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Democrats Are Hemorrhaging Voters and Have No Viable Plan to Win Them Back

Democrats Are Hemorrhaging Voters and Have No Viable Plan to Win Them Back

Doubling down on the very reasons their voters bolted is not a viable plan

An estimated 6.7 to 9.2 million Americans who voted for Obama switched to Trump in 2016, and the Democrats have no true understanding of why that happened.  They have largely avoided serious introspection about their loss last November, let alone about the massive losses they accrued during Obama’s two terms in office. The result is Party-wide confusion and incomprehension that has manifested as seething anger, lashing out at anyone and everyone, and plowing forward with an agenda that the majority of the American people simply do not want.

The New York Times has a dense and richly-sourced article that highlights some key problems for Democrats moving forward.  Here are a few highlights:

Busting the narrative that Trump voters who formerly voted for Democrats were mostly white, working class.

What the autopsy reveals is that Democratic losses among working class voters were not limited to whites; that crucial constituencies within the party see its leaders as alien; and that unity over economic populism may not be able to turn back the conservative tide.

Equally disturbing, winning back former party loyalists who switched to Trump will be tough: these white voters’ views on immigration and race are in direct conflict with fundamental Democratic tenets.

Democrats have hung their electoral hopes on tribalism, but they are hemorrhaging voters among their own pet identity groups.

A consistent theme is that the focus on white defections from the Democratic Party masks an even more threatening trend: declining turnout among key elements of the so-called Rising American Electorate — minority, young and single voters. Turnout among African-Americans, for example, fell by 7 points, from 66.6 percent in 2012 to 59.6 percent in 2016.

. . . .  Stan Greenberg, the Democratic pollster, writes in his Prospect essay:

The Democrats don’t have a “white working-class problem.” They have a “working-class problem,” which progressives have been reluctant to address honestly or boldly. The fact is that Democrats have lost support with all working-class voters across the electorate, including the Rising American Electorate of minorities, unmarried women, and millennials. This decline contributed mightily to the Democrats’ losses in the states and Congress and to the election of Donald Trump.

Pew noted that black voter turnout was down in 2016.

A record 137.5 million Americans voted in the 2016 presidential election, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Overall voter turnout – defined as the share of adult U.S. citizens who cast ballots – was 61.4% in 2016, a share similar to 2012 but below the 63.6% who say they voted in 2008.

A number of long-standing trends in presidential elections either reversed or stalled in 2016, as black voter turnout decreased, white turnout increased and the nonwhite share of the U.S. electorate remained flat since the 2012 election.

One of the reasons for the decreased Democrat black voter turnout is a deep disappointment in Obama.

McClatchy reported in 2014:

Black voters’ disappointment with President Barack Obama, who they so eagerly embraced for so many years, could be costly on Election Day to Democrats, who badly need a big African-American turnout to win Senate and gubernatorial races in key states.

Instead, many African-Americans see an unemployment rate well above the national average, continuing problems with crime in many neighborhoods, and a president more interested in trying to help other voting blocs that didn’t give him such unwavering support.

He talks about same-sex marriage in a nod to the gay and lesbian community. He discusses immigration and its benefits, an issue particularly important to the Latino community. He fights for equal pay, a vital issue to the women Democrats so avidly court.

The black community, which gave Obama support like no other group, too often doesn’t see the investment paying off.

Among those voters Democrats are losing are a significant number who voted for Obama but then went for Trump in 2016.

The NYT continues:

Priorities also studied Obama-to-Trump voters. Estimates of the number of such voters range from 6.7 to 9.2 million, far more than enough to provide Trump his Electoral College victory. The counties that switched from Obama to Trump were heavily concentrated in the Midwest and other Rust Belt states.

The reasons for this switch are varied, but seem to be rooted in the Obama-Democrat focus on globalization, multiculturalism, and other progressive areas of focus that Obama-to-Trump voters experienced as harmful to them, to their families, and to their communities.

The harm is economic, social, cultural, and ultimately, political.  Democrat insistence that every aspect of life is political and therefore under the purview of the political elites in Washington is alienating their now-former voters by the millions.

In short, suburban, small town, and rural Americans were “left behind” by Democrats, and these alienated, forgotten Americans no longer feel affinity for or allegiance to the Democratic Party.

Indeed, there seems to be a distrust of Democrats whom they perceive to be more interested in the wealthy than in them.

Geoff Garin is a partner in the Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group which, together with the Global Strategy Group, conducted the surveys and focus groups for Priorities USA. Garin wrote in an email:

The biggest common denominator among Obama-Trump voters is a view that the political system is corrupt and doesn’t work for people like them.

Garin added that

Obama-Trump voters were more likely to think more Democrats look out for the wealthy than look out for poor people.

Tied to this sense of being left behind is the general and growing voter distrust of and in government.

For Democrats who argue that the adoption of economic populism is the best way to counter Trump, Guy Molyneux, a partner in Garin’s polling firm, warns in his American Prospect essay, “A Tale of Two Populisms,” that voters drawn to Trump are anti-government, deeply wary of a pro-government Democratic Party.

. . . . While the populism espoused by Sanders and Warren is economic, challenging C.E.O.s, major corporations and “the billionaire class,” Trump is the messenger of what Molyneux calls “political populism,” which “is, fundamentally, a story about the failure of government.”

Molyneux writes:

White working-class voters’ negative view of government spending undermines their potential support for many progressive economic policies. While they want something done about jobs, wages, education, and health care, they are also fiscally conservative and deeply skeptical of government’s ability to make positive change. So political populism not only differs from economic populism, but also serves as a powerful barrier to it.

Or, as I have written elsewhere, Democrats cannot simply argue in favor of redistributive government on economic matters because defecting whites are deeply hostile to a government they see as coercive on matters of race.

For decades, the perception that an intrusive federal government promotes policies favoring African-Americans and other minorities at the expense of whites has driven anti-government animosity.

A PRRI study focused on white working class voters indicates that Trump voters were not motivated by race or gender.

It is notable that many attitudes and attributes identified as possible explanations for Trump’s support among white working-class voters were not significant independent predictors. Gender, age, region, and religious affiliation were not significant demographic factors in the model. Views about gender roles and attitudes about race were also not significant. It is also notable that neither measure of civic engagement—attendance at civic events or religious services—proved to be a significant independent predictor of support for Trump.

Instead, these voters reported feeling culturally, not just economically, left behind.  Illegal immigration, the perceived death of the American Dream, and a sense of being “a stranger in their own land” contributed to voters selecting Trump, who represented change, over Hillary, who represented the status quo.

Government failed the voters the Democrats lost, and Democrats’ entire schtick is the power and generosity of government.

All of this reveals that Democrats are in a very difficult position and may find it an uphill battle just to win back their own former voters, let alone broaden their coalition to include additional voters they’d need to make up for the ones who simply won’t go back.

For decades, Democrats pinned their entire political strategy and agenda on their fantasy of a “Rising American Electorate.”

At that time, the consensus was that Democrats had found the key to sustained victory. The party saw its future in ascendant constituencies: empowered minorities, singles, social liberals and the well-educated.

Democratic activists saw the Republican Party as doomed to defeat without a radical change of course because it was tied to overlapping constituencies that they viewed as of waning significance — for example, older, non-college, evangelical white Christians.

The Democratic Party’s insistence that every Democrat support abortion, that there is no room for pro-life voters in the party, is another area that creates a vast divide between the elites and many Democrat constituencies.

Among all these data points is a connecting thread: the voters Democrats have shed do not share the radical vision of progressives like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren; they do not trust government, so they are not swayed by promises of new government programs designed to lure them back.  The Party’s insistence on pushing further left will further alienate voters they’ve already lost and almost certainly cause them to lose still more.

There is little evidence that Democrats understand any part of this, however.  They are doubling down on the very things that cost them so many voters.  Indeed, they have pinned their hopes on special elections this year, but even if they manage to win one—such as Georgia’s 6th district House race tomorrow—their party’s fundamental problems will remain.  In some ways, winning Georgia’s 6th would be detrimental to Democrats because they would erroneously read that win as a sign that lunging still further left is the right path.

It should be noted, too, that Republicans benefited from the Democrats’ deep faith in identity politics and in their magic “demographic majority” that never quite materialized. Republicans didn’t win these voters, they got them by default in our two-party system.  Therefore, Republicans need to be wary that they not get too comfortable or complacent, and they definitely need to understand that adopting left-leaning policies directed at subsets of Americans won’t work any better for them than it did for Democrats.

Trump understood this instinctively.  One America frightens Democrats who have no talking points for a united country in which everyone is an American, no hyphens or footnotes about sexuality and gender.  The idea of “no red states and no blue states” that Obama never seemed to believe but that won him many of these voters is a distant memory on the left.  Democrats hear “America First” and think isolationism and xenophobia, their former voters hear it and think of the American Dream and American exceptionalism.

“America First” speaks to unity—to one nation, under God—and patriotism; sadly, the Democratic Party has become increasingly averse to both.


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notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital | June 19, 2017 at 4:13 pm

And the Democrat Party ain’t seen nothing yet!

No problem. The Democrats just have … read my report.
On sale when I get around to writing it.

    Tom Servo in reply to Neo. | June 20, 2017 at 10:53 am

    We see this here in Texas all the time, it’s the biggest reason that the Texas Democrats have collapsed.

    They put all their eggs in the ethnic identity basked, said forget white votes, we’re going to be the Black and Hispanic Party. (I’m not kidding, that is what has happened in Texas) Their problem is that Blacks will only vote for Blacks, and Hispanics who care about politics (most don’t, that’s another story) only vote for Hispanics.
    So, in areas where their votes are concentrated, they can win some local races. (San Antonio, inner city Dallas, frex)

    But statewide, they don’t have a chance. When they nominate a black candidate, none of the hispanics bother to vote, when they nominate a hispanic candidate, none of the black voters show up. And if they nominate a pretty white girl, like Wendy Davis, then NEITHER blacks or hispanics will show up in any numbers.

    And they won’t even admit that the problem exists, which is why it is still going to be a long long time before a Texas Dem ever wins another statewide office.

Shhhh! This is a wrong we don’t need to right.

MaggotAtBroadAndWall | June 19, 2017 at 4:46 pm

Thomas Edsall has written a handful of insightful columns at The New York Times over the past few months. He wrote one a couple of weeks ago about how progressivism may be in trouble. Even when I don’t agree with his points, I like reading him. He’s not a flame thrower like Krugman is and Frank Rich was when he worked there.

great unknown | June 19, 2017 at 5:07 pm

Why else do the Dems want to extend the franchise to ever-younger voters?

And why they fight to keep Mr. and Mrs. Absentee on the voter rolls. And why they want to give non-citizens the right to vote legally [as opposed to the way many vote now].

Of course, Chicago practices resurrection every election year, so that helps.

The American punditry still reads sheep’s entrails to predict the future.

But these geniuses failed to notice the biggest political development in years—the Trump phenomenon—even when it was right in front of their noses. Some don’t believe it even now, but insist it must all be a trick.

Sorry, color me unimpressed. They haven’t a clue, no more than the polls (though the polls are wrong for different reasons).

I read the Times piece … or rather I read to the part where is was clear that it was an exercise in reading tea leaves. At that point I figured I must have something more worthwhile to do … arrange my socks in alphabetical order, maybe. The bit of folly which impressed me most was the absurd idea that they can lump the “non-white” electorate in one pile … as if the “Asians” are going to vote anything like “Blacks” or “Hispanics”. How dumb can you get? Apparently, as dumb as you want.

    Tom, I find your comment confusing. Your comment drips with disdain for the NYT, but then goes on to validate the article’s findings (i.e. that identity politics have failed, hoisting Dems on their own petard). What exactly is your point?

    Look, I get that the NYT is too-often a propagandist hack rag, but this article is well-sourced and substantive. Baby. Bath water.

    If we can’t discern good points from bad, if we can’t use basic critical thinking skills to determine what makes sense and what does not, we are just mindless robots who end up parroting nonsense.

    Generally speaking (i.e. not in direct response to Tom in this part), we need to take a deep breath and take stock. Knee-jerk reactions are unhelpful and reveal insecurity, inconsistency, and immaturity. Further, they foster the sort of zombie-like and cultish predilection of the regressive left.

    Why would thinking people respond like this? It makes no sense. Either you can read something, do research on the topic as you see fit, and make a balanced decision about the results, or you can leap onto a chair, lift your skirts, and shriek, “Ooooh! The NYT! COOOTIES!!!”

    If we succumb to the robotic mindlessness that we’ve long ridiculed from leftists, what do we become? Here’s a guess: unthinking reactionaries who are perpetually offended, willfully self-deluded, and devoid of independent thought. Yay!?

      rdmdawg in reply to Fuzzy Slippers. | June 19, 2017 at 7:24 pm

      “If we succumb to the robotic mindlessness that we’ve long ridiculed from leftists, what do we become?”

      I disagree a bit with this part. It’s more an expression of incredulity that, despite all the evidence of the NYT as a thoroughly discredited purveyor of lies, distortions, and garbage that they are still taken so seriously by the Washington D.C. crowd, elements of the media, and the public at large.

      I say, bring on the daily trashing of these institutions, such as media and academia, even in the most coarse possible terms. Look, we aren’t going to win over any of the ‘true believer’ commies, their minds are made up and will never change. I guess I’m saying that we need more, not less, skepticism of these outfits, like Washington Post, NYT, and others.

      maxmillion in reply to Fuzzy Slippers. | June 20, 2017 at 12:30 am

      Reports of the Democrat Party’s death are premature. Whenever one side loses big, or loses an election they were expected to win, we can always count on innumerable stories and predictions about that party’s impending demise. After Goldwater lost bigtime in ’64 it was said the Republicans were forever toast. But what happened in 1968? Nixon won. After Nixon won in a monumental landslide in ’72 it was said the Democrats were permanently finished. Except Carter won in 1976. After Reagan won big twice in ’80 and ’84 her propelled George H W Bush to win in ’88 and it was said the Democrats were finished. Until Bill Clinton rose up and beat Bush in ’92. After the 2006 midterms and the 2008 election the Republicans were toast again. But now they’re back and some (like you) are saying the Democrats are dead and gone. Sorry. No such luck. The Democrats are exactly where they’ve always been: One charming and charismatic empty suit away from power. Maybe her name is Oprah.

white, working class

Colorful, gendered clumps of cells. Unfortunately, [class] diversity is a clear and progressive condition.

Maybe the voters have figured out that Socialism/Communism/Marxism just does not work for very long and they do not like Alinsky either.

1. The Democratic Party is not really divided on economics.

2. Fiscal conservative–social liberals are overrepresented.
The study breaks down the beliefs of voters in both parties by income. The parties tend to cohere pretty tightly — rich Republicans are much closer to poor Republicans than either is to the Democrats; and rich Democrats and poor Democrats share more in common than either does with Republicans.

Still, there are important differences. The richest members of both parties have more economically conservative and socially liberal views than the poorest members. That gives them disproportionate influence over their agendas and priorities.

3. Libertarians don’t exist.

4. Trump won by dominating with populists.

Henry Hawkins | June 19, 2017 at 6:38 pm

For Christ’s sake, Fuzzy, take down this article before some Democrat big shot sees it.

    Heh, you know they won’t believe it. They’ve got their narrative, and they will stick to it no matter what logic or knowledge crosses their path. Heck, if I thought they’d actually get it, I wouldn’t have written it. 😉

      Henry Hawkins in reply to Fuzzy Slippers. | June 19, 2017 at 8:42 pm

      I have a few liberal friends, plus some liberals sprinkled throughout social circles, and when I talk with them about the various issues, they are quite certain of their positions. However, those who can stand to get beyond platitudes go deeper reveal that their respective beliefs on AGW, gun control, and the rest are entirely logical and reasonable **based on the bull crap they consider evidence for them**. That is, a lot of their political positions are based on very bad information. Re: 2nd Amendment, how could someone with little or no knowledge of guns or gun laws possibly hold a coherent position? Choir-talking here, but what I think is possibly a very good sign is that they base their positions on what they *think* is good information, i.e., it may be very possible that basic education on guns, AGW, etc., would change hearts and minds.

      About 25% of the voting public are the harder liberals, about… 50 million people. So, you better get busy.

        Tom Servo in reply to Henry Hawkins. | June 20, 2017 at 10:57 am

        You have NO liberal friends. You happen to know a few liberals who for their own reasons find it temporarily advantageous to maintain a relationship with you (obviously you have something they want, maybe just approval or social standing, maybe more, like they know for professional reasons they need to stay in your good graces.

        But if that ever changes – they would stand you up in front of a wall and give the order to “Fire!” at the first chance they had to get away with it. Because, as you say, they are Liberals.

        You have NO liberal friends.

Considering the new trademark ruling, the democrats can rename themselves ‘barry and the bozos.’

Or ‘Hillary and The New Shriekers.’

We might even come up with a show for Shrieking Camile Harris and her side kick, Fauxcahontas Warren: “The Loon Ranger and Tanto.”

    Walker Evans in reply to | June 19, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    We might even come up with a show for Shrieking Camile Harris and her side kick, Fauxcahontas Warren: “The Loon Ranger and Tanto.”

    Thank you! Thank you very much! I needed a good laugh tonight and you supplied it. (I’m going to steal that wonderfully descriptive name and put it to good use!)

I see it more as the Dems deciding to focus on two things: the dependent class and the easily frightened.

-Free college tuition, paid for by the rich and provided to the ones who can use it the least.
-Tax policy and crippling regulations that soak the rich, but *only* certain rich, while those in power (Dems, nach) receive a constant flow of government dollars through programs.
-Government health care for the poor and destitute, while the wealthy continue to be able to buy whatever they want, and screw the middle class. They can go die.
-A constant flow of hate fuel for the young and disenfranchised (or at least those who are told they are such) in order to keep them frothing at the mouth and voting in every election.
-A steady diet of terror for the elderly, holding them over the flame while constantly telling them just how the Republicans want to take away their doctors and make them die in a ditch.

OnTheLeftCoast | June 20, 2017 at 1:27 am

That’s why they want open borders and oppose voter ID. Their priority isn’t winning back the voters they lost, it’s replacing them.

Wormtongue spoke truth to Theodon, just enough so his lies would be credible. He wasn’t always misleading us, so Fuzzy would have kept on staff as an advisor. This is naive and dangerous.

The NYTs is a propaganda arm of the Left. There was a time when you could read between the lines to discern a truth, like studying Pravda, but those days are gone. The NYTs is now fiction.

Every time you open its pages, you might as well be letting a cult leader inside your head.

There is a relevant clip from West Wing when a veteran strategist is snarking at staff for wanting to co-opt a Republican bill: “Its their idea. We discuss it, we lose. We renegotiate it, we lose. We respond to it in any wsy, good or bad, we lose”

If we place any faith and trust in the NYTs, we lose.

“What my liberal friends think is good information… education could change their minds”

No, it won’t. I’m sorry, but you have misread the field. There is an aphorism that “the Left doesn’t really believe in the things they lecture the rest of us about”. What it means is that you can’t take their assertions at face value.

They are not using information to support a party platform plank, they are adopting a plank out of conformity and using information as cover.

Take your example re gun control. Let’s assume they claim to support gun control because a study in the New England Journal of Medicine proves gun control will save 100,000 lives annually.

I GUARANTEE you, if you debunked every single “fact” in that study, it would not sway them. Why? Because they aren’t wedded to that study, despite what they claim, they don’t support gun control because they ever believed it would save those lives. They support it for another more base reason, and the “study” is just a front.

Try it and see for yourself. And please don’t take it personal, I’m just trying to prevent you from having to learn the hard way. So many of us have wasted time and energy taking that path. Including me.