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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


How Well Do Democrats Navigate the New ‘Burbs?

Daniel McGraw ponders “What Even Are the Suburbs Nowadays, Anyway? If you want to understand American politics, you need to understand how suburbia has changed in the last half-century” at The Bulwark. As McGraw writes,

The suburban voters in the 2024 election are thought to be key to who will be voted in as the next president, and some analysts are treating this large segment of the population as comparable to the national voter mix (40 R / 40 D / 20 independent), and not much differentiating between suburbs in different states and around different urban areas.

“Time for a reality check,” writes Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and well-respected political demographer and commentator. “Start with the demographic contours of the suburban vote. The idea seems to be that the suburbs are full of liberal, highly-educated voters who are likely to be permanent recruits to the anti-MAGA army. There are certainly some, but actually-existing suburban voters are quite different—and more complex—than this caricature.”

So what is suburbia really in 2023, how has it changed, and how should we think about it politically?

First, the old suburbs in the Northeast and Midwest (both of which regions are losing population) are nothing like the newer ones in the West and South.

Second, the hub-and-spoke model of central cities and suburbs that surround them has been blown apart in recent decades, especially in places like Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Atlanta.

And third, though the suburban demographics are very different nowadays, the issues that matter are still, as they always have been, at the top of the lists of what suburban voters care about: education, public safety, affordable housing, transportation, fair pay. What’s not up there, at least based on the polls: the Big Lie, climate change, gentrification, and voting changes. Which suggests that in the 2024 cycle, “What have you done for me lately?” political thinking will likely predominate over matters of ideological identity.

As for the political ramifications of the transformation of the ‘burbs, McGraw explains:

Moreover, the suburban population has changed quite a bit, becoming more racially diverse and educationally inclusive. According to William H. Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who keeps an eye on the ever-changing suburbs, the suburban population is “more racially diverse than the rest of the country as a whole,” with suburbs in the South and the West being more racially diverse than those of the Midwest and Northeast suburbs. “Black flight” has overtaken white flight in these growth areas.

Frey’s data breakdown of the metro areas shows how this diversity of the suburban population might have a big influence on the 2024 election. The suburbanites in the old swing states’ metro areas are majority white: Philadelphia (68 percent white), Detroit (73 percent), and Milwaukee (83 percent). By contrast, the metro areas that will be the presidential kingmakers this time around are not so much: Atlanta (44 percent white), Las Vegas (34 percent), and Phoenix (60 percent). These are three of the fastest growing metro areas in the country.

If you want to win the Electoral College votes of Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona in 2024, you’ll have to win those three suburbs—after all, the Atlanta area has 56 percent of the entire Georgia population, Las Vegas is 72 percent of Nevada, and Phoenix is 67 percent of Arizona, and those metro areas tend to be about two-thirds suburban.

Phoenix is a good example. Maricopa County voted for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama by 54-44 in 2012, went for Donald Trump narrowly (46-44) in 2016, and gave Biden the win (50-48) in 2020. In the recent runoff Senate election in Georgia, Sen. Raphael Warnock won the eleven-county (mostly suburban) Atlanta metro area by about 500,000 votes. Republican candidate Herschel Walker won the rest of the state by 410,000. The voting math of suburban Atlanta is front and center.

McGraw adds, “The ability to tweak political messaging is hugely important, and in 2024, calibrating the message for the suburbs will be huge….So which party is better positioning itself for success in the suburbs in 2024?” Further,

Republicans are playing the “We won’t fund anything and we’ll investigate everyone” game. That never plays well in the long term.

As for the Democrats, going into 2024, the Atlanta, Phoenix, and Las Vegas metro areas will all be getting their share of the trillion-dollar infrastructure investment, pandemic relief, and economic stimulus cash cow that the Biden administration dropped. Those areas’ suburban voters are going to see shovel-ready projects begun, electric vehicle battery plants open, and chip and semiconductor manufacturing plants opening as well, as well as clean-energy job creation taking place. Already, the Biden administration is targeting such job creation in Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada. Because in the end, the American people like to eat and buy clothes and drive their cars.

Democrats certainly hope that will help. Traditionally, however, Democrats have put more energy into publicizing what they say they are are going to do, rather than getting credit for the things they actually accomplish.  Much depends on how persuasively the Democrats ‘brand’ the shovel-ready, clean-energy and other job-creation projects after they are up and running.

Mark Green: Dems Should Toughen Their Attacks for 2024

Some observations from “If Democrats Want to Win 2024, They Need to Punch Back Hard” by Mark Green at The Nation:

While it’s obviously hard to predict what issues will dominate the next cycle, lessons from the midterms should inspire Democrats to get back on the offense as soon as early 2023, which the fractious speakership fight can only encourage.

For starters, that means tattooing a very unpopular Trump (plunging to only 31 percent favorability rating in the most recent Quinnipiac poll) on nearly all Republican nominees. He’s the product of their party. And whether he ends up running seriously or not, Trump has the potential to destroy the brand of the GOP for a generation—especially after the six currently sitting criminal grand juries conclude their work.

Failing to do so would be like ignoring the disgraced Nixon in 1974 because he was no longer “on the ballot.” Republican candidates who have been either complicit or silent during Trump’s carnage need to be held politically accountable for shredding the truth and the law. Herbert Hoover was a Democratic piñata for some 50 years; the Republicans ran against Jimmy Carter for 20. Trump should be radioactive at least as long.

Green notes further, “An effective response would not mean merely piling even more Trump scandals onto the existing mountain of them, which largely worsens scandal fatigue among weary voters and a cynical media. More urgent are memorable messages and vivid metaphors that tie together the thousands of separate lies and scandals that already add up to the singular truth that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts when it comes to both Don and Ron.”

Will “pocketbook populism” combined with tougher attacks against the Republican’s contempt for democracy and economic policies favoring billionaires be enough to help Democrats gain ground in 2024? Green argues:

As lower inflation, more jobs, cleaner air, and lower drug prices take effect by the next election, some swing voters may take notice.

Can Democrats then run on both this pocketbook populism and an assault on GOP revanchism to create a “blue backlash”?  There’s a new cadre of congressional talent in place to make that case—such as the eloquent House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries, constitutional lawyer Jamie Raskin, wunderkind AOC, and cable-guys Ted Lieu and Eric Swalwell—and keep Republicans on the ropes.

In this crucial interregnum before the transition of the 117th Congress to the 2024 general election, the test is who controls the narrative. Will it be the McCarthy-Greene regime asserting that “87,000 more IRS agents” is Big Brother? That cutting Social Security is essential even if it risks tanking the economy? That the Ethics Committee must be weakened? Or will it be the Jeffries-Raskin bloc responding that the 87,000 number is a Trump-level lie and a euphemism for what is in reality a “Billionaire’s Protection Act,” that failing to increase the debt limit will lead to a “Republican recession,” and that weakening the Ethics Committee is really just a Get-George-Santos-out-of-jail-free card?

The genteel ‘above the fray’ strategy, combined though it was with some highly effective meddling in the adversary’s primaries, may have helped some Democrats in 2022. But 2024 is shaping up to be a brutal year for Democrats — if they don’t sharpen their attacks against Republicans.

Dems Make House Republicans Squirm About Cuts to Social Security and Medicare

From “White House turns talk of Medicare, Social Security cuts against GOP” by Alex Gangitano and Brett Samuels at The Hill:

The White House is turning the tables on House Republican lawmakers when it comes to conservative-led spending proposals that Democrats warn could mean cuts to crucial programs like Medicare and Social Security….The Biden administration is already building on a strategy it deployed during the midterm election season in which it highlighted talk from multiple GOP congressional lawmakers about how they plan to use their new House majority to consider cuts to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.

It’s also putting a spotlight on the possibility of military spending cuts by Republicans in an effort to balance federal spending and reduce the national debt….The Biden administration has made clear it won’t go along with such proposals, framing Republicans as the party that wants to defund the military and threaten social welfare programs.

“They are going to try to cut Social Security and Medicare. It could not be clearer,” White House chief of staff Ron Klain tweeted Monday, sharing a clip of Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) saying on Fox Business Network that major spending cuts would likely require changes to entitlement programs.

As Gangitano and Samuels note, “The Republican Study Committee’s fiscal 2023 model federal budget included increasing the Social Security eligibility age to reflect longevity. The committee argued that the adjustment would continue the gradual increase of the retirement age, noting that full retirement was raised to 67 in 2022.”

This is a really bad look for McCarthy and other Republican House leaders. “I can’t imagine a less persuasive case to the American people than, ‘Let me hollow out Medicare or I’ll set off an economic bomb that kills millions of jobs overnight,’” one Democratic strategist said.”

But the Republicans won’t be committing political suicide unless Democrats and the media insist they own it. It shouldn’t be hard. It’s up to Democrats – elected officials, party leaders and rank and file – to make sure young voters all across America understand that it is their health care and retirement that is on the GOP chopping block, and only one party is working to stop them.

Teixeira: From Environmentalism to Climate Catastrophism: A Democratic Story (Part 1)

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

This is the first part of a three part series

The beginnings of the environment as an issue can be traced to the conservation movement of the late 19th and early 20th century associated with figures like Gifford Pinchot, head of the Forest Service under Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club. They were Republicans but many Democrats also embraced the movement; Woodrow Wilson created the National Park Service in 1916. And the New Deal in the 1930’s had a prominent place for conservation activities, most famously in the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) where young men were employed to improve forests and national parks. Trail systems and lodges from that era are still widely used today.

With varying degrees of strictness the conservation movement’s guiding principle was to insulate unspoiled parts of nature from development by market forces, thereby preserving them for healthy leisure and recreation. The movement, like all future iterations of the environmental movement, assumed an unending conflict between man and nature that required good people to take the side of nature.

As development proceeded over the course of the 20th century, the stresses on nature became ever larger and more obvious, leading to the emergence after World War II of an apocalyptic strain in the conservation movement. The argument gained traction that economic and population growth would, if unchecked, destroy the environment and lead to civilizational collapse. Accompanying that strain was a milder version of the idea that directly challenged the old conservation ethos: simply conserving what was left of nature was not enough. The reality of the interdependent natural world meant that man’s activities were having dire effects everywhere on the planet—where people lived and where they didn’t. These activities were upsetting a finely balanced system, resulting in the degradation of both nature, as conventionally understood, and people’s lives. Restoring and preserving that balance was what it meant to be an environmentalist.

This reformist environmentalism gained purchase during the 1950’s, associated with figures like Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and John Kenneth Galbraith who were trying to expand the remit of contemporary liberalism. Galbraith’s best-selling book, The Affluent Society, dwelt on the ways the mass consumer capitalism was good at meeting basic needs but very poor at producing a healthy society for its citizens. One of the symptoms of the latter failure was the increasing degradation of the environment through pollution of the air and water.

Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, Silent Spring, picked up on Galbraith’s concern and vastly amplified it, posing the environmental problem in dire, life-threatening terms. It caught the popular imagination and created a national debate about the environment almost overnight. This was the birth of the modern environmental movement and its instantiation as a movement of the educated middle class, leaving behind the conservation movement’s upper class base.

The movement proved enormously effective as a reform movement. Carson’s book veered toward the apocalyptic, but the movement she inspired was laser-focused on practical reforms that would immediately reduce pollution and safeguard the environment. A raft of legislation in the Johnson administration followed like the Clean Air and Water Quality Acts and, in the Nixon administration, the creation of the Environmental Protection Act and the promulgation of the NEPA (National Environmental Protection Act) standards. This legislation and subsequent action was directly responsible for a radical reduction in pollution of all kinds in the next decades.

But the apocalyptic strain of environmentalism, which saw industrial society as an imminent threat to human life and to the planet, was not eliminated by these reforming successes. Instead a closer relationship evolved between mainstream environmentalism and a radical view of the fundamental dangers of industrial society. The first manifestation of this was the anti-nuclear power movement which arose in the 1970’s and was turbo-charged by the 1979 Three Mile Island incident, Building on public fears of  nuclear meltdowns and radiation poisoning, the movement was successful in stopping the build-out of nuclear power in the United States.

In the 1990’s, as a scientific consensus emerged that greenhouse gases were steadily warming the earth, this movement was superseded by the climate movement. Here was clear proof that industrial society and human civilization were counterposed. Initially meliorist in orientation, the movement has become more radical as it has gathered strength. The quest to eliminate the possibility of dire scenarios has met the reality that industrial societies built on fossil fuels are likely to change only slowly, for both political and technical reasons.

This has promoted a sense that radical action to transform industrial society must be taken as fast as possible. That view has gained hegemony within the Democratic party infrastructure, supporting activist groups and associated cultural elites. Practical objections about the speed with which a “clean energy transition” can be pursued and concerns about effects on jobs and prices are now outweighed for most Democrats by the perceived urgency of the mission. That has set the Democrats apart from the working class voters they aspire to represent for whom these practical objections and concerns loom large. It has become a significant factor in the Great Divide that has opened between postindustrial metros and the rural areas, towns and small cities of middle America.

Teixeira Excerpts Chart Moderate Course for Dems

Just as America can not function well without at least two healthy political parties, both committed to democracy, rational debate and bipartisanship, the Democratic Party can’t grow and prosper without both progressive and moderate voices making their best arguments. TDS contributor Ruy Teixeira has done as much as anyone to make sure the moderate perspective gets a fair hearing.  No Democratic writer has worked harder to find the best data, analyze it and make a data-driven case for thoughtful policy choices, rooted in opinion polls, election returns and demographic analysis. As we await his next contribution, here’s a few excerpts from some of his recent articles:

“With all the Democratic back-patting going on, I’m not sure they’re really facing up to an emerging problem that severely undermines their electoral theory of the case. I speak of their declining margins with the nonwhite working class. That’s not to say they don’t still carry the nonwhite working class vote, it’s just they carry it by a lot less. That wasn’t in the “rising American electorate” battle plan….As I have previously noted, AP/NORC VoteCast estimates the decline in Democrats’ advantage among the nonwhite working class as 14 points between 2020 and 2022, 23 points between 2018 and 2022 and (splicing in some Catalist data, which are consistent with VoteCast data where they overlap) an astonishing 33 point drop between 2012 and 2022.” – from The Democrats’ Nonwhite Working Class Problem.

“Democrats lost the House popular vote overall by 3 points in this election. That’s bad enough but they also lost the statewide House vote in seven (7!) states with Democratic-held Senate seats up in 2024. That includes four Biden states (Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) and three Trump states (Montana, Ohio and West Virginia). But the Biden states were all carried by under 3 points (.3, 2.4, 1.2 and .6, respectively) while the Trump states were all crushing Democratic losses (16, 8 and 39 points, respectively). It defies logic to think Democrats can compete successfully across these House Republican-supporting states in 2024, especially if Republicans run halfway sane candidates, without burnishing their common sense, distanced-from-the-national-party credentials. More progressivism ain’t gonna do it. Moderation = Democratic votes.” – from Ten Reasons Why Democrats Should Become More Moderate.

“Democrats’ hold on the suburban vote—such as it is—is far more tenuous than might be implied by the popular image of socially liberal, college-educated suburban voters who can no longer countenance voting for the GOP under any circumstances. Democrats’ target suburban voters must necessarily include legions of moderate and/or working class voters who might not draw as much sustenance from a steady diet of anti-MAGAism as Democrats anticipate….And just how much hold do the Democrats have on suburban voters anyway? In the AP/NORC VoteCast survey, the most reliable election survey available, Democrats carried suburban voters nationwide by a single point in 2022. That’s a slippage of 9 points from the Democrats’ 10 point margin in 2020. Interestingly, the slippage in Democratic support from 2020 to 2022 was actually larger among nonwhite than white suburban voters….These data indicate strongly that Democrats might not be in quite the catbird seat they think they are with suburban voters and therefore with the 2024 election.” – from The Democrats’ Tenuous Hold on the Suburbs.

“Democrats lost the nationwide popular vote by 3 points (48-51), along with control of the House. Working class Democratic supportdeclined…..again (down 9 margin points). Hispanic support declined….again (down 11 points). Black support declined….again (down 14 points). Republicans got 40 percent of the Hispanic working class House vote and 45 percent among Hispanic men. They got 19 percent among black men, According to an AARP/Fabrizio Ward/Impact Research post-election survey, Democrats did not do any better among these demographics in competitive House districts. The did however clean up in these districts among white college graduate women, carrying them by 34 points….This does not sound like a ceiling being broken. It’s more like the sound of stalemate.” – from The Cultural Left (Still) Puts a Ceiling on Democratic Support.

“…It’s worth considering the possibility that Democrats did not, in fact, fix all their problems in 2022 and that some of these may be lurking beneath the surface to undermine their chances—perhaps fatally—in 2024. One such problem is the Democrats’ Hispanic voter problem. In 2020, Democrats’ advantage among Hispanic voters declined nationwide by 16 points relative to 2016. Democrats had hoped to stop the bleeding in 2022. Did they?….It does not appear so. Prior to the election, the AEI demographics tracker, which averages poll subgroup results, found the Democratic Congressional margin among Hispanic voters consistently 7-9 points below its 2020 level and 17-19 points below its 2018 level. Results from AP/NORC VoteCast indicate that the drop in the 2022 election was actually larger than that foreshadowed by the pre-election data. These data show Democrats carrying Hispanics nationwide by just 56-39 in 2022, a 12 point decline in margin relative to 2020 (18 points relative to 2018). For what it’s worth, the less-reliable network exit polls, show an identical decline in Hispanic support between 2020 and 2022….AP VoteCast estimates the decline in Democrats’ advantage among the nonwhite working class as 14 points between 2020 and 2022, 23 points between 2018 and 2022 and (splicing in some Catalist data, which are consistent with VoteCast data where they overlap) an astonishing 33 point drop between 2012 and 2022.,,,I’d say that qualifies as a problem—and one that’s very, very far from being fixed.” – from Democrats’ Hispanic Problem — The Sequel.

It’s not easy to find equally well-argued, data-driven cases for progressive Democratic policy choices. if you have any, send them our way.

Scher: Swing Voters Are Pivotal, Not Mythical

At The Washington Monthly, Bill Scher weighs in on the importance of swing voters:

Swing Voters Exist: “Modern elections don’t turn on capturing a mythical ‘center,’ they turn on activating, expanding, and mobilizing your base and demoralizing the opposition,” wrote the progressive commentator Jamelle Bouie for Slate in 2018. Fresh from her first primary election win in that same year, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, “Our swing voter is not red-to-blue. Our swing voter is the voter to the non-voter, the non-voter to the voter.”

The jolt of Donald Trump’s fluky 2016 Electoral College victory turbocharged such simplistic conclusions, though they initially sprang from more nuanced data-driven analyses, like Alan I. Abramowitz’s 2011 book The Disappearing Center and the 2012 academic paper from Andrew Gelman, David Rothschild, Sharad Goel, and Doug Rivers titled “The Mythical Swing Voter.”

The academic debate has ideological overtones. If elections are primarily won with base turnout, then Democrats should move farther to the left without fear of alienating moderates. If not, then Democrats need to be more careful about their mix of issue positions.

In 2022, we got a crystal-clear answer: Swing voters exist, and they swung.

As Nate Cohn reported, “Final turnout data shows that registered Republicans turned out at a higher rate—and in some places a much higher rate—than registered Democrats, including in many of the states where Republicans were dealt some of their most embarrassing losses,” particularly Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia. Cohn also notes that preliminary data suggests that the African American share of the electorate might have “sank to its lowest level since 2006.” Without swing voters, Democrats would have lost the Senate.

“Knowing that swing voters exist doesn’t mean that progressive ideas must be jettisoned to win them over,” Scher concludes. “But just because wooing swing voters is tricky doesn’t merit waving them away as mythical unicorns.”

Post-Midterms Priority for Dems: Restore Unions Where Possible

In “The First Thing Michigan Democrats Should Do With Their New Power” at The New Republic, Steven Greenhouse, senior fellow at the Century Foundation and author of Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor, writes:

Now that Democrats in Michigan have won control of the governor’s mansion and both houses of the state legislature for the first time in nearly four decades, they have an excellent opportunity to do what no state legislature in the U.S. has done in over a half-century: repeal a right-to-work law.

Such laws are deliberately anti-union and divisive. They let workers opt out of paying any dues or fees to their union while still enjoying the benefits their union provides them: winning better pay and benefits and fighting to protect them if they’re fired. Pushed by corporations and billionaire donors, Republican lawmakers have enacted these laws in state after state because they weaken labor unions by sapping their treasuries and undercutting their power—both in the workplace and in politics.

In an era when Republicans have repeatedly prevented Congress from enacting pro-union legislation like the Protecting the Right Organize Act, the Michigan legislature—as soon as Democrats take control in January—will be in position to take a momentous step to strengthen unions. Repealing right-to-work in Michigan would be a big symbolic and substantive shot in the arm for labor across the U.S. It would also be a powerful way for Governor Gretchen Whitmer to prove her labor bona fides if she runs for president one day.

Greenhouse notes that “One study found that the portion of workers in right-to-work states who opt out of paying union dues or fees ranged from 9 percent in Georgia to as high as 27 percent in Louisiana, 31 percent in Florida, and 39 percent in South Dakota. This translates into a sharp decline in dues payments, and that weakens union treasuries and hampers unions’ ability to do organizing and other work.”

As for the political consequences of unions, Greenhouse adds, “In a recent study, three scholars found that “when right-to-work laws are in place, Democrats up and down the ballot do worse.” They concluded that in “right-to-work counties,” Democrats perform about 3.5 percentage points worse in presidential elections, with “similar effects in Senate, House, and Gubernatorial races, as well as on state legislative control.” That study also found a 2 percent drop in voter turnout in “right-to-work counties.” Let’s not forget that in 2016, Hillary Clinton lost Wisconsin and Michigan by less than 1 percent of the vote. Further,

Conservative operatives know that once a state passes right-to-work and other anti-union measures, it’s easier for Republicans to enact other conservative legislation, like restricting voting rights, cutting Medicaid, and giving tax breaks to corporations and the rich. In his book State Capture: How Conservative Activists, Big Business, and Wealthy Donors Reshaped the American States—and the Nation, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez wrote, “State policy moves sharply to the right after the passage of anti-union right-to-work laws—with real consequences for ordinary Americans on issues like minimum wage and labor market standards.”

With 71 percent of all Americans, including 56 percent of Republicans, voicing approval of unions in an August Gallup poll, it is clear that red state legislatures—pushed by corporations and wealthy donors—are often far more anti-union than the public at large. In 2018, Missourians voted 67 to 33 percent to repeal a year-old right-to-work law enacted by the state legislature.

Unions are not only good for American workers; They are also essential for building working Democratic majorities in federal, state and local legislative bodies.

Battle of the Burbs Likely to Shape 2024 Election(s)

Some insights for Democrats in “Black Voters Are Transforming the Suburbs — And American Politics: An influx of Black voters into suburbia holds enormous promise for Democrats, but Republicans are fighting back” by David Siders, Sean McMinn, Brampton Booker and Jesus A. Rodriguez at Politico:

Around the country, the number of Black people living in U.S. suburbs ballooned during the first two decades of this century, increasing from 8.8 million to 13.6 million nationwide, according to POLITICO Magazine’s analysis. Today, more than one-third of Black Americans live in suburban areas — the fastest-growing areas in the country for Black people.

At first blush, the suburbanization of the Black vote holds enormous promise for Democrats, pushing the party’s most loyal base of voters into suburban areas that, in recent election cycles, have determined the balance of power in Congress and the presidency. According to a POLITICO Magazine analysis of election results from last month’s midterms, Democrats dominated suburban districts that saw a large influx of Black residents over the last two decades. Even in red states like Texas, where the Black population is eclipsed by white and Latino voters, Black people are by far Democrats’ most dependable constituency, with 84 percent of Black voters in Texas last month casting Democratic ballots in the state’s gubernatorial race, compared to 57 percent of Latinos and 33 percent of whites, according to exit polls.

“When you think about the suburbs becoming more diverse,” said Tom Bonier, CEO of the Democratic data firm TargetSmart, “it just creates a way more efficient distribution of Democratic votes, where they’re not as packed into the cities.”

The most recent example: the once reliably red state of Georgia, which has shifted in favor Democrats in the last two election cycles. The historic Senate runoff this month featured for the first time in modern Georgia — and one of the handful of instances in American politics — two Black nominees: incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock, the state’s first Black senator and an activist pastor who leads Martin Luther King Jr.’s church in Atlanta, and Republican Herschel Walker, a former running back and Heisman Trophy winner who had the backing of former president Donald Trump. Warnock’s victory, by roughly 97,000 votes, was secured by maintaining Democratic gains in counties that had traditionally voted Republican, including the Atlanta suburbs of Cobb and Henry counties.

The authors also note that “The migration of Black populations away from city centers to the nation’s suburbs is happening across the U.S., from southern cities like Houston and New Orleans to midwestern cities like Chicago to western cities like Oakland and Los Angeles, and all down the East Coast, from New York to Washington to Atlanta.” Further,

For Democrats laboring to take advantage of the rapidly diversifying suburbs, a bigger challenge isn’t the Black candidates Republicans are running, but total Republican control over redistricting in states like Texas. The constitutionally authorized process, by which state legislatures take census data and redraw their congressional maps, often means whichever party controls a state legislature gets to shape districts to its benefit — as long as there is no overwhelming evidence of racial discrimination.

According to the progressive Brennan Center for Justice, Republicans controlled the drawing of 177 House districts in 19 states, or 41 percent of the lower chamber’s seats, in redistricting’s last round. Democrats, by comparison, control redistricting in seven states, or 11 percent of seats. (Other states use less partisan venues to draw maps, such as independent commissions or courts, which represent 40 percent of House seats.) In the past, Republicans have used the process to draw maps that dilute the voting power of urban areas, which tend to elect Democrats, by carving them up and joining them with more conservative suburbs. But voting rights experts say that Republicans are increasingly targeting the suburbs themselves, which are becoming more liberal as Black voters and other voters of color move there. Their strategy: merging those diversifying suburban districts with rural areas, which tend to vote red.

The diversification of America’s ‘burbs’ is a pivotal trend, juiced by accelerating in-migration in many southern and western states. Much depends on how well the Democrats craft their messaging in these areas in 2024.

Teixeira: The Democrats’ Nonwhite Working Class Problem

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

With all the Democratic back-patting going on, I’m not sure they’re really facing up to an emerging problem that severely undermines their electoral theory of the case. I speak of their declining margins with the nonwhite working class. That’s not to say they don’t still carry the nonwhite working class vote, it’s just they carry it by a lot less. That wasn’t in the “rising American electorate” battle plan.

As I have previously noted, AP/NORC VoteCast estimates the decline in Democrats’ advantage among the nonwhite working class as 14 points between 2020 and 2022, 23 points between 2018 and 2022 and (splicing in some Catalist data, which are consistent with VoteCast data where they overlap) an astonishing 33 point drop between 2012 and 2022.

That’s the national data. It’s interesting to look at the state-level data to see some of these places where this pattern manifested itself.

Arizona. The 2020 Presidential election and 2022 gubernatorial election were both extremely close. Interestingly, while Democrat Katie Hobbs ran quite a bit ahead of Biden among white college voters, she actually ran 3 points behind among nonwhite working class voters.

California. Gavin Newson in 2022 ran considerably behind Biden in 2020. One place where he kept almost all of Biden’s support from 2020 was among white college voters. In contrast, he lost a lot of support among nonwhite working class voters: 14 points.

Florida. Ron DeSantis of course ran way ahead of Trump in his 2022 gubernatorial race—about 16 points. But he ran 27 points ahead among nonwhite working class voters. And he did 38 points (!) better among nonwhite working class voters this year than he did in his initial 2018 gubernatorial race.

Georgia. Brian Kemp ran ahead of Trump in his 2022 re-election, albeit not on DeSantis’ level. But he did 16 margin points better among nonwhite working class voters and, compared to his initial election bid in 2018, also against Stacey Abrams, did 27 points better among those voters.

Pennsylvania. John Fetterman ran almost 4 points ahead of Biden in his successful bid for the Senate. Interestingly, as confirmed by an analysis on 538, he actually did even better than that among white working class voters in the state. But the Fetterman magic did not extend to nonwhite working class voters. He did an astonishing 21 points worse among these voters.

Texas. Greg Abbott ran about 5 points ahead of Trump in 2022. He did even better than that among nonwhite working class voters, running 15 points ahead of Trump across the state.

This pattern did not hold everywhere but it held in enough places to give the Democrats plenty to worry about. And, as noted above, we are now talking about a general trend of fairly long standing.

Amberg: Dems Can Build on Recent Success with Focus on Economic Equity

Stephen Amberg, author of A Democracy That Works: How Working-Class Power Defines Liberal Democracy in the United States, explains why “The 2022 midterm results show how the US party realignment is continuing” at the Long Read of the London School of Economics and Political Science. Among his observations:

“The 2022 midterm election is confirmation that the US turned the corner in 2020 from the neoliberal party system that has dominated since the 1980s. There is no guarantee the process will continue, and many forces are in play, but the Biden administration and Democratic Congress not only delivered policies that take a new post-neoliberal direction in economic strategy…..Democrats were liberal on cultural issues and favored equal economic opportunity, which, they argued, could be secured in the new economy by targeted social investments in education and health care, retraining, and entitlement reform. But, like other leftwing parties in Europe, the Democrats alienated the working-classes and played into the hands of rightwing critics who labeled them frauds and elitists….”

The Republican Party has moved its campaign messaging to the far right. What else could it do? The Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. Their neoliberal governing strategy became very unpopular. Deregulation of finance and bailouts of banks, free trade and off-shoring jobs, tax cuts for the rich, deregulation of civil rights and voting rights, cutbacks in pensions, education, and health care, lagging the minimum wage behind inflation, privatization of the veterans’ health care system and Medicare — none of it is popular. In contrast, this year’s Democratic attacks on corporate profiteering, raising taxes on corporations, guaranteeing health care, increasing the minimum wage, and forgiving some student debt polled very well.”

Amberg notes further that “The Biden administration is the most pro-labor administration since John F. Kennedy’s. The historically outstanding 2022 results confirm the potential of the new Democratic strategy. If they stick to the strategy, they can establish dominance in the party system.” In addition,

….Of course, the Biden administration struggled for a year to corral Senate votes to pass the progressives’ plans; in the end, Congress passed only part of it. But the important points are, first, it did pass quite a lot and, second, the Biden Democrats are rejecting the Republicans’ definition of electoral space and they are expanding political possibilities. Just this year Democrats passed major bills for energy and climate action, infrastructure investment, a corporate minimum tax, the CHIPS and Science Act that asserts a new industry policy, including microchip manufacturing in the US, reduced ACA health insurance premiums for nine million people, expanded Medicare benefits and capped insulin prices, increased funding for veterans, the military, and local police, and passed the Safer Communities Act to address gun violence and mental health. Congressional Republicans almost all voted against every bill. Biden ordered up to $20,000 in student loan forgiveness with an income cap, rallied NATO to help Ukraine resist Russian aggression, and is keeping Trump’s trade pressure on China.

“The Democrats’ new definition of politics contrasts with the Republicans’ messaging about the “elites vs. the people,” Amberg writes. “Biden Democrats are organizing an “equitable economy vs. corporate power” cleavage. This has a distinct working-class dimension to it, but now understood as an “intersectional” working-class. This theme contributed to victories in Pennsylvania, Ohio Congressional races, and in Michigan, Minnesota and elsewhere. The Progressive Caucus in the Congress is adding members.”

Amberg concludes, “Can the Democrats stick to the equitable economy theme against Republican Congressional opposition and corporate hostility? In their favor, the laws already passed earlier this year are going to be implemented and people will receive the benefits. In 2023, the Democrats will still have control of the White House and the Senate, guaranteeing approval of Biden’s judges and executive appointments. They can do a lot to sustain the momentum in the next two years.”