? A zero-sum outlook indicates that “the gains of the few come at the expense of the many,” writes Davidai, an assistant professor of business at Columbia University, who surveyed 3,628 U.S. residents across 10 studies to explore the relationship between inequality and zero-sum thinking.

In one study, participants answered questions about how they experience economic inequality in their personal lives. In another, participants read about the salaries of 20 employees at one of three randomly assigned hypothetical companies. The first company had a range of very low and very high salaries. The second had high salaries with little variation. The third had low salaries with little variation. Participants were then asked if they interpreted the distribution of wages as equal or unequal, as well as about their political ideology. Davidai uses several other designs across the 10 surveys.

The findings: Participants who read about the company with highly unequal salaries were more apt to report zero-sum economic beliefs. Overall, when controlling for factors including income, education and political ideology, the perception of the existence of economic inequality led to more zero-sum thinking. Davidai also suggests that while people with higher incomes may not perceive their own success as having resulted from others experiencing loss, the existence of inequality could lead them to think generally about economic gains in zero-sum terms.

Teixeira: Dems, Don’t Count on Progressive Youth Chimera

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 new Book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

Just how progressive are today’s youth (or “youts” as My Cousin Vinny would have it)? It’s fair to say that compared to older generations they generally lean more left on most issues, are more likely to say they’re “liberal” and more likely to support Democrats. But that’s a relative assessment; it doesn’t follow logically that the entire generation is therefore “progressive,” especially as the term has come to be understood by Democrats.

This potential problem has been thrown into relief by recent poll findings that the show the youth vote lagging considerably for Democrats when Biden is matched against Trump in 2024 trial heats. Some polls even show Biden polling behindTrump among voters under 30 (a group dominated by members of Gen Z). But on average Biden is still polling ahead of Trump among these voters—the problem is that the margin in his favor is much less than it was in 2020.

Data from the Split Ticket analytics site, based on an average of December cross-tabular data, show Biden carrying 18-29 year olds by 11 points, a 12-point pro-Trump shift relative to Catalist estimates from 2020. Similarly, pollster John Della Volpe collected a number of mostly December 18-29 year old crosstabs on his site. These crosstabs average out to a 6-point advantage for Biden among voters under 30, a 17 point shift toward Trump relative to 2020.

What gives? A variety of explanations have been advanced from mode effects (how the survey was conducted) to measurement error to disaffected young votersgiving a “protest” response they don’t really mean. The flavor of these explanations is that the polls aren’t capturing the “true” sentiment among young voters, which is far more pro-Biden than they are capturing.

Well, maybe. But then again—maybe not! It’s at least possible that the steadfast progressivism of the younger generation has been overestimated and its moderation—or at least non-ideological nature—has been underestimated. That’s the view of Jonathan Chait in a recent article with which I concur:

For the past two decades, young people were widely assumed to have an ironclad loyalty to the Democratic Party. Democrats believed this, as did Republicans and journalists…The progressive movement made a giant bet on mobilizing young voters. That strategy, invested with buoyant hopes and vast sums of money, is now in ruins…

Liberal donors poured resources into an endless array of supposed grassroots organizations designed to turn out young, and especially nonwhite, voters. The theory was that these potential voters held left-wing views and would be roused to vote only if they could be convinced Democrats would take firm progressive positions. “Democrats desperately need a bold, progressive agenda and to build the kind of relationships in Florida that can’t be forged overnight,” argued one activist in 2019, echoing what activists were saying in other states.

Activists tended to import the language and concepts of the academic left into their work. “Young people have expressed that true engagement means investing in young people as leaders and amplifying work already being done in their communities, centering social justice and intersectionality, and meeting young people where they are,” wrote one.

Perhaps “centering social justice and intersectionality” is not really “meeting young people where they are!” Actually-existing young voters are in fact quite different from the young people that inhabit the fever dreams of progressive activists.

Biden’s Loyalty, Decency in Stark Contrast to GOP Follies

At Talking Points Memo, Editor-in-Chief Josh Marshall shares his thoughts on President Biden’s character in context of the fuss surrounding Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s hospitalization and concluding with Marshall’s observations about how it relates to the President’s decision to pull out of Afghanistan. Marshall’s take is cross-posted from Talking Points Memo:

Axios sent out an email yesterday headlined “Biden’s Stubborn Loyalty.” I went back to it this afternoon and realized I’d remembered it having a more negative spin than it really did. That headline above is followed by “1 Big Thing: Biden’s Teflon Cabinet.” The gist is that Biden sticks by his people. Got a criticism of one of his people? Who cares? Biden doesn’t want to hear it. What spurred this write-up is the controversy about Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Will Biden fire Austin? Will he resign? No, says the White House. Indeed, Biden won’t let him resign. Done and done.

Axios writes this: “Politico reports Biden would not accept a resignation from Austin even if he offered, and chatter from the pundit class is likely to reflexively harden the president’s view.”

I like this attitude.

What first made the headlines with Secretary Austin’s surgery and return to the hospital was that reporters weren’t notified for four days. The much bigger deal is that, if I’m understanding the timeline, the White House and top Pentagon officials weren’t notified for either two or three days.

Here’s the timeline as I understand it. On December 22nd, Austin was hospitalized to undergo surgery for what we now know was prostate cancer. That all went by the books in terms of the relevant people being notified. But on January 1st Austin had some kind of complications causing severe pain. He was taken to the ICU at Walter Reed. The next morning (January 2nd) the Chairman of the Joint Chief’s staff was notified and Austin’s powers were turned over to Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks. But it wasn’t until the 4th that President Biden and Hicks herself was notified. The following day, January 5th, the service secretaries, Congress and the public was notified.

This isn’t a trivial matter. The Secretary of Defense has a specific and important role in the military chain of command. Under the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 the line goes like this: The President issues orders to the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary issues orders directly to the Combatant Commanders. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is the President’s statutory military advisor. But the orders don’t go through him. The service secretaries — Secretary of the Army, Secretary of the Navy — aren’t in the line at all. They just run the departments.

The point is the Secretary of Defense isn’t just nice to have around. He’s central to the highest-level command structure of the U.S. military. You don’t want to have a serious military crisis and not know where he is. He’s not as important as the President, obviously, but it’s really important everyone knows where the Secretary is or who is acting in his place.

So big goof. But a firing offense? Not really. I’m sure it won’t happen again. And it’s the President’s call. It’s refreshing to see a President or any high level official say in so many words, this is okay and I really don’t care what the Post editorial board or any yahoo in Congress has to say about it.

I also think that the withdrawal from Afghanistan remains one of Biden’s shining moments even though I know absolutely no one agrees with me.

The United States remained in Afghanistan for ten years after anyone had any good explanation for why we were there. Obama wanted to leave. But he got rolled by the Pentagon. Biden knew that the only way to really leave was to leave. Someone had to bite the bullet. He bit that bullet and paid a big price and didn’t look back.

Undecided voters are invited to compare Biden’s character, and yes also his maturity, to that of the GOP presidential aspirants, all but one of whom have said with a straight face that Trump actually won the 2020 election.

Teixeira: Why Dems Should Re-Embrace Merit, Free Speech, and Universalism

Kondik: Despite Bad Polls, Biden Is Still Competitive

From “The Presidential Race at the Dawn of a New Year” by Kyle Kondik at Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

— Despite bad polling and clear weaknesses for President Biden, we are sticking with our initial Electoral College ratings from the summer, which show him doing better than what polls today would indicate, even as there are enough Toss-up electoral votes to make the election anyone’s game.

— We still anticipate a close and competitive election between Biden and former President Trump, whose dominance in the GOP primary race has endured as the Iowa caucus looms.

Kondik concludes, “Readers sometimes ask us if we have a set schedule for updating ratings. We do not—we make updates when we believe that they are warranted, although we also don’t want to be changing ratings willy nilly throughout the election season: The ratings are designed to be a best guess projection of November, not a measurement of where things may stand now. An “if the election was held today” assessment is pointless, because, well, we know that the election is set for November, not for today or tomorrow. Thus far we haven’t been compelled to change our initial Electoral College ratings, although we of course have taken note of Biden’s poor current polling. It will be harder to downplay the numbers if they persist, particularly even as Trump becomes more prominent because of the primary season and other factors.”

Teixeira: Democrats Adrift Without ‘Working Class Anchor’

The following transcription of Paul Gigot’s interview of Ruy Teixeira, co-author with John B. Judis of Where Have All the Democrats Gone?, is cross-posted from the Wall St. Journal:

Paul Gigot: With the 2024 Iowa caucuses less than a month away, the presidential campaign season is in high gear and Democrats are worried. Joe Biden has an approval rating that is downright dreadful, now close to 40% and in head-to-head polling, he loses to Donald Trump and loses by even more to Nikki Haley. Ruy Teixeira says this is explained at least in part by a deterioration of the Democratic party’s winning coalition from 2020. Mr. Teixeira is a political scientist affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute and author with John Judas of the new book Where Have All the Democrats Gone, the Soul of the Party in the Age of Extremes. Welcome back to Potomac watch (inaudible) Ruy. Nice to have you here.

Ruy Teixeira: Hey, thanks for having me, Paul.

Paul Gigot: All right, so you and John Judas wrote a very different book a decade and a half or so ago called The Emerging Democratic Majority. That majority appeared to be daunting under Barack Obama with his victory in 2008 in particular and then 2012, but it has since gone away. What happened?

Ruy Teixeira: Well, the main thing that happened, I think, and this is something we highlighted in our original book from 2002 about That Emerging Democratic Majority is we noted that yeah, there were a lot of things that were changing in the Democrat’s favor in terms of the rise of non-white vote, the realignment of professionals to the Democrats. The movement of a lot of the more dynamic cosmopolitan metro areas of the country toward. The Democrats changes in the women’s vote, which favored them and so on and so forth. But we were remarked that, hey, let’s be realistic here. The white working class is still a massive share of the American electorate and particularly in a lot of key states. And while they’re declining, they’re going to be with us for a long time. Therefore, if the Democrats could not hold on to their minority share of the white working class vote, if that further deteriorated, that would put their coalition in question. And that’s exactly what happened in 2010, then 2014 and then 2016 to everyone in shock, Trump manages to win and any wins really on the back of white working class voters, especially in the Midwest. So that was the white working class. And then I think what’s really fascinating about the last seven or eight years is the way the non-white working class has started to move away from the Democrats. We saw that in the 2020 election where Hispanic working class voters support for Democrats probably declined by about 20 margin points. There was also deterioration in the black working class vote and now we’re seeing it in the polls going up to the 2024 election. So this is really kind of a remarkable development and really points out that the Democrats Coalition was never as stable as they thought. And even something like the non-white vote, Hispanic and black vote and so on is really not stable for them if the working class component of it starts going south. All to shows to go you that the working class is no longer as committed to the Democrats as they once was, and that’s blown a hole in their coalition, which seemed to be so promising at the beginning of the 21st century.

Paul Gigot: All right, the polling sure backs you up. What are the causes as you look at them for this breaking away by working class voters as a cultural liberalism? Is it the fact that the Ann Arbor and Madison and Santa Monica elites don’t have a lot in common with people in Toledo who work in auto plants? What are the main causes?

Ruy Teixeira: Well, it’s all of the above, I think. If you look at the late part of the 20th century, I think certainly the cultural factors are important, but also it’s the decline of the labor movement, removing the working class anchor from the Democrats and the sense Democrats are no longer on the side of working class people who are getting hit by some of the economic changes of the latter part of the 20th century of feeling like Democrats were practicing a sort of soft neoliberalism, they were more interested in trade deals and deregulation than they were interested in the economic situation of the working class. And then in fact, they’d sort of forgotten about the working class in a lot of left behind areas of the country. And we saw that in a sort of a standard Gallup polling question that’s been asked forever, which party is better able to ensure prosperity for the country in the next several years? And that used to be a big democratic advantage and starting in the 80s it really goes away. So a sense that Democrats were no longer on your side economically, even as they were becoming more liberal and especially more liberal in the 21st century. And that’s where I think the cultural issues really start to bite because the Democrats do become so much more left-leaning and if not radical, a lot of issues concerning race and gender, immigration and so on. Then you might even add to that a whole sense that Democrats concerns were less about the working class and more about the priorities of their solid voters in the urban metro areas where culturally liberal white college graduates were so influential. So all of that put together kind of alienates the working class writ large from the Democrats and has contributed to a sense Democrats are no longer the party of the working class, but rather more the party of educated elites who are perhaps less interested in the fate of working class voters than they should be. And then you add to that, but frankly the Trump years prior to the pandemic were actually relatively better for working class voters, including non-whites than the first three years that the Biden administration has. So I think that just underscored the problems a lot of working class voters now have with the Democrats.

Paul Gigot: The Democrats under Bill Clinton did quite well winning two presidential races in the 1990s when you had that so-called neoliberal economic views supporting trade deals, for example, relatively centrist economic views. But where it seems to me this changed most sharply against Democrats in the working class is when you had under the Obama presidency this sharp notable turn towards the left on cultural issues. And I’m thinking about identity politics in particular, which in the second Obama term really has emerged as a dominant issue on the left and has continued under the Biden presidency. So I wonder, I’m pushing back on you a little bit on this economic analysis and more on the cultural concerns and I just would throw onto it, as you mentioned earlier, climate, where in my view it’s become a kind of a cultural religion for an awful lot of young people, and yet that cuts against things like assembly lines for gas powered vehicles. We just had Stellantis, the Chrysler parent warn 3,600 workers in Toledo and Detroit that their jobs are at risk because of California’s electric vehicle mandate.

Ruy Teixeira: I would point out though on the issue of trade deals, and so NAFTA was extremely unpopular in the Midwest among working class voters. And really the China shock in the early 2000s has a big effect on a lot of these communities. And really there’s been some good work that’s shown a relationship between increased republican voting and the influence of the China shock on a lot of these areas of the country. But leaving that aside, I couldn’t agree more that these cultural issues really do start to loom large throughout Obama’s two terms in office, the Black Lives Matter, remember Sterly Starks in 2013 and you see the Democratic party over that decade of the teens really moving so significantly in the direction of identity politics and the climate stuff. I just think that’s huge. I think Democrats really underestimate the extent to which while the elites who dominate the party and some of the younger educated voters they price so highly may think climate’s an existential crisis and there’s no crisis too high to pay to deal with this problem. That’s not how working class voters feel about the economy and about the world and about their priorities. The ranks about number 17 according to some (inaudible) polling in terms of their priorities for what the country needs to pay attention to. So I’ve described it as a Green Achilles Heel at times in terms of the Democrats coalition, that they’re so dedicated, so committed to moving as fast as possible to replace fossil fuels with renewables, whereas I think most working class voters and electric vehicles don’t get me started on that. Most working class voters say, “What?” “You want to do what?” “Why should I sign up for this?” But I think for a lot of Democrats, it’s so important to them that they’re just disregarding these signals.

Paul Gigot: That is fascinating to me because it gets into the religious nature of the belief here in terms of climate. What about identity politics? The breaking down into groups has always been there for quite some time and in fact worked to the Democrats advantage in terms of mobilizing minority groups in their favor when they could portray Republicans as particularly anti minority. That has turned in some respects, and it gets to this point you made earlier about the degree to which the non-white working class is moving away from the Democrats.

Ruy Teixeira: Yeah. I think Hispanics are a really good example of this because I think that Hispanics did support the Democrats at very high levels and they still do to some extent, though that’s declined, because they saw Democrats as being the party that was sympathetic to immigrants and that was on their side economically, it was generally like they might be a little too liberal on some things, but basically fine. But what really changes is when the Democrats start thinking of and insisting that Hispanics think of themselves as people of color who are brown people who are oppressed in the United States, who live in this dystopian hell hole we call the US, and who basically are discriminated against and set upon. And that’s really the problem. That’s not the way Hispanics working class people particularly think about the world. They think about, “I’m here to get ahead in life. I’m here to make a good life for my family. I want communities with safe streets and plenty of opportunity. I’m an American and I want to make my way in America.” And I think when identity politics interferes with that sense, that patriotic, upwardly mobile sense that a lot of Hispanic working class voters have, I think that’s when a lot of them start to draw the line and say, “Well, maybe the Democrats aren’t my party quite in the way I thought.” And the more moderate to conservative these voters are, the more open they are to thinking about voting for the Republicans because I didn’t want to get on the identity politics train. I just wanted to get ahead in life. And I think when Democrats lost track of who these voters really were and started putting them into these boxes that corresponded to their faculty lounge politics view of the world, as James Cardwell once put it, I think they really started to lose some of these voters and will continue to lose them.

Paul Gigot: All right, we’re going to take a break and when we come back we’ll talk more with Ruy Teixeira about the state of the Democratic party.

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Paul Gigot: Welcome back. I’m Paul Gigot, here on Potomac Watch talking to Ruy Teixeira, author of the new book, Where Have All The Democrats Gone, the Soul of the Party in the Age of Extremes. So you write that the Democrats to win back the white working class needs to have a focus on their economic concerns and address those economic anxieties concerns. But if you look at the Biden White House and his Democratic party right now, isn’t that what Biden is trying to do with all of his flogging of what they’re calling Bidenomics? And they rolled that out a few months ago along the way, taking a shot at us at the Wall Street Journal we’d first used the word Bidenomics and then they made it their own and said, “Yeah, it’s terrific,” but that doesn’t seem to be helping them in the polls. Why not?

Teixeira: To Beat the Intersectional Left, We Need More Class Traitors!

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 new Book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

In a recent outstanding piece for The Liberal Patriot, sociologist Musa al-Gharbi noted:

The key schism that lies at the heart of dysfunction within the Democratic Party and the U.S. political system more broadly is between professionals associated with ‘knowledge economy’ industries and those who feel themselves to be the ‘losers’ in the knowledge economy—including growing numbers of working-class and non-white voters.

I believe this is correct. And it leads me to make a suggestion to all those knowledge economy professionals out there who can’t bring themselves to deviate from current Democratic Party orthodoxy because it would supposedly undermine the cause of “social justice”: become a class traitor!

Ask yourself who the social justice you prize so highly is really for. Is it really for the poor and working class who have the short end of the stick in our society or is it to make your feel righteous and onside with Team Progressive? Are your social justice commitments and priorities what the poor and working class actually want? Does the language you speak on these issues even make sense to them?

If not, you should consider that a politics that is appealing to you but not the working class is intrinsically limited and cannot achieve the objectives for a better society that you presumably harbor. You should, in short, consider becoming a class traitor.

At the top of the list for aspiring class traitors is decisively rejecting the intersectional left, the ideological vanguard of today’s knowledge economy professionals. According to this vanguard, actions or arguments should be judged not by their content but rather by the identity of those involved in said actions or arguments. Those identities in turn are defined by an intersectional web of oppressed and oppressors, of the powerful and powerless, of the dominant and marginalized. With this approach, one judges an action not by whether it’s effective, or an argument by whether it’s true, but rather by whether the people involved in the action or argument are in the oppressed/powerless/marginalized bucket or not. If they are, the actions or arguments should be supported; if not, they should be opposed. Finally, all the political stands that follow from this “analysis” are linked together and constitute a social justice catechism that must be uncritically embraced by the knowledge economy faithful.

This whole approach is completely bonkers, defying reasonable standards of logic, evidence, and common sense. Yet it has remarkable influence within the Democratic Party and has associated the party with many positions that are both substantively wrong and politically toxic. Consider the following:

  • It is not the working class that sees the police as an unnecessary evil and opposes rigorous enforcement of the law for public safety and public order.
  • It is not the working class that believes public consumption of hard drugs should be tolerated, with intervention limited to reviving addicts when they overdose.
  • It is not the working class that believes many crimes like shoplifting should be decriminalized because punishing the perpetrators would have “disparate impact”.
  • It is not the working class that believes you should never refer to illegal immigrants as “illegal” and that border security is somehow a racist idea.
  • It is not the working class that believes an overwhelming surge of migrants at the southern border should be accommodated with asylum claims, parole arrangements, and release into urban areas around the country.
  • It is not the working class that believes competitive admissions and job placements should be allocated on the basis of race (“equity”) not merit.
  • It is not the working class that views objective tests as fundamentally flawed if they show racial disparities in achievement.
  • It is not the working class that believes America is a structurally racist, white supremacist society.
  • It is not the working class that sees patriotism as a dirty word and the history of the United States as a bleak landscape of racism and oppression.
  • It is not the working class that thinks sex is “assigned at birth” and can be changed by self-conception, rather than being an objective, biological reality.
  • It is not the working class that thinks it’s a great idea to police the language people use for hidden “microaggressions” and bias against the “marginalized”.
  • And it is definitely not the working class that believes in “decolonize everything” and manages to see murderous thugs like Hamas as righteous liberators of a subaltern people.

No, my fellow knowledge economy professionals, it is not the working class that saddles Democrats and American politics with this nonsense, it is the intersectional left that insists on these absurdities and demands your acquiescence. But you don’t have to give it!

High Suburban Turnout Key to Powering Dem Wins

For a fresh take on the U.S. politics and where it appears to be heading, read “High suburban turnout may be the new norm: We took a detailed look at who turned out to vote in five states in 2023” by 538’s Tia Yang, Mary Radcliffe, and Holly Fuong at abcnews.go.com. As the authors write:

538 analyzed turnout patterns in five states with high-profile elections in 2023, looking at both trends over time and differences between counties with different demographic compositions to see where turnout was highest. (You can download the data we used in this analysis on our GitHub page.) Overall, off-year turnout in these states was at or near its highest level in more than a decade, suggesting that we are still in the high-turnout environment that has characterized U.S. elections since 2016. We also found that turnout rates tended to be higher in suburban counties than in urban and rural ones, and that the pre-2016 conventional wisdom about off- versus on-year turnout has changed — which could pose both an opportunity and a danger to Democrats in 2024.

Since former President Donald Trump took office in 2017, turnout in U.S. elections has been off the charts. According to U.S. Census data, 53 percent of the citizen voting-age population voted in 2018, the highest midterm turnout since at least 1978. The 2020 election broke another record with 67 percent turnout, the highest since 1992. And midterm turnout in 2022 was almost as high as in 2018, at 52 percent.

Turnout rates in off-year elections during the same span have also been elevated. And if the 2023 elections are any indication, turnout in the 2024 presidential election will probably be very high as well. Compared to previous off-year elections with the same types of races on the ballot, Ohio, New Jersey and Pennsylvania all had their highest turnout since at least 2011, and Kentucky and Virginia came very close to matching their turnout acmes from 2019.

The state with the highest 2023 turnout was Ohio; its statewide turnout rate of 43 percent almost matched its 47 percent turnout rate in the 2022 midterms, when the ballot included a competitive open Senate race between Republican J.D. Vance and Democrat Tim Ryan (as well as a less competitive gubernatorial race). This was likely due to high voter engagement on Issue 1, a (successful) ballot measure to codify the right to abortion in the state constitution.

Contentious ballot questions have motivated similar off-year turnout levels in Ohio before: Turnout hit 42 percent in 2011 as voters chose to repeal an unpopular GOP-backed collective bargaining restriction. But Ohio’s high turnout this year seems to be a strong argument in favor of the theory that abortion is still driving voters (especially liberal voters) to the polls, even more than a year removed from the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Ballot questions addressing abortion access will likely be on the ballot again in several states in 2024, and while their effects on turnout may be less pronounced in a presidential year, they could still make a difference — especially when it comes to turning out young voters.

It’s kind of pathetic that we think of stats like 42 percent and even slightly better figures hovering around 50 percent as high turnout numbers. Never mind the percentage of voters who are actually well-informed. It gets worse in selected states as you read the rest of the article. But the article’s most important point is that “one consistent theme across states was that suburban counties saw significantly higher turnout than adjacent cities.”

For example, in Ohio, turnout ranged from 36 to 46 percent in the four counties housing the state’s largest city centers. But turnout was particularly high in populous exurbs, like Delaware County north of Columbus and Geauga County east of Cleveland, which saw turnout rates of 62 and 55 percent, respectively. The results suggest that Democratic mobilization around abortion was one factor driving turnout here: For example, Issue 1 was approved with 57 percent of the vote statewide, while President Joe Biden got just 45 percent in 2020 — a 12-percentage-point difference. But in Geauga County, Issue 1 got 55 percent of the vote, and Biden got 38 percent — a 17-point improvement.

Yang, Radcliffe and Fuong take a deeper dive and provide graphics to underscore the relatively high turnouts in the burbs of the selected states. The suburban strongholds appear to be where Democrats can expect more victories in the years ahead. They conclude:

What these new trends mean for turnout next year isn’t immediately clear. In contrast to the Obama years, odd- and even-year turnout patterns haven’t been totally predictable since 2016, so it’s hard to say whether turnout in urban areas in 2024 will be as high as Democrats hope. But regardless of whether the new voting patterns in cities and rural areas are here to stay, it looks like suburban and mostly urban counties now reliably have the highest turnout — no matter what the calendar says.

Over the past several years, turnout slumps in major cities have been a cause for concern for Democrats. But at the same time, surging turnout in the suburbs — which have become bluer as they’ve grown more racially diverse and as college graduates have moved toward Democrats — seems to have helped offset this. Though suburbs are certainly not monolithic in their party preferences, even small leftward shifts in these areas have benefited Democrats— particularly as they’ve been accompanied by, or perhaps helped drive, high turnout. With this trend continuing in 2023, it seems safe to say suburbs will remain a major political battleground for years to come.

None of this is inevitable and recent years have brought wild cards to the election game which can confound the most astute political analysts. But Dems have to bet on the best available data, which clearly points to cultivating suburban voters as an increasingly pivotal element of Democratic electoral coalitions.