The Democratic Party is actually a far better representation of America than the Republicans simply because they represent a wider constituency of race, religion, class, ideology, and focus.
By David Todd McCarty | Wednesday, July 24, 2019
There has been a lot of coverage concerning rifts in the Democratic Party, namely between the moderate establishment and the Progressive wing of the party. Pelosi versus The Squad. Bernie versus Biden. The narrative is that Democrats can’t get their act together due to infighting. But the truth is, the Democratic Party is not a monolithic political movement. It is a diverse coalition of ideologies and desires.
According to a recent NY Times article, “The Democratic Party Is Actually Three Parties” based on a CBS tracking survey of the first 18 states to vote in the primary, the party is split into three distinct groups. They defined them as Very Liberal, Somewhat Liberal and Moderate to Conservative. The first two groups are overwhelmingly white (over two thirds) with the last group comprising the largest percentage of minority voters with 26% Black, 19% Hispanic, 7% non white other. According to a Brookings Institute study done concerning 2018 Primary Voters, Democratic primary voters were 54.6 percent white, 24.1 percent black, 9.0 percent Hispanic, with the rest Asian-American, American Indian and others.
Ideologically, the groups have very different priorities. The first two groups, the Very Liberal and Somewhat Liberal favor policies that are concerned with “the environment, protecting immigrants, abortion, and race/gender, while the Moderate to Conservative Democrats were more concerned with “job creation and lowering taxes.”
It’s clear then that it’s near impossible for the Democrats to have a singular message or platform which everyone will fall in line with because the constituency has varied ideas of what should be a priority. This has been pointed to as some sort of political failure or weakness in the party, but I would argue that this is, in fact, what makes America great.
The Times article reported that the Very Liberal wing of the party, which is overwhelmingly white, is the “most engaged and plays a disproportionate role in setting the political agenda” and this is undoubtedly true. The fringes of the party often have the loudest voice and are not always the most representative of the entire electorate.
But it’s also true that change comes from the fringes, not from the center. We should have no expectation that real change will ever come from moderates. It’s antithetical to a belief that we should make small, incremental changes, as opposed to be sweeping ones. The defining motivation behind this thinking is a perception that it’s better to move slowly than risk losing what you already have. It’s not wonder that those in more precarious stratums of society might be more concerned about losing whatever tenuous hold they have on stability.
According to PhD candidate from Georgia State University, Zach Goldberg writing in Tablet Magazine “America’s White Saviors”:
White liberals recently became the only demographic group in America to display a pro-outgroup bias — meaning that among all the different groups surveyed, white liberals were the only one that expressed a preference for other racial and ethnic communities above their own.
He goes on to talk about the “Great Awokening”:
There is no simple or single explanation for how this process got started. It appears to be driven by an interplay of factors: preexisting tendencies among white liberals; a series of polarizing events like the police shooting of Michael Brown and subsequent riots in Ferguson, and the migrant crisis; the rise of millennials as a political force, and the explosion of social media and “woke” clickbait journalism. The years between 2012 and 2016 were a watershed for white liberal racial consciousness. But the seismic attitudinal shifts of those years have implications that go beyond race: They are also tied to a significant decrease in support for Israel and—perhaps more surprisingly—a rise in the number of white liberals who express negative attitudes about the perceived political power of American Jews.
As white liberals have come to place far greater emphasis on racial injustice, they have also endorsed reparative race-related social policies in greater numbers. This is evident across a range of issues: the rapid growth in white liberals who favor affirmative action for blacks in the labor force; in the increase in white liberals who feel that we spend too little on helping blacks, and that the government should afford them special treatment; in the increase in white Democrats who think it’s the government’s job to ensure “equal income across all races”; and in the increase in white liberals and Democrats who think that white people have ‘too much’ political influence.
So now we are faced with a Very Liberal white wing of the party that is, in fact, more left than your average Black voter. But how will that play out in the larger electorate?
There is a tendency by political strategists on the Left to run towards to middle to avoid being called socialists by the Right, but this seems like a losing strategy. No matter what Democrats do, Republicans are going to try to paint anything they do as radical, extreme and socialist. If Democrats nominated the most moderate, establishment candidate possible, this isn’t going to keep Republicans from attacking them. What could be more boring or less inspiring than a candidate that strives for mediocrity?
The traditional school of thought in politics was that you leaned towards the Left during the primaries and then fled to the center in the General, the thinking being you wanted to attract as many independents and moderates as possible. It would seem that those days are largely gone. There are very few true independents left, only unaffiliated voters who generally vote with their block most of the time.
The question becomes how do Democrats define themselves, in light of trying to build a coalition from a diverse set of groups with different agendas? What will attract the most voters? What will energize people to brave the elements and vote on election day?
It’s not easy to be the party of diversity, especially when you don’t have your own 24-hour news channel filling people’s homes with propaganda. It’s even harder when you hold truth and facts in high regard and have critical thinkers to answer to.
Ideas that were once thought radical, such as gay marriage and marijuana legalization, are now commonplace. We didn’t end segregation incrementally. We didn’t give women the right to vote one state at a time. You can’t lead by consensus. You have to lead with integrity and vision and trust that people will follow.
That’s the Democratic Party we need. The one who leads.