Monday, October 25

To keep the Democratic coalition together, Biden will have to be the great balancer | Geoffrey Kabaservice | Opinion

meIt may just be a function of the circles I travel in, but very few people I know are happy with the election results. Republicans are unhappy that Donald Trump has lost his re-election battle with Joe Biden and is becoming a one-term president. Democrats are unhappy that the predicted blue wave is not materializing, meaning that Republicans will likely retain control of the Senate and Mitch McConnell may thwart any ambitious Democratic legislation. And my friends at Never-Trump are unhappy that the result did not yield the result repudiation of Trumpism, and the subsequent reform of a punished Republican party, which they had hoped for.

Like many people, I am guilty of placing too much trust in pollsters. But I didn’t really think that a progressive tsunami was about to explode on the national scene. The last time there was a true wave of Democratic elections, in 2008, its propitious condition was deep Republican demoralization by the economic and foreign policy failures of the George W. Bush administration. Trump supporters, by contrast, are more excited than ever, despite his administration’s inability to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic and accompanying economic dislocations.

One lesson to be learned from these elections is that American politics today is more about identity-based tribal divisions than political disagreements. But it is difficult to know what other definitive lessons to draw, because in a closely decided choice all explanations are plausible.

My own belief, for what it’s worth, is that Trump would have comfortably won re-election were it not for the pandemic and his failed response. Had the incumbency benefits that helped his three presidential predecessors win second terms. His base considers him infallible and enough voters outside his base were satisfied enough with the pre-coronavirus economy that they tolerated all the ways he was unfit for the presidency. But character is destiny, and the very qualities that allowed Trump to win the presidency – his rejection of advice and experts, his unerring preference for personal advantage over the national good – ensured that he would lose it because of his mismanagement of the pandemic.

And while the Democrats are clearly the majority party, now that they have won the popular vote in seven of the last eight unprecedented presidential elections, the country on some basic level continues to reject progressivism.

Not for a second do I buy the left’s argument that if Senator Bernie Sanders had been the Democratic nominee, would have won a landslide victory against Trump and swept away a majority in the Senate. Given the Senate results and the fact that nearly half of the electorate voted for Trump, I find it difficult to believe the argument that the country as a whole yearned for the kind of radical change that did not even garner a majority in the Democratic Party. .

It is true that the entire electoral strategy of the Republicans was based on the expectation that Trump would run against Sanders. When that didn’t happen, they had to resort to the accusation that Biden, despite his decades-long reputation as a centrist, was somehow the puppet of those who would impose a terrifying socialist tyranny on earth.

The implausibility of this claim allowed Biden flip the midwestern states who had decided the 2016 election, mobilizing more black voters than Hillary Clinton in 2016, while eliminating enough working-class whites and conservative suburbanites to win narrow majorities. Sanders, who did not win a single primary victory in the Midwest, could not have built such a coalition.

The more economically populist and libertarian aspects of progressivism have considerable electoral appeal, as was evident in the states (including some red states) that passed ballot measures. liberalize drug laws and, in Florida, raising the minimum wage at $ 15 an hour. But in California, perhaps the leading progressive state, voters rejected initiatives to reinstate affirmative action, impose rent controls, and classify ride-hailing and delivery workers as employees.

But while dire warnings from Republicans of impending socialist dystopia didn’t work against Biden, this line of attack succeeded by allowing them to retake many of the House seats that Democrats traded in 2018. Republicans linked these more moderate and vulnerable Democrats to far-left ideas like the Green New Deal, free college, Medicare for all, and the elimination of funding. for the police. Angry centrist Democrats blamed their progressive colleagues, during a private post-election conference call, for costing the party critical seats and reducing the majority of the House of Democrats to a thread. The Washington Post reported That moderate Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat from Virginia, vehemently insisted that “we never need to use the word ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ anymore,” or else “we will break apart in 2022.”

The claim that the Democratic Party has become a Trojan horse for socialism also appears to have resounded with large numbers of Hispanics, particularly in states like Florida and Texas, where Biden’s campaign fared much worse with these voters than Clinton did in 2016. Republican ads that warned that Democrats would turn America into a socialist country may have succeeded in scaring Hispanics whose families fled from dictators like Fidel Castro and Hugo Ch├ívez.

More generally, it is becoming clear that while most minorities vote Democrats, many do not share the views of white progressives on issues such as the need to cut police spending, the desirability of open immigration, and nature of systemic racism. Writer Matthew Yglesias notes that the preferred term of progressives to refer to people of Latino origin, Latinx, is used by only 3% of Hispanics in the United States, and that this divergence it is symptomatic of the “tendency of white progressives to privilege academic concepts and linguistic innovations when addressing social justice concerns.” White progressive researchers are also surprised to find that minorities often supporting Trump’s racist rhetoric or policies – especially when it is directed against other minority groups who also dislike them.

On the other hand, there are a number of other reasons why at least a fraction of Hispanics and other minorities may be breaking with the Democratic coalition. These could include the appeal of Trump’s swagger brand masculinity, immigrants’ attraction to conservative ideas of individualism and upward mobility, and the growing tendency for minorities with no college education to view the world in similar terms as Trump’s base of uneducated whites. Or it could be mainly that, under the unique circumstances From this pandemic year election, Republicans did a better job of engaging with minority voters, while Democrats’ decision to suspend door-to-door campaigns, rallies, and other in-person means of voter mobilization it was a critical mistake.

A Biden presidency is likely to operate under the external restraint of the Republican majority in the Senate and the internal restraint of the need to balance its moderate and progressive wings. While this pretty much rules out big and ambitious reforms, a Biden administration may be successful in passing more pragmatic measures like an economic stimulus, increased state aid for Covid-19 relief, and gradual criminal justice reforms. There may even be bipartisan action to combat climate change; two-thirds of Americans think the federal government should do more on climate, especially high levels of concern among coastal residents. But will progressives rebel against what they see as too little, too late?

If the Democratic party succeeds in realigning the college-educated suburban middle class away from the Republican party while still retaining its minority supporters and at least a fraction of the white working class, we might finally enter the was long predicted of the democratic domain. But the 2020 elections showed that these districts, as well as the moderate and progressive factions of the party, have interests and priorities that are in great tension with each other. If a President Biden can hold the party together, history can remember him as the Great Balancer.

  • Geoffrey Kabaservice is director of political studies at the Niskanen Center in Washington, as well as the author of Rule and Ruin: the Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party.

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