The 2nd Congressional District of New Jersey is considered a toss up by political analysts and contains some very conservative pockets of influence that continue to pose a problem for Democrats.
By David Todd McCarty | Thursday, December 12, 2019
New Jersey’s Southern most Congressional district is complicated. It is large physically, racially diverse, and combines wide rural swaths, sprinkled with dense urban communities. Electorally, it’s a nightmare for both parties, but especially for Democrats, who rely on a diverse coalition of voters to win elections.
Donald Trump won New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District in 2016 by 4.6 points. Barack Obama won the district in 2012 by 8.2 points. This is the definition of a swing district. The Cook Political Report rates the district leaning slightly to the at R+1, with slightly more registered Democrats than Republicans but both parties grossly outnumbered by unaffiliated voters. No matter what anyone tells you, it’s a moderately conservative district. This definitely isn’t the Bronx.
This is the southern most district in an otherwise pretty Blue state, consisting of all of Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, and Salem counties, in addition to parts of Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, and Ocean counties. With a population of 714,000 residents, it’s 73% white, 17% Hispanic and 13% Black, with a median income of $65k, which is fairly low considering the cost of living in New Jersey.
Hospitality far outpaces all other industries in the state with 49k employees, followed by retail with 37k. It’s a state heavily dependent on tourism. Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, Hunting, and Mining account for just .009 percent of the workforce with 392 paid employees, despite the prominence these industries receive from the media, as well as state and local politicians.
Out of a population of those over 25, amounting to about 500k voters, 88% of the population has a high school degree or equivalent, with only 27% holding a college degree.
Part of the problem with the Democrats in this district, is that they are not a monolithic party. They are a coalition of Blacks and Hispanics, suburban whites, college-educated white progressives, and working class moderates. They need to come together in order to beat the largely rural and conservative white electorate that overwhelmingly voted for Trump in 2016.
It’s not hard to find a Trump flag in most neighborhoods in the district, but if you talk to traditional Democratic voters, they are all over the map in terms of ideology, priorities, and political preferences. There is no single bullet, no single message, that will unite them all.
The best way for Democrats to outperform Republicans is to expand their base.
The truth is, there is enormous opportunity to do just that, as there are are many communities who are traditionally underrepresented in most elections, that if motivated and engaged, would make up a strong voting block.
The problem is, the Democratic Party has done a miserable job of engaging communities of color and working class voters, for decades. Sure, the candidates come around when it’s an election. They talk to community leaders, and party bosses, and try to get the vote out, but otherwise, they largely ignore these communities. They are not responsive to the issues of minority communities, and they ignore unions unless they need them for something, like a protest or a vote. They are all hostages in a political war, with very little upside and a lot of downside.
There is also the issue of the growing chasm between White Progressives and Black and Hispanic Moderates. Many white liberals have driven to the left of more socially-conservative, moderate minorities, especially among older voters. There is both an age gap, as well as a culture gap.
Even so, a coalition is the only winning strategy. Democrats must come together to support one another, not just on election day, or during a political campaign, but as a community. Until we do that, all this shouting and finger waving is a waste of time. Unless we begin to listen, the Party will continue to be seen as white politicians asking people of color, and the working class, to carry water for privileged interests. This has to change and it has to change now.
It’s time to save each other.