The Washington Post reports that “Democrats see grim prospects in final election results despite Biden’s win.” The main reason for Democrats’ pessimism is Joe Biden’s poor performance in precincts the Democrats think they should carry easily. The Post’s Michael Scherer writes:
Voters in the once Democratic Ohio county that surrounds the shuttered Lordstown General Motors plant delivered a decisive victory last month to the sitting president who had promised and failed to save their jobs.
In the heavily Hispanic South Bronx, the liberal sanctum of San Francisco and the immigrant-rich neighborhoods of Miami, President Trump also shrank Democratic margins by drawing thousands more to his side. He even swept the 31 Iowa counties that voted twice for Barack Obama before choosing Trump in 2016. . . .
Party strategists now speak privately with a sense of gloom and publicly with a tone of concern as the election results become clearer. They worry about the potential emergence of a mostly male and increasingly interracial working-class coalition for Republicans that will cut into the demographic advantages Democrats had long counted on.
Biden still outpolled President Trump by around 7 million votes (minus whatever one thinks the number of fraudulent votes was). And given the structure of the American economy, the “working class” isn’t large enough to carry the day for Republicans, at least not as long as Democrats hold the edge with its non-White members.
But Democrats seem to understand that their hold on white collar voters in the suburbs — the group that made the difference this year — is tenuous. According to Scherer, Democratic strategists “speculate that the tremendous Democratic gains in the suburbs during the Trump years might fade when he leaves office.”
The concern is well founded. Democratic strength in the suburbs was based to a considerable degree on Trump’s persona. It’s difficult to overstate how much he is hated by the suburbanites I know, including some who have voted for Republicans in the past.
But many of these same suburbanites — at least those over the age of, say, 50 — are put off by political correctness, identity politics, and over-the-top criticism of the police. Once Biden takes office, the focus for these voters will shift from Trump to the Democrats. If the Dems press ahead with the cancel culture, the BLM agenda items, and plans for reducing or neutering police forces, the Trump-driven gains for Democrats among suburbanites will, indeed, fade.
And the Democrats will press ahead. This is who they are and what they do.
The Post’s article shows that Democrats understand the parlous electoral math, but not what is driving it. For example, here is the takeaway of Bradley Beychok, president of American Bridge which ran a $62 million ad campaign intended to hurt Trump among White working-class voters:
We just need to acknowledge that Trump’s poison was deeper in the bloodstream of the American electorate than we thought.
Oh, okay. The White working class was poisoned by Trump. No blame should be attached to the policies and attitudes of the Democrats.
It’s a challenge for the Democratic Party to communicate with voters who don’t want to listen to us right now.
It doesn’t occur to Dunn that voters have been listening to Democrats and simply don’t like what they hear.
Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio is more in touch with working-class voters, and with reality. As he sees it:
You move Biden aside for half a second and you have a Democratic brand that is completely disconnected from workers. . .White, Black and Brown.
But recall that Ryan’s campaign for the Democratic nomination never achieved lift off. He was stuck at 1 percent support or less in the polls and dropped out early. Democratic leaders aren’t likely to listen to him.
According to the Post, Ryan wants “a far more targeted economic message, promising a tax cut for the middle class, infrastructure spending and a new manufacturing agenda.” That sounds downright Trumpian, minus the attacks on political correctness. But disgust with political correctness is an important part of the disconnect Ryan describes between the “Democratic brand” and “workers.”
In the end, it appears from the Post’s article that Democrats are hoping that an end to the pandemic and an economic recovery will enable them to keep suburban voters in the fold and to win back alienated members of the working class. Voters of all sorts tend to reward a party that presides over a strong economy. However, this doesn’t always mean electoral success, particularly in mid-term elections.
Long term success depends on policies and attitudes that don’t go against the grain of the key portions of the electorate. In this regard, Democrats have been depending on a shift in the makeup of the electorate, particularly its racial and ethnic composition.
Thus, perhaps the most ominous aspect of the 2020 election for Democrats was the erosion of support among minority group members. But that’s hardly the only warning sign.