Tod Lindberg of the Washington Times provides his take on the book “The Emerging Democratic Majority” by John Judis and Ruy Teixeira. Lindberg is both skeptical and fearful that such a majority will emerge. While Lindberg does not make the point, others have noted that Judis and Teixeira fail to appreciate the extent to which American electoral politics is a “zero sum game.” For example, the Democrats are unlikely to stretch their electoral advantage among single women without falling further behind among men and perhaps married women. Similarly, it will be difficult for the Democrats to gain an increased advantage among well-educated women without further eroding their position among less educated white males, still an important group.
Given this reality, the ability of modern parties to accumulate finely-tuned information about voter preferences, and the adaptability of the parties, “emerging majorities” are surely easier to write about than to create. I can think of three reasons why a new majority might emerge (I do not include the increasingly visible problem of voter fraud, which can swing close elections but probably cannot provide the foundation for creating an enduring majority in this country). First, a party can totally discredit itself over a cataclysmic event. The Democrats and the Civil War comes to mind. The Democrats and Jimmy Carter may be a lesser example. Second, a perennially “misaligned” group can finally defect from a party that has stopped representing its interests. This is how Kevin Phillips’ Republican majority emerged, when the white South and some “ethnic” Democrats finally realized that the Democrats had abandoned them. Today the only obviously “misaligned” group I can think of is the Jews, a group which is neither large nor likely to wake up soon. Third, a sea change can occur if an entirely new voting group throws its weight overwhelmingly behind one party without creating a large backlash.
In the current environment, I see no reason to believe that either of the first two conditions discussed above will create a new Democratic majority. Both parties are playing with fire when it comes to the war on terrorism, but I don’t think I’m being unduly partisan in believing that the Democrats are more likely than the Republicans to be burned. The third condition is another matter. The emergence of an essentially new voting group — Latin American immigrants — does indeed provide Democrats with the hope of a significant breakthrough. In sum, Lindberg is right to be both skeptical and fearful of the prospects for an emerging Democratic majority.
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