Is the Democratic Party doomed, too?

Matthew Yglesias believes that the Democratic Party shouldn’t feel too over confident about the current implosions going on in the Republican Party.

Matt’s argument hinges on the fact that the Democratic Party is in shambles at the state level. The GOP controls the vast majority of state legislatures, governor’s offices, and other state-wide elected positions like Attorney General. He notes that the Democratic Party does have a strong hold in California but “in what Democrats should take as a further bleak sign, four of the 11 states where they control both houses of the state legislature — Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Illinois — have a Republican governor. This leaves just seven states under unified Democratic Party control.” He doesn’t seem to point out red states like Kentucky with Democratic governors.

In the end, he uses these facts to caution against the Democratic Party swinging to the left. Matt writes:

[B]ut there are many states in which labor unions are neither large nor powerful and non-labor national progressive donor networks are inherently populated by relatively affluent people who tend to be emotionally driven by progressive commitments on social or environmental issues. This is why an impassioned defense of the legality of late-term abortions could make Wendy Davis a viral sensation, a national media star, and someone capable of activating the kind of donor and volunteer networks needed to mount a statewide campaign. Unfortunately for Democrats, however, this is precisely the wrong issue profile to try to win statewide elections in conservative states.

I’ve argued here before that politics is often a battle between the romantics and the pragmatists and also the optimists and the pessimists. There are Democratic supporters who are in love with the idea of Trump winning the GOP nod because they think that it means HRC will be a shoo-in for the White House. I spend too much time worrying about Trump’s victory to enjoy the possibility. Here Matt seems to be doing his pragmatic worrying routine and I think he is overreacting a bit.

Massachusetts and New Jersey do have Democratic legislatures but they also have long histories of Republican leadership. For as long as I have been alive, New Jersey generally seemed to split their representation in the Senate between both parties. Massachusetts and New Jersey have also had a fair deal of Republican governors.

I agree with Yglesias on the importance for the Democratic Party in taking back the House and the Senate but the problem is that Matt only provides the first step. He believes that the Democratic Party needs to admit that they have a problem at the local and state level. He doesn’t say what steps 2, 3, 4, or 5 should be.

The United States Constitution currently seems to provide a significant advantage to team Red when it comes to the House and the Senate. There are a lot more smaller and more rural red states than there are blue states with large cities. The Democratic Party is currently the party of cities and select inner-ring suburbs. They tend to dominate or do well in states where the majority of the vote is urban-based like New York, California, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, etc. Vermont and maybe Hawaii are the rare rural states that are dominated by the Democratic Party. Cities in deep red states like Texas (Austin) and Utah (Salt Lake City) tend to develop reputations as Democratic/Progressive freeholds. Both parties are becoming more ideologically cohesive. The Democratic Party that produced Carl Albert from Oklahoma is not going to be the Democratic Party of Barack Obama, Black Lives Matter, defending Planned Parenthood, Healthcare for all, Immigration reform, Climate Change, gun control, and other progressive issues. The nation that produced Democrat Carl Albert from Oklahoma is going to be a very different one than a nation that produces Democrat Barack Obama from Illinois and Democrat Kamela Harris from California. I would rather live in the nation that produces Barack Obama.

The situation for the foreseeable future seems to be that the GOP will have a lock on midterm elections and the Democratic Party will have an advantage for the White House. The ideological cohesiveness of both parties creates these advantages and disadvantages. I would like to see the Democratic Party be more competitive in midterm years and local elections but not if it means giving up everything that I hold dear about being a member of the Democratic Party. I support the Democratic Party because I believe in a liberal platform and I don’t see the point in supporting a party just to see it turncoat on ideas and ideals. There are probably plenty of people in the Republican Party who rightly feel the same way.

Image by Allison Harger

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109 thoughts on “Is the Democratic Party doomed, too?

  1. I agree with Saul’s critique of Yglesias here. Matt says the party is decimated at lower offices, but doesn’t offer the remotest suggestion about what he thinks it’s done wrong, or could do to address the problem. Which leaves the possibility open that there may not necessarily be much they can consciously do to change this, until things just swing back their way for whatever reason. Matt can say Fine, but I think the party’s getting a little chesty because of the GOP’s woes and the anticipation of having a couple four presidential arms in a row. And that’s fair enough. But when you don’t even manage to go a single step down the road of diagnosis of causes much less prescription, your point doesn’t go very far. Democrats are pretty well aware of their political woes in states and congressional districts. Without some causal analysis, Yglesias’ piece doesn’t add up to much more than a little but of easy scolding.

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    • I’m not sure I agree.

      For years, it’s felt like the response to any problem inside the party — incompetence, the appearance of corruption, actual corruption, victories by GOPers — has been largely waved away as a non-issue by the faithful.

      I think at some point admitting that everything is not going as planned is going to be a necessary step, and I think that admission might have to come before there’s a debate on what to do next.

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      • He and you are right about that. I would say 1) plenty of strategic-types in the party fully admit there’s a problem and are working on it (though I’m guessing not making much progress yet) Still, acceptance needs to be more widespread. 2) I think Saul is not right to call this Step 1, but rather it is Step 0. I think this is significant for whether it can be said that Yglesas really has anything to say in terms of prescription for the problem.

        Re-reading, I would also probably allow that he attempts a bit more causal analysis than recalled, though I’d be more inclined to call a lot of it basic description, and to the extent it tries for a causal analysis, is circular. “The problem is that Democrats are committed to the narrow set of interests of elite-ish donors (i.e. well-branded particular articles of social liberalism like gay marriage, opposition to the particularities of ho abortion is being made more difficult to obtain, etc. etc.) as opposed to having a set of political-economic solutions that can appeal even to a broader liberal audience, much less be a winning message in conservative states” isn’t really an attempt at a causal analysis of why they’re stuck in that situation. Reading him, they could just lack the insight to understand that this produces a narrow coalition, or there could be other things limiting their ability to expand their message. he doesn’t say what the issue is.

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      • Let’s say the Democratic Party admits it has a hard time winning over largely homogeneous, rural, and socially conservative states like Oklahoma and Kansas

        Is the solution to abandon the cities and the base of the Democratic Party? Do you think the Democratic Party can keep Portland, SF, NYC, and still be competitive in Norman or Wichita?

        There might be more people who identify as conservative in the U.S. but as Matt Y also pointed out liberal is not a dirty word anymore:

        http://www.vox.com/2015/10/13/9518971/liberals-poll

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        • If there’s one thing Democrats should do if they’re concerned about these problems, it’s take cities for granted at the state level. Within cities, they should seek to continue to be responsive to citizens’ needs. And there is always more competition with Democrats for governance in cities than is commonly understood, so they will probably do that.

          But at the state level, if Democrats want to gain some power in state houses (which would be very good for cities, however Democrats campaign to achieve that), then statewide Democrats and Democrats running outside cities should go ahead and, not be anti-citiy, but surely express a proper indifference to the particular interests and pleas of the major cities in their state. (Statewide Dem pols who aren’t in much danger are exempted from that, except to the extent they need to contribute to shaping overall messaging statewide.) And Democrats in cities will need to be prepared for that and understand the nature of the game that needs to be played here.

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          • I think the Democratic party already takes cities for granted. The GOP doesn’t exactly try and win in major cities but look at how much trouble NYC has at getting money from the NY State government. If Cuomo didn’t take NYC for granted, he would have given the MTA their subway money. A lot of cities would have proper transportation budgets. In real life, many subway and transport systems are falling apart including in very blue states.

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              • Honestly, I think the most promising way forward is to use moments of state-wide power (or ballot initiatives) to implement non-partisan redistricting boards for the 2020 Census.

                The problem isn’t that Democrats have few votes, the problem is that the GOP won the last gerrymandering race in 2010. (note: on this one, BSDI, which is why I phrased the issue that way).

                Good districting is difficult, but the more states that try the better representation people get.

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    • There are a few things that might be going on.

      1. The GOP does seem to be better at using local and state elections as a farm league.

      2. They might also have more opportunities to do so. A lot of major cities don’t have elected school boards, many suburbs do. The cultural right also seems to get more excited about school board elections.

      3. Democratic leaning types and liberals seem to not like the bread and butter of retail politics that happens at the local political level except in large cities where they dominate.

      4. The main thrust or implication seems to be telling Democratic types to ignore getting too liberal on both economic or civil issues. This would defeat them from being the center-left party though.

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      • There are a lot of Democratic heavy suburbs with elected school boards. Even in cities, there are many elected offices that young and promising Democratic candidates would like to go for. I think that many just want to jump to federal office though.

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      • Democratic leaning types and liberals seem to not like the bread and butter of retail politics that happens at the local political level except in large cities where they dominate.

        I’m always a bit surprised that jumps from big city mayor to state-wide offices, a la Cory Booker in New Jersey and John Hickenlooper in Colorado, are not more common. Maybe I shouldn’t be — dominant city at odds with the rest of the state is a pretty common meme.

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        • I think being the mayor of a lot of big cities can be alienating to suburban and rural voters in a state. The Mayor of NYC is probably one of the most powerful political positions in the United States but it ends up being a political backwater because of the love-hate relationship between NYC and the rest of the state. I can see Bill De Blasio becoming a Congressperson. I can’t see him becoming Governor or a Senator.

          California seems to be an exception to this rule. Diane Feinstein started on the Board of Supervisors and was Mayor of SF. Jerry Brown revived his political career by being the mayor of Oakland. Kamela Harris was the district attorney of SF before becoming the Attorney General and I think she is a strong contender to become a Senator or Governor.

          But mayor of NYC is the most powerful political dead end there is.

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      • Why doesn’t anyone mention money? The Democratic base doesn’t have very much of it. The big Democratic donors are often pretty damn conservative. You do know the old saying, right? The GOP fears their base while the Democrats loathe theirs? That doesn’t help matters. Also, how do you account for things like Alvin Greene? That speaks to party incompetence at the state level.

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        • Kozzacks give plenty of money, ya know. Unless by “base” you mean the Greens. But I have on good authority they’re just punctillious pencilpushers.
          (and you should hear what he says about the libertarians!)

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  2. “Doomed” and “deeply unhealthy” are two very different things.

    It’s like being told that you have hypertension. If you have hypertension, does that mean that you’re going to die of a heart attack or a stroke? Well… no. But the best way to avoid dying like that is to lose weight, exercise, probably change your diet and eat less red meat and that sort of thing. Then you’re more likely to die in a car accident or jumping out of a window or something.

    But a very good way to die of a heart attack or stroke is to point out that it’s not necessarily true that you’re going to die from hypertension because there are plenty of people who had hypertension and went on to die from other causes and therefore you don’t have to change your diet, exercise, and otherwise modify your behaviors.

    In this particular case, we’ve got a two party system in which both parties are seriously bad at what they do. In a first-past-the-post system, you don’t have to outrun the bear as much as merely outrun the other guy.

    But saying “I’m not doomed, look at how out of shape the Republicans are! They’re totally going to keel over while running away from the bear!” is not a long-term plan. It’s not even a medium-term plan.

    I imagine it will work in the short term, however… because, hey. Look at how out of shape the Republicans are.

    That shouldn’t be mistaken with it being a good plan.

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  3. It isn’t that the Democratic Party is doomed but that certain structural factors in the American political system like the natural gerrymander do to residential patterns prevent it from really living up to it’s potential in gaining seats in Congress. In 2012, the Democratic Party did receive more votes than the Republicans by a factor of a million but did not win the House because of how districting works. In a different electoral the Democratic Party would have won the House in 2012.

    There is the problem that getting Democratic voters enthused about local, state and mid-term federal elections does some rather difficult. Would be office holders seem to set their sites on Washington right away and would rather work as a consultant in Congress than go through the hierarchy of local and state office.

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    • I agree with you that gerrymandering plays a role in this but the bigger reason that articles like Yglesias’ are nonsense is because they fail to acknowledge that the entire American system of government is designed to frustrate consolidation of power. I remember reading similar articles by right leaning pundits in the early 2000s when the federal government was completely dominated by the GOP wondering why the country was not transformed into a conservative paradise.

      This isn’t to say that the Democratic party, just like any party, shouldn’t continue to re-evaluate itself nor is this to say that I think it’s priorities are sound. It just means that any change in America will always be very slow and grinding. I don’t think there’s any evidence the Democrats are about to go the way of the Whigs.

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      • It isn’t gerrymandering in the traditional sense that I’m talking about. The residential patterns of how Americans live lends itself towards gerrymandering. If you look at a county by county electoral map of the United States you will notice that the Democratic voting counties tend to occupy smaller areas than Republican voting counties. However, these Democratic voting counties contain many more Americans. The compact residential geography of Democratic voters allows their votes to be contained in fewer but more heavily Democratic electoral districts than the Republican votes. Republic districts might be less overwhelmingly Republican but there are more of them. Even if you eliminate traditional gerrymandering, geography will still help the Republicans in legislative races.

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        • This is a good point. In states that provide statutory guidelines for district drawing, the most common ones are compactness (usually expressed as minimizing the length of the perimeters) and doing as little city and/or county splitting as possible. Such guidelines tend to keep the Democrat-heavy cities intact. The three Colorado Congressional districts in and around Denver look like a gerrymander. In reality, they reflect the current odd shape of the City and County of Denver, and a pretty simple split of the donut of inner ring suburbs that tries to keep cities intact.

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        • I see your point but I still think it over simplifies in that it takes demographics out of the equation. Democrats have (and will probably continue for the foreseeable future to have) a substantial advantage among women, racial minorities, and, to the extent they vote, the young. Meanwhile older, white people who trend republican are becoming a smaller part of the voting population. As the baby boomer generation starts retiring and moving and/or dying it could make a large number of red districts purple. I also think that as people move out to suburbia and exurbia to have kids or are pushed out by gentrificaton they will take their political preferences with them. A good example is Virginia’s DC suburbs combining with a large black population in certain areas to turn a historically red state purple.

          Maybe based on the geographic/districting analysis Democrats are likely to have a couple down elections (still a big maybe) but they aren’t doomed and they have some major trends in their favor. Maybe they will never have total victory but thats a feature of the system.

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          • This is very true looking at the parties today, as well as in the rearview mirror.

            I think the problem with using this as a prognosticator is that it assumes that as the demographics and national attitudes change the GOP won’t never change its policies in a way to reflect that. And to be fair, they certainly haven’t thus far, to a degree that I think is surprising. But I think that eventually there will have to be a tipping point — maybe as early as 2020. I think the leadership has been actually aware of this for years, and has been trying unsuccessfully to both ride the tiger of their base and make changes for the future. But eventually as that tiger shrinks, I think the idea of trying to win without it gets easier to swallow.

            If that tipping point ever happens, I think the Democrats are going to be in real trouble.

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            • I don’t disagree (and I actually deleted a caveat to my post that made a similar point). The question is how long it takes for people to consider voting Republican when they have memories of particularly adverse stances (women regarding abortion, Latinos and blacks on voting rights issues, young people on gay marriage). It isn’t that tribal loyalties carved from those types of debates can’t be reshuffled but I’d bet it takes more than a few election cycles.

              I’d also assume that Democrats will at least also try to make adaptations of their own if they saw the Republican brand becoming less toxic among cretain strategic groups.

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              • Awhile. It’s been studied, and general partisan preferences are ‘sticky’. That is, once you’ve voted for a party a few times it takes a LOT to shift you from the party. (That doesn’t preclude you from voting the occasional cross ticket candidate, obviously).

                Add in the fact that ‘independent’ voters might as well be called ‘party members who don’t want the card’, what you end up with is a sort of lock-in effect.

                Vote for a single party’s Presidential candidate for three or four elections, and it takes a lot of hard pushes to get the average voter to defect.

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                • In my gay circles the subject has been discussed. The consensus is to get gay votes from my social circles at least they’d need to:
                  -Stop the whole anti-gay rights aspect of their platform.
                  -Run an election with both gays angry at them and their fundamentalists likewise furious with them. Take their lumps and not change their platform back to an anti-gay position.
                  -Then we’d consider it. But my social circle is a pretty centrist group, it’d take longer for a lot of gays.

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    • There is the problem that getting Democratic voters enthused about local, state and mid-term federal elections does some rather difficult.

      Also, too, in a lot of places, like Philly, Democratic control has led to creeping privatization of public schools. Not exactly a recipe for getting Democrats excited.

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  4. Counter Yglesias’ argument with Heidi Heitkamp.
    I haven’t been reading kos as much as I used to, but he’s pretty much always been running “get red state democrats elected” — and find the folks that can get elected there.

    But Tester looks a lot different than Webb, if you know what I mean.

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    • I believe MY mentions her or people like her. The question though is how much leeway do you give red-state Democrats to thwart what the large percentage of the Democratic Party wants. Rural state Democratic types have a way of annoying the rest of the party.

      Also there is speculation that Alison Grimes lost her KY Senate race for running too far away from Obama.

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      • Ford lost in Tennessee despite embracing the god-damned Confederate Battle Flag.
        I’m a wee bit skeptical about folks saying things about the south without living there.
        So, cite me some sources from Kentucky showing that Grimes should have run closer to Obama…

        Their vote 55% of the time is enough, I’m thinking. Murtha was a solid D, and he kept that area D longer than he was alive, for goodness sakes! Give them some time to get settled, then see if they can come to heel, at least on the easy things.

        I don’t want a redstate Democrat who wants gun control, that’s pretty nonsensical.

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      • The question though is how much leeway do you give red-state Democrats to thwart what the large percentage of the Democratic Party wants. Rural state Democratic types have a way of annoying the rest of the party.

        I admit that my first reaction to this statement was outrage on several levels. I’ve decided to see the silver lining, though. This is a good thing for my western secession conspiracy. Big-city Dems east of the Mississippi can afford to discard the red and purple states of the Mountain West. The West Coast, and California in particular, we can cut a deal with. We sit on top of their water and power supplies. There’s enough other common ground — water, fire, federal land holdings, etc — for us to work something out as a separate country :^)

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          • Those aren’t the things that come to my mind right off, but say more. You might convince me.

            The things that come to my mind quickly include Ben Nelson of Nebraska blocking certain things from the ACA, a non-negotiable demand in states like Iowa for grain subsidies of various sorts, immigration attitudes in light of the fact that sweeps through certain kinds of facilities like meat packing plants — when I was a kid the packing plant in town paid a living wage — always find sizable number of illegals working cheap (fines are just a cost of business to the big corporations).

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      • Also there is speculation that Alison Grimes lost her KY Senate race for running too far away from Obama.

        Speculation? You do realize when her poll numbers collapsed, right? Right after she flubbed the debate question on whether she voted for Obama in 2012. She refused to answer, instead of saying she voted for the party’s nominee.

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    • This is really at the heart of the white working class distancing from the Dems that has gone on in rural states/areas for the last few decades. Supporting lots of immigration may work in urban areas where many folks are immigrants and/or have family that is, but it has been the rarely spoken problem the party has with many whites.

      Obviously, the Republican establishment isn’t very good on this issue either, and that’s why the rise of Trump is so predictable and understandable. I just don’t think the Dems could have a similar figure in regards to this issue.

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      • As with “fiscal conservatism” (because that button of mine has been pushed) the job-destroying nature of immigration seems to have a racial angle.

        When a factory ships jobs to Mexico, rural white working class people nod their heads and accept it as the Global Nature of How Things Are, and continue to vote for the party that champions market fundamentalism to continue this pattern.

        When a factory imports Mexicans to do the same work, rural white working class people become outraged.

        Why? What accounts for this? Mexicans doing my old job in Mexico are acceptable, but Mexicans doing my old job on Main Street are an outrage?

        There isn’t any rational economic argument at play. Economics and political theory is a mask to advance a different agenda.

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            • The problem has to be fixed from both sides, supply and demand. The fed gov needs to crack down on corps that employ illegals as well as beef up border security.

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              • Well, find me a new party, and quick!
                The democrats hit the corps hard, and the republicans beef up border security. (well except for clinton, who also beefed up border security).

                Sure you won’t vote for Hillary?

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          • I’m with notme on this one. The word “illegal” means something in this context. And that’s a part of problem I’d like to think all sides can agree on, irrespective of what each side views as the proper solution.

            Each side (all three of em!) have views about how to solve that particular problem, and frankly, I have to concede that the Democrats’ solution is the least elegant of the three. That isn’t to say I advocate building a wall (like some conservatives) or completely eliminating restrictions on immigrating to work here (like some libertarians), but at least each is moreorless coherent wrt resolving the issue of “illegality”.

            Personally, I think the incoherence of the Dem position on this reflects the fundamental tension existing within Democratic constituencies, a tension which exists within the GOP as well, of course, but which the base is trying to eliminate, seems to me.

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            • You don’t think corporate hiring of illegal aliens induces them to come?
              Or that the corporate PACs prefer loose immigration controls?

              The very same entities that promoted NAFTA (shipping jobs to Mexico) also lobby in favor of looser immigration (importing Mexicans to do work).

              Yet one gets the right angry, the other doesn’t.

              Why?

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              • Oh sure. I agree with your first comments – I said as much in my own comment – I just don’t see what that has to do with the illegality of illegal immigrants. I also don’t think anyone disputes that labor-intensive businesses have an incentive to hire illegals.

                The conservative base is advocating stricter enforcement of the laws currently on the books. Libertarians are advocating for changing the laws on the books. What are liberals advocating? Providing a path to citizenship? That seems like the weakest of the three proposals since it focuses on something else. It doesn’t address the actual issue in play. In my view anyway.

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        • As with “fiscal conservatism” (because that button of mine has been pushed) the job-destroying nature of immigration seems to have a racial angle.

          When a factory ships jobs to Mexico, rural white working class people nod their heads and accept it as the Global Nature of How Things Are, and continue to vote for the party that champions market fundamentalism to continue this pattern.

          When a factory imports Mexicans to do the same work, rural white working class people become outraged.

          Why? What accounts for this? Mexicans doing my old job in Mexico are acceptable, but Mexicans doing my old job on Main Street are an outrage?

          There isn’t any rational economic argument at play. Economics and political theory is a mask to advance a different agenda.

          Have you ever talked with working class whites about trade policy? I have (although they’re northern urban and suburban not southern and rural) and they almost all favor protectionists trade policies. Polling also shows that working class whites favor protectionism. The strongest anti-immigration movements have also been anti-free trade, in case you haven’t noticed Trump has been supporting protectionist policies in his speeches and Pat Buchanan was also a protectionist.
          One other consideration is that for many people immigration is a much bigger threat and outsourcing; my hometown has lots of blue collar workers but none of them work in factories they mostly work in construction related trades. Free trade probably benefits them in the form of cheaper consumer good yet for the most part they still favor protectionist policies because they feel those will protect the jobs of other Americans.
          You post shows the typical contempt that professional class liberals have for working class whites. You see them all as a bunch of losers who couldn’t succeed despite having “white privilege” and you imagine that they are all a bunch of racists.

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          • Dand is correct that many working class conservatives are not free traders at all. Never have been and likely never will. It is the business class of the R that are all in for free trade. D’s lost some of those folk when they went for things like NAFTA and became minimally different from R’s on trade. It is part of the anger working class whites have for the R’s that they keep supporting policies that screw them over.

            However, Dand, working class whites have spent a lot votes on R’s who have kept pushing policies that hurt them. It isn’t like R’s at the national level have ever been coy about being strong for free trade. There are a lot reasons why they have voted for so many R’s but if they don’t like what they keep voting for, then they should look in the mirror first to figure out why they keep getting played. It also isnt’ hard to find plenty of racial hatred in the strong anti-immigration groups. Is that everything and everybody who is against immigration; no, but if you aren’t seeing that race is part of the issue, then you aren’t paying attention.

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            • The working class people that I know that vote republican do so because of crime, foreign policy, a dislike of upper class liberals and for the better off ones taxes. I think in practice both parties are pro-free trade and pro-immigration with the Democrats having an anti-trade block and the Republicans having an anti-immigration block. There is certainly some racism among people who are anti-immigration but I don’t think most of them are racist.

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              • Unfortunately some of the loudest or most prone to get on tv for protesting immigration are the most unpleasant people. Neither the groups skeptical of free trade on the D’s or the anti Immigration folks have much pull in their parties. Dislike of upper class people is always part of working class voting patterns regardless whether it is R’s or D’s.

                I don’t want to get to far off the point and into a far more difficult conversation but i think race is part of most big issues in this country certainly things like crime and foreign policy. But those are separate conversations.

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      • I’m not sure this completely true. The Democratic Party has been the part of immigrants since the Irish started coming to NYC. If you were and urban immigrant, the Democratic machine generally got you jobs and housing.

        The White Working Class (as in the ability to lead a comfortable life via unskilled to semi-skilled labor) was destroyed by a lot more than immigration and the white-working class might have abandoned the Democratic Party long ago in many places but this is not necessarily true. The Democratic Party does decently to very well with white working-class votes in almost every part of the United States. The one exception is the South.

        One of the theories about the rise of Trump is that he is appealing to what an older academic called Middle-American Radicals. These tend to be whites without a college degree but white-collarish jobs in fields like sales and clerical work or they own their own businesses. They see themselves as under attack from below and above. They dislike the working class and poor minorities but they also dislike the upper-middle class and above. They might like anti-union rhetoric but they have no enthusiasm for gutting or privatizing Social Security and Medicare.

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        • Sure, the reasons for the destruction of the middle class goes beyond immigration (I generally see mass migration in our current age as a symptom of this collapse rather than a cause), but I think it would be wrong to say having a transient workforce of unskilled labor isn’t playing a role in running down working class wages. More importantly however, the cultural displacement in many white working class communities is real, and is key reason why this issue becomes so heated.

          Yes, migration has always happened in this country, and yes it almost always reveals problems/divisions in the existing society about how it will incorporate these new migrants, but displacement of existing communities is real and felt. When I go to traditionally white working-class portions of Santa Rosa, it is clear a massive change has taken place in the last 3 decades. I think liberals do themselves a disservice when they act like:
          1) this isn’t happening
          2) the working class should just deal with it

          I am reminded of the community I teach in (a very wealthy suburb of San Francisco). Everyone in this community always trumpets more immigrants coming into America, but they live in a community that has not felt those effects (i.e. it remains overwhelmingly white). Many new immigrants are (understandably) going to move into the cheaper, working class areas. The existing workers in that community will have to carry the social burden of that change in demographics.

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          • In San Francisco, that very wealthy suburb can be filled with immigrants parents and your students might be first-generation Americans. Maybe you are looking at 4th generation Americans at oldest. You probably aren’t looking at people who can trace their ancestry to the American Revolution or before.

            I’m a 4th generation American citizen. I don’t think it is wise or morally right to say that now immigration is different and we should limit it.

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            • While they my be second/third/fourth generation Americans, the community remains overwhelmingly white and wealthy. Just thinking about schools for a moment, this district spends very little on the services required to support new migrants coming from poorer backgrounds and requiring language and/or remedial classes. What I have seen happening in working class communities is a greater enthusiasm for charter schools because the existing community recognizes that their local schools are now spending a great deal of time/money to help new migrants. The white working class is rightfully asking “what does my family get from all this?”

              Again, I also think it is problematic if immigration is framed by the left as “morally good,” as it then requires no talk about the merits of the current immigration policy today. It also hands over that block of voters to the Republicans on a platter.

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  5. Doomed is certainly hyperbole but the Democratic Party definitely has a problem on the state level and I’m flat out too unfamiliar with state level politics to have much of an opinion on what the exact contours of those problems are. I suspect that they are probably as diverse and myriad as the various states that contain them. That said one can then ask in retort why the GOP doesn’t have the same local and lower level election problems.
    I don’t think that the Democrats have a congress problem; their poor showing in congress is predominantly a reflection of their weakness in the state houses. I would definitely chalk this up as a serious problem issue for the Democratic party and it’s one they’ll need to wrestle with just like the GOP’s serious problem is their national party has lost it’s fishing mind. I will observe with some unease that the solution to the GOP’s problem seems simpler than the solution to the Democratic Party’s malaise. Then again it’s possible that the various state Dem groups simply need some time out of power to shake the bugs out of the rugs and the balance will tilt back in the next election or so.

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    • You hit on something here, and that is that the Dems problem in congress is a direct reflection of their problem in state houses. The Democrats and Republicans have opposite structural problems , the Republicans have a demographic issue (a younger and more ethnically diverse electorate that seems to only show up for presidential elections), while the Dems are fighting an uphill battle against gerrymandered districts that keeps their candidates off of Capitol Hill, even when they are able to bring out more voters.

      I don’t think one party is any more likely to gerrymander than the other (you can see some crazy gerrymandering in Illinois done to the Democrats advantage). But the fact that the Republicans have been able to do this is a direct reflection on the Democrats inability to organize and win at the state and local level. And politically, this gives the Republicans an advantage even if they can’t win the White House (which at this point is more likely than the Democrats winning the House).

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      • I want to know the percentages… If they’re pulling a 55/45 split (again, that’s what they did in Colorado, and why 2006 etc was so blue there), that’s something that population migration and a good tailwind can fight. If they’re pulling a 60/40, that’s significantly less doable.

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        • Anyone interested in why there was such a pronounced blue swing in Colorado in the naughts should read The Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado by Rob Witwer and Adam Schrager. (Full disclosure: I knew Rob Witwer while I was on the legislative staff in Colorado and he struck me as a bright guy.) Among other things, the Gang of Four largely invented the big data methods that Obama would adopt in 2008. Not that there hasn’t been a general drift to the left in the (critical) suburban population, but there was some carefully directed pushing going on as well.

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  6. From my pov Yggles is merely stating the obvious. The GOP (or more precisely I guess, conservatives) has made phenomenal gains by building a national presence from the inside out, beginning at the local level (school boards, town councils, etc) on up thru state houses to governorships and US congressional representation. I don’t think this is news to anyone, but Yggles is correct that it reflects really poorly on the Democrats as an institutional structure.

    But one thing he’s absolutely right about is that Dems seem to think the entire political future of their party (and perhaps by extension, the country) rests on teasing out distinctions between Bernie and Hillary and coming to a collective agreement on which of those two best represents Democratic priorities going forward. A high level of either narcissism, myopia, apathy or (as he says) torpor is in play, no doubt. As Democrats puzzle thru their internal uncertainties at the Presidential level, conservatives are challenging the whole apparatus upon which not only GOP but also Democratic party politics is built. I don’t know if that spells doom for the party, but if current trend-lines are projected into the future it doesn’t look good for them going forward.

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    • From my outside perspective, it seems to me that Democrats have internalized their electoral college advantage and so feel like who the next president is going to be is more or less their choice. The GOP has done little to disabuse them of this and any contrary evidence is kind of shrugged off as the product of our goofy system and half-elections that shouldn’t count because people don’t show up. But the real election, the one that counts, is theirs.

      Which is not entirely wrong. They do have that advantage.

      The only thing that ought to be concerning is that they are potentially one election result away from disaster.

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      • The only thing that ought to be concerning is that they are potentially one election result away from disaster.

        That, for sure (as I said about the slapsticky McCain and Romney elections, they were still SO CLOSE!) but think about it from a conservative-operatives perspective: if the (nominal!) GOP keeps gaining in areas which Democrats forsake, that one election becomes increasingly more likely.

        Since I don’t have any idea why the Dems are so complacent about all this (I have some banal ideas, one being that the internal fractures within the Dem party stymies coherent grass roots coalition building), I’ll agree with your proposal that their rationale rests (very tenuously!) on a pure electoral college vote calculus. But as you say, and Yggles implies, that’s messin with combustibles.

        Adding: if you go back a bit to the seat vacated by Hillary in NY and look into the Democrats approach to retaining that seat, it seems to me you’d find a bunch of things constitutive of what’s currently wrong with the party. At least as far as this issue is concerned.

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        • A problem with trying to elect Democratic politicians in certain states is that the end up vulnerable to Republican candidates in future elections and vote against the Democratic Party more than any Republican votes against the typical Republican party.

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        • as I said about the slapsticky McCain and Romney elections, they were still SO CLOSE

          Huh? Obama won both elections handily, by well-outside-the-margin quantities that were easily predictable by those (like Nate Silver) who weren’t invested in manufacturing a horse race.

          Am I missing snark here?

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              • Counterfactuals are always a tricky thing to determine the truth of, no doubt (being counterfactual and all), but I just go back to the fact that McCain-Palin, despite all the unintended comedy they produced, still received almost 46% of the popular vote.

                Adding: and if I had to identify a specific reason precluding the GOP from winning that cycle it would be the Iraq invasion war.

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                • Counterfactuals are really tough though. To win in 2012 I’d think you’d need the GOP to have been entirely different on the national stage. That would have dramatically changed what might have gotten done during Obama’s first term and how which in turn could have changed a lot of perceptions of him. It’s hard to say but it’s possible that a productive partnership with the GOP could have made him considerably more popular.

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                  • North, I disagree, primarily because we may be talking about two different things here. I concede that part of the dysfunction of the Romney campaign resulted from the deeper dysfunction within the party. But I also think the majority of that dysfunction – and we can disagree about this – was self-inflicted. But more to the point, what I’m arguing is that viewing Obama’s victories as sign of health in the Dem party seems like the wrong message to take away from those elections.

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                    • Yes we are agreeing. Romney took positions to secure the nomination and keep his base happy that hurt him with the rest of the electorate. Those were definitely self inflicted.

                      And yes I agree that the Dems aren’t healthy just because they’re competitive for the executive branch at the national level.

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                      • From a previous Linky (can’t look it up at the moment) there is actually some polling to suggest that what Romney did had no effect, neither in convincing primary nor general election voters, that he was especially conservative. And that views about how conservative Romney was (not severely) remained constant throughout the election.

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                          • No, not that. Rather, the implication is that nobody bought his act. He didn’t acquire conservative votes in the primary and he didn’t lose votes in the general on account of sounding conservative during the primary. Because nobody believed he was sincere, or that he would actually govern accordingly.

                            It might have had no effect, or might have had a tangential effect. In other words, if he hurt himself, it was because he came across as insincere and not as someone who had been captured by the right.

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              • Romney was (is?) as good as could be expected from the Republicans. He’s handsome, looks like a statesman, is smart, has a good baritone, decent experience, and has a fairly moderate history that would do a decent job of mitigating the whole “Mitt Romney Will Not Sleep Until We Are A Theocracy” thing.

                And he lost in 2012.

                Obama is lightning in a bottle.

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                • I think Romney actually played reasonably well with a bad hand. But Still emphatically disagrees and I’m not sure he’s wrong (I just can’t think of anyone who would have done better).

                  Yet he lost. It wasn’t a blowout but it wasn’t a squeaker. And he lost despite polls saying voters thought this views were closer to theirs than Obama.

                  So either Romney was terrible, Obama was great, or there were some wicked fundamentals involving Romney’s political party, or some or all of the above.

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                  • Yeah, I think a bunch of his mistakes were self-inflicted (that is, the result of bad campaigning/politicking rather than being caused attempting to straddle the incoherence in the party).

                    Plus, Obama really was a terrific candidate/campaigner. I hope even conservatives can agree with that assessment.

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                    • They will, when he’s out of office.

                      It’s like the way Clinton is perceived now, compared to how he was in office. Or for that matter, the way Magic Johnson was to non-Laker fans pre-and post-retirement.

                      With some love-to-hate-’em roles, you really need to be gone before people can admit how much game you had.

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            • In 2008 Obama won by >7% of the popular vote and with 94 EVs more than he needed. To get those EVs from the closest states, Other Republican would have needed to win Colorado, Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Indiana, AND North Carolina. Obama won Colorado by nearly 9 points. I’d love to hear your theory on which republican would outperform McCain by that much in a bluish-purple state (while, of course, carrying all the more-traditional swing states Obama won)

              In 2012 Obama won by nearly 4% of the popular vote and with 51 EVs to spare. To get those EVs from the closest states, Other Republican would have needed to win Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. It’s much more doable (the margin in Virginia was about the same as the national popular vote), but four percent is still a lot.

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  7. Saul Degraw: The question though is how much leeway do you give red-state Democrats to thwart what the large percentage of the Democratic Party wants. Rural state Democratic types have a way of annoying the rest of the party.

    that’s the steps 2,3, & 4. You get red state dems in the legislature, you get better congressional districts for dems, you get Nancy Pelosi as Speaker. The biggest irony in 2010 was that Pelosi did her job and kept her caucus together on anything and everything President Obama wanted, but Harry Reid couldn’t do his job and had a caucus in disarray. Yet Pelosi lost her job in the new year but Reid kept his.

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  8. Illinois goes a bit beyond a Democratic legislature. They have a supermajority in both chambers.

    Also, ‘s reference to “incompetence, the appearance of corruption, actual corruption, victories by GOPers ” rings true.
    Lisa Madigan, the Ill. AG, is the daughter of House Speaker Mike Madigan, who raised over $450,000 for Lisa’s re-election campaign, most of it from the SEIU and another union. That figure is more than the 49 other AG elections combined.
    When Rauner withheld payments to unions for their political funds (state employees, as non-members in a closed shop, were compelled to pay into the union’s political fund), the Illinois Supreme Court stepped in to nix that, effectively holding that the Illinois Constitution is in direct conflict with the U.S. Constitution.
    At least, I can see Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Educ., 431 U.S. 209 (1977) and Keller v. Cal. St. Bar Ass’n, 496 U.S. 1 (1990) cited in my BarBri Bar Review Guide (Multistate) as supporting that, though dues payments may be compelled in a public sector closed shop, political donations cannot be so compelled.
    At this, AG Madigan stated her duty to the law was satisfied in the Ill. S. Ct.’s ruling.
    That is, federal rights are non-applicable in the State of Illinois. All that Bill of Rights stuff– gone.
    And most are too happy with getting one over on Rauner that they are truly unconcerned about the implications of it.
    It’s the implications which concern me the most.

    But one benefit of the internet is that the role of the traditional gatekeepers has been slowly eroding.
    If you can sort through all the garbage to find something useful.

    FWIW, I don’t take anything Matt Y. says seriously.

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  9. This is not important to the thesis of the article, but I thought it worth mentioning anyway: low-population states don’t actually give the GOP its senate advantage. I discussed it here, but the nuts and bolts of it is:

    A) Some lowpop states are blue, too. Notably Vermont and Rhode Island.
    B) Lowpop red states are surprisingly fertile ground for Democratic senate candidates. They have seats in Montana and North Dakota, for instance.
    C) The result of A and B is that small states are something of a wash.
    D) The real Republican advantage as far as the senate goes is that Democrats dominate the most populous states, while Republicans have a greater number of medium-sized states.

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