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Are Democrats Capable of Crafting a New National Narrative?

The moment of truth has arrived

For roughly two decades, the Democratic Party was content to rest on its laurels. After all there was a demographic deluge coming that would guarantee the election of Democrats just as assuredly as the election of a Republican governor in Wisconsin would guarantee Republican victories forever in the state. It always won the popular vote for presidency in the baby Boomer era save for post-9/11. The “emerging Democratic majority” meant the future was theirs for the taking. All they had had to do is wait for it to happen.

But events have not worked out as expected. At the beginning of this year, The New York Times joined in sounding death knell for the “emerging Democratic majority.”

The On Politics Newsletter
Confessions of a Liberal Heretic
Ruy Teixeira was co-author of one of the most influential political books of the 21st century. Now, he says, Democrats are getting its lessons all wrong.
By Blake Hounshell and Leah Askarinam Jan. 25, 2022

A funny thing happened on the way to the emerging Democratic majority. Twenty years on, the co-authors of a hugely influential work on the subject acknowledge that their party took a detour.

In 2002, the political scientist Ruy Teixeira and the journalist John B. Judis published a book that struck a chord among liberals despondent over the success of George W. Bush, a president who was then so popular that he gained seats in that year’s midterm election.

“The Emerging Democratic Majority” took note of the demographic change pulsing through the country, and boldly predicted that the Democratic Party was poised to dominate American politics for the foreseeable future….

But it unraveled quickly with the election of Donald Trump, who not only discovered pockets of white working-class voters that few knew existed, but also appealed to more voters of color than anyone had expected….

Teixeira is unsparing about the party strategists who he believes are leading Democrats astray — and unapologetic about offending many on his own side. His newsletter has become a kind of samizdat for like-minded liberals who aren’t as willing to speak their minds.

“The second thing we didn’t anticipate was the eventual effect of professional-class hegemony in the Democratic Party — that it would tilt the Democrats so far to the left on sociocultural issues that it would actually make the Democratic Party significantly unattractive to working-class voters.

It’s a huge liability for the Democrats, because the people who staff the party, the people who staff the think tanks, the advocacy groups, the foundations, the staffers, they’re all singing from the same hymnal to some extent. They live in this liberal cultural bubble, particularly the younger members.”

By April of this year Ruy Teixeira was quite despondent about what is going to happen a scarce few days from now.

Will the 2022 Election Be a Teachable Moment for the Democrats?
It’s Certainly Looking Like It Should Be
Ruy Teixeira
Apr 14, 2022

How bad will the 2022 election be for the Democrats? In all likelihood, quite bad…..

So there are not a lot of good signs here. In fact, hardly any. The prospect of a very serious wipeout does seem plausible.

And one might add, exposing the party’s lack of understanding of what the American people most wanted, which was very simply the return of normality not transformation.

That teachable moment should be, above all, about re-acquainting the party with the actually-existing demographics and politics of the country they live in. Given patterns of educational and geographical polarization, they are now at a crippling disadvantage in what remains an overwhelmingly working class and non-urban country. There are simply too many districts and states in the country where that polarization redounds to their disadvantage and makes them uncompetitive. That is not a problem that can be solved by “mobilizing the base”. It calls instead for expanding your coalition by persuading more working class and non-urban voters you share their values and priorities.

It is either do that or brace yourself for a really bad 2024. And you know what that means.

Lost Hope of Lasting Democratic Majority
Revisiting an influential book and the notion that demographics are destiny.
By Nate Cohn
Sept. 24, 2022

Today we wish a belated and maybe not-so-Happy 20th Birthday to “The Emerging Democratic Majority,” the book that famously argued Democrats would gain an enduring advantage in a multiracial, postindustrial America.

There are countless explanations for the rise of Donald Trump and the growing dysfunction of American political life. This book does not necessarily rank at the top of that list. But when historians look back on this era, the book’s effect on American politics might be worth a mention.

The thesis that Democrats were on the cusp of a lasting advantage in national politics helped shape the hopes, fears and, ultimately, the conduct of the two major parties — especially once the Obama presidency appeared to confirm the book’s prophecy.

It transformed modest Democratic wins into harbingers of perpetual liberal rule. It fueled conservative anxiety about America’s growing racial diversity, even as it encouraged the Republican establishment to reach out to Hispanic voters and pursue immigration reform. The increasingly popular notion that “demographics are destiny” made it easier for the progressive base to argue against moderation and in favor of mobilizing a new coalition of young and nonwhite voters. All of this helped set the stage for the rise of Mr. Trump….

In retrospect, gun control and environmental issues were harbingers of one of the major themes of postindustrial politics: White working-class voters were slowly repelled by the policy demands of the secular, diverse, postindustrial voters who were supposed to power a new Democratic majority.

The book is all but silent on the issues that fit into this category, like same-sex marriage, immigration, climate change, inequality or racial justice. …

In the real world, things aren’t held constant. Demographic change can provoke backlash. And, even if it doesn’t, a party courting new voters might still find itself losing ground among its old supporters, who were brought to the party by a different set of messages, issues and candidates. And even if a party does everything right, and manages to squeeze a point or two out of demographic shifts in a given election — the way President Obama probably did in 2012 — it might just tempt a party to cash in its electoral chips on an agenda that costs support from a key group. It might even convince a party that demographics are destiny — and that the hard work of persuading voters and building a broad and sometimes fractious coalition just isn’t necessary.

What does the Republican Party stand for? Make America Great Again (MAGA). True that means help rich people get richer, ban abortion, and rule by the immature whim of Trump. At least it is something. It enables Republicans to fake being patriotic even as they trash the Constitution and adhere to the wildest conspiracy fantasies one can imagine.

What does the Democratic Party stand for? It is not for Trump and it is for abortion. Where is the New Deal? Where is the New Frontier? Where is the Great Society? Build Back Better just doesn’t cut it as a catchy slogan that resonates with the voting public. By contrast “Woke” works well but for all the wrong reasons if you want to win an election. The Democrats were counting on the emerging Democratic majority. So far all it has done is to scare Republicans and alienate former Democratic voters. What if any lessons will they learn from the upcoming election? Maybe they will get lucky and Trump will declare his candidacy just as he is being indicted.

What will White Racists Do if the Republican Party Becomes Diverse?

The moment of truth has arrived

The Democratic Party is the party of diversity. Everyone knows that. Night after night, talking-heads reiterate the message they deliver podcast after podcast, op-ed piece after op-ed piece, article after article. The demographics of the American voting population is changing and white people, especially non-college educated white people are the losers. As a result they are deploying every trick in the book and some that aren’t in the face of the inevitable loss of power to curtail the emerging Democratic majority (Demographic Deluge, Democratic Nightmare: The Emerging Democratic Majority).

Now finally their ship has arrived. The Democrats control the House, the Senate, and the White House and this is only the beginning. They should be eagerly anticipating upcoming elections which will only serve to demonstrate that emerging Democratic majority. Right?

There are some chinks in that scenario. Have the Democrats been listening?

What Happened to the Emerging Democratic Majority?
Hans-Georg Betz
February 18, 2021 10:25 EDT

Trump also managed to garner the second-highest share of the non-white vote, 26%. Only George W. Bush outdid him, winning 28% in 2004… Against that, by the time of the 2020 election, there was a wealth of evidence that “racial revanchism” was central to President Trump’s political agenda. This, however, did not prevent a significant number of minority voters from casting their ballots for him. Whether or not this made a difference is an interesting question. In some cases, it might have, most notably in Texas.

….  Trump, however, did surprisingly well in the heavily Latino counties in southern Texas along the Rio Grande border with Mexico. In Starr county, for instance, which is almost completely Hispanic, Trump gained more than 55% of the vote compared to 2016. These results, as neutral observers have charged, “ended up helping to dash any hopes Democrats had of taking Texas.”

High Hopes

Ahead of the election, Democrats had high hopes that this time, the emerging Democratic majority was finally going to materialize. The notion goes back to the title of a book from 2002, written by John Judis and Ruy Teixeira. In it, the authors argued that the future belonged to the Democrats, for a number of reasons. There was the transformation of America’s demography, there were secular ideological changes going in a progressive direction, and there was, last but not least, the growing socioeconomic and sociocultural dominance of large metropolitan areas, rooted in the growth of a postindustrial economy — what Teixeira called “ideopolises,” organized around ideas and services….

Today’s “global cities” such as New York, London, Paris and Tokyo generate a significant part of their respective nation’s wealth. At the same time, however, they also represent quasi self-contained entities increasingly disconnected from the rest of the country.

This is a problem, for in the process, the hinterland, which at one time played a crucial role as a supplier of myriads of inputs from small and medium-sized companies, has largely become structurally irrelevant to the metropolitan economy. With it went the middle-class labor force that was the backbone of what once was known as America’s heartland but is today disparaged as flyover country, its inhabitants dismissed as deplorable and repellent racist, sexist, homophobic ignoramuses. Proof: Why else would they have voted for somebody like Trump?

After roughly two decades since the book was published, the emerging Democratic majority has still not fully materialized.

Not Fade Away….

Even if Trump should miraculously disappear from the American political scene, Trumpism, as The Washington Post’s conservative commentator Gary Abernathy has recently maintained, “Trumpism is the GOP’s future.” If this indeed should be the case, it means that the chances for the emergence of a Democratic majority are likely to be as bleak as they have been over the past two decades….

The same applies to all the white women who voted for Trump, despite his record of routinely disparaging and denigrating women. As Sarah Jaffe has put it in an article for the New Labor Forum, no single fact about the 2016 election was “more confounding than the fact that Trump’s margin of victory included a slim majority of white women voters.” Things were even worse in 2020. While Trump lost some support among white men, his support among white women remained virtually unchanged.

Radical Nostalgia….

…. In response to the statement that “the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it,” more than a third of respondents agreed either completely (11%) or somewhat (25%).

In light of the events of January 6, this is quite alarming. But it jibes with the findings of a recent study of MAGA supporters, who to a significant extent consist of white Christian males beyond retirement age. Full of resentment toward assertive women no longer willing to take shit from men, African Americans seen as not trying hard enough and immigrants accused of changing American culture for the worse, they epitomize this kind of radical political nostalgia….

Are the Democrats listening? Even by February, 2021, some people knew there was no emerging Democratic majority. Still night after night one could hear Democratic strategists/advocates/ analysts pontificate about the problem was white racists who were losing their positions of power. And there seems to be nothing elitists enjoy more than to alienate people who once voted Democratic. Finally it seemed as if the long awaited dream of the “emerging Democratic majority” was dead.

Is the dream of an ’emerging Democratic majority’ dead? W. James Antle III
December 8, 2021

This article comments on the growing number of Hispanics who vote Republican. For a while I was clipping articles about this trend. I stopped because there were too many and the development was too obvious. Hispanics are not a monolithic people. Hispanics are not a “Middle Passage” people. Hispanics are not a 1619 people. Hispanics are not Woke. Democrats are only slowly awakening to that reality. Even Ruy Teixeira was ready to throw in the towel.

The Democrats’ Hispanic Voter Problem
It’s Not As Bad As You Think—It’s Worse
Ruy Teixeira
Dec 9, 2021

The Democrats are steadily losing ground with Hispanic voters. The seriousness of this problem tends to be underestimated in Democratic circles for a couple of reasons: (1) they don’t realize how big the shift is; and (2) they don’t realize how thoroughly it undermines the most influential Democratic theory of the case for building their coalition.

On the latter, consider that most Democrats like to believe that, since a relatively conservative white population is in sharp decline while a presumably liberal nonwhite population keeps growing, the course of social and demographic change should deliver an ever-growing Democratic coalition. It is simply a matter of getting this burgeoning nonwhite population to the polls.

But consider further that, as the Census documents, the biggest single driver of the increased nonwhite population is the growth of the Hispanic population. They are by far the largest group within the Census-designated nonwhite population (19 percent vs. 12 percent for blacks). While their representation among voters considerably lags their representation in the overall population, it is fair to say that voting trends among this group will decisively shape voting trends among nonwhites in the future since their share of voters will continue to increase while black voter share is expected to remain roughly constant.

One notes that these words were written long before the current controversy in the Los Angeles Council.

Even calling Hispanic non-white is part of the problem. The Hispanics who consider themselves to be white routinely are overlooked. Hispanics turn out to be patriotic Americans seeking to live the American Dream and who celebrate Columbus Day as if they were Italian (The Five Levels of Columbus).

As Democrats scramble for every last House district, it is learning that it cannot take the Hispanic vote for granted. It cannot take the Asian vote for granted. It cannot even take the African vote for granted (be it immigrant or Middle Passage). Yet still night after night, podcast after podcast after podcast, op-ed piece after op-ed piece, article after article, one can still hear about the fears of the white racists of being replaced. While such people do exist and in large numbers and should not be discounted, one should not overlook the possibility that it is the Republicans who are slowly and slightly changing their composition and would do so even faster if they became the party of Lincoln than if they remained the party of Trump.

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.