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State of American History, Civics, and Politics

Demographic Deluge, Democratic Nightmare: The Emerging Democratic Majority

The moment of truth has arrived

At this point in time, thanks to the demographic deluge, the Democrats should be coasting to victory. Or so was prophesied two decades ago.

The Emerging Democratic Majority
By John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira

Political experts John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira convincingly use hard data — demographic, geographic, economic, and political — to forecast the dawn of a new progressive era. In the 1960s, Kevin Phillips, battling conventional wisdom, correctly foretold the dawn of a new conservative era. His book, The Emerging Republican Majority, became an indispensable guide for all those attempting to understand political change through the 1970s and 1980s. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, with the country in Republican hands, The Emerging Democratic Majority is the indispensable guide to this era.

In five well-researched chapters and a new afterword covering the 2002 elections, Judis and Teixeira show how the most dynamic and fastest-growing areas of the country are cultivating a new wave of Democratic voters who embrace what the authors call “progressive centrism” and take umbrage at Republican demands to privatize social security, ban abortion, and cut back environmental regulations.

As the GOP continues to be dominated by neoconservatives, the religious right, and corporate influence, this is an essential volume for all those discontented with their narrow agenda — and a clarion call for a new political order.

So stated the publisher blurb for this exciting new book 20 years ago. Ten years later, they doubled down on their prognostication.

The Emerging Democratic Majority Turns 10: Why the new coalition could be here to stay.
By Ruy Teixeira

Ten years ago, John Judis and I argued in The Emerging Democratic Majority that the country’s shifting demographics were giving rise to a strong new Democratic-voting population base. The first glimmerings of this emerging Democratic coalition were visible in George McGovern’s disastrous 1972 campaign, we wrote, making the newly emerging majority “George McGovern’s Revenge.” In the chapter with that title, we described the strengthening alliance between minorities, working and single women, the college educated, and skilled professionals….

We are now ten years farther down this road and McGovern’s revenge only seems sweeter. Barack Obama has just been re-elected, the first Democratic president since Franklin Roosevelt to win successive elections with more than 50 percent of the vote, powered by the continuing rise of the coalition described in the book. In the face of considerable economic adversity, Obama won 332 Electoral College votes, nine out of 10 of the most hotly contested swing states, and a second term with coalition that was stunningly diverse. Here are some of the most striking elements….

It would be hard to imagine a better tenth anniversary present for The Emerging Democratic Majority! But will this new coalition be able to hold together over the long term? That depends on whether the Democrats can provide this coalition with what it wants and needs. As we said in the concluding paragraph of our book:

Today’s Americans…want government to play an active and responsible role in American life, guaranteeing a reasonable level of economic security to Americans rather than leaving them at the mercy of the market and the business cycle. They want to preserve and strengthen Social Security and Medicare, rather than privatize them. They want to modernize and upgrade public education, not abandon it. They want to exploit new bio-technologies and computer technologies in order to improve the quality of life. They do not want science held hostage to a religious or ideological agenda. And they want the social gains of the sixties consolidated, not rolled back; the wounds of race healed, not inflamed.

If the Democrats can do all that, the emerging Democratic majority could be here to stay.

By 2019, this golden age for Democrats seem to have arrived.

Is the Emerging Democratic Majority Finally Coming to Pass?
The suburbs may be slipping from the Republicans’ grasp.
by Paul Waldman
August 11, 2019

In 1997, The American Prospect’s Paul Starr wrote an article titled “An Emerging Democratic Majority,” in which he argued that demographic and voting trends suggested the possibility that Democrats could take firm control of American politics for years or even decades to come. His title was a play on The Emerging Republican Majority, a 1969 book by former Nixon adviser Kevin Phillips that laid out the “Southern Strategy” that Republicans had used with such success….

As the ensuing decades proved, Phillips was right. As for what was to follow, Starr’s argument about a Democratic recovery was offered with plenty of caveats about how things might not work out as the left hoped. But in 2002, John Judis and Ruy Teixeira published a book that convinced many liberals that no matter how much power Republicans might accumulate in one election or another, the future belonged to Democrats. In their book—also called The Emerging Democratic Majority—Judis and Teixeira focused much of their attention on “ideopolises,” large and growing metropolitan areas that would drive our economic and cultural future, and which would be overwhelmingly liberal in their values and politics.

They also argued that racial and ideological trends favored Democrats. Their book closed with the assertion that Americans did and would continue to support a strong government role in public education, fostering technological advancement, and programs like Social Security and Medicare. “And they want the social gains of the ’60s consolidated, not rolled back; the wounds of race healed, not inflamed,” they wrote. “That’s why the Democrats are likely to become the majority party of the early 21st century.”….

There is a growing awareness within the Republican Party that inaction on guns, combined with the administration’s unfathomably cruel immigration policies and the distastefulness of Trump’s relentless racism, is alienating more and more suburban voters, especially women. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found Trump’s approval at 51 percent among suburban men, but only 37 percent among suburban women. As one GOP donor told Bloomberg News, “Republicans are headed for extinction in the suburbs if they don’t distance themselves from the NRA.” Which they can’t do. And there will be more mass shootings between now and next November.

One can imagine a different kind of Republican Party that could compete better with suburban moderates, not to mention do better with non-white and younger voters. It might advocate for lower taxes and a lighter government footprint, but consent to more sensible gun policies and get rid of its race-baiting. The trouble is that the current Republican Party has decided that no priority is higher than holding on to its white, rural base—and in Donald Trump’s view, that requires a commitment to a white identity politics based on hatred and resentment. In an America that grows more diverse by the day, the GOP is actually getting whiter.

Three years into Trump’s term, it is no longer possible for any Republican voter to deny what their party is about. For most, it isn’t enough to get them to vote for a Democratic presidential candidate. But a significant number, perhaps even enough to swing the election, might just decide to stay home. If their losses in the suburbs continue, some in the party will plead that they need to change in order to retake power. There’s no telling if they’ll have the will to do it.

But voting didn’t work out quite as the Democrats expected.

To be continued.

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