So About that Emerging Democrat Majority

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In graduate school I read John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira’s The Emerging Democratic Majority. Here is the Amazon summary of the book:

In five well-researched chapters and a new afterword covering the 2002 elections, Judis and Teixeira show how the most dynamic and fastest-growing areas of the country are cultivating a new wave of Democratic voters who embrace what the authors call “progressive centrism” and take umbrage at Republican demands to privatize social security, ban abortion, and cut back environmental regulations. As the GOP continues to be dominated by neoconservatives, the religious right, and corporate influence, this is an essential volume for all those discontented with their narrow agenda — and a clarion call for a new political order.

I confess that the book provided a good chuckle, particularly as I read it in 2003, sandwiched in between successful Republican electoral triumphs. Particularly laughable were predictions that states such as Georgia and Texas were destined to become fertile ground for Democrats thanks to rapid demographic shifts.

Twelve years later, and I confess that I am not seeing much blue here or here.

Now, to be fair, Judis and Teixeira were not arguing that a permanent and enduring Democrat majority was on the cusp of dominating the political landscape. They noted that cultural and demographic trends favored the Democrat party, which is an observation that certainly rings true in many respects. Certainly at the presidential level it is true that Republicans seem to start out perpetually behind the eight ball, having to win every possible swing state to have any chance of barely squeezing past 270 electoral votes. And election results in 2006, 2008, and to a lesser extent 2012 seemed to confirm that the Republicans were in danger of extended minority status.

Then again, there’s this.

For those too lazy to click the link, it’s a map of US Congressional districts by party in control, and there is a sea of red that just washes over nearly the entire country. If you do not live along the coast in the United States, then there’s a near guaranteed chance that your representative is a Republican.

Even this map does not do the party justice. These maps show party control of the various state legislatures. After Tuesday night the GOP can now add Nevada, Minnesota, and West Virginia to the mix. Additionally, after inauguration days in January, 32 states will have Republican governors, including Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland. This table presents a clearer picture of where things stand. Republicans control both the governor’s mansion and the legislature in 24 states, with super-majorities in 15 of those states. Democrats, meanwhile, hold both the legislature and the governorship in seven states, with super-majorities only in Rhode Island and Hawaii. Seven GOP governors will have a Democrat legislature (with a super-majority of Democrats in Massachusetts), and 11 Democrats governors will have a GOP legislature (with a Republican super-majority in Missouri). Additionally Nebraska has a Republican governor and a non-partisan unicameral legislature.

Now, elections are cyclical, and things can change in American politics. The Republican majority in the Senate is rather tenuous considering that Republicans will have to defend 24 seats in 2016, many in blue or purple states, and in a presidential election year. That being said, Republican dominance at the state level is hardly a new thing. Republicans have fared well at state-level elections even in heavily Democratic years.

In the end, the Judis and Teixeira proposition (which they continue to defend, by the way) is fatally flawed for a number of reasons.

1) Politics is local – It’s a cliche, but it happens to be true. Though Americans tend to focus on presidential elections at the exclusion of all other races (much like some Catholics tend to focus on the Papacy at the exclusion of all other offices, ahem), believe it or not the presidency is not everything. Local decisions still have more bearing on your day-to-day lives than what the federals do, even if the federal government is more powerful today than in years past. Local circumstances are unique, and individual politicians at the local level might be able to connect with the electorate in a way that federal officials cannot.

2) Even the presidential disadvantage is overrated. Sure Republicans face certain electoral defeat in states that total close to 200 electoral votes (although Democrats face a similar hole in about the same amount of states), and Republicans continue to fail to break through in states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico and other swing states, while losing their grip in Virginia and Colorado. Yet again one must ponder if this is due to a complete change in the electorate or unique circumstances in each presidential election. It is my contention that candidates matter, and the lackluster string of GOP nominees – including the one guy who won – over the past two decades have failed to move the electorate. Yet the potential GOP field in 2016 is incredibly deeper than the Democrat field. The GOP will have at least half a dozen credible candidates running. GOP has establishment governors (Christie, Bush, possibly Romney), conservative Governors (Walker, Jindal, potentially Kasich, Pence, Perry), as well as conservative Senators (Cruz, Paul, Santorum). All of these candidates would be serious contenders on both a primary and general election level – perhaps the Senate field less so. The Democrat field meanwhile is essentially Hilary Clinton and . . . umm, is her husband eligible to run again? Elizabeth Warren is being touted as a potential candidate, but does anyone see her as a legitimate threat to win a general election? What else is there? Republicans will still have to scratch and claw to win in 2016, and they will have to do much better than they did in 2012 to get out the vote, but almost all of these candidates (except Romney) would seem to be individuals who could inspire more of the electorate.

By the way, I would tie this in with point one. Republican victories at the state level have provided the GOP with a much deeper bench to help them become more competitive in presidential elections.

3) The idea of any kind of cyclical majority is simply wrong. And this is the most critical point. The Teixeira/Judis thesis is part of a larger body of work in political science that contends that American politics has been dominated by a series of electoral realignments. Starting in 1800 with the Jefferson coalition, one party dominates government for roughly 30 years before a new governing coalition dominates. Therefore the next coalition after Jefferson emerged in 1828 with the Jackson Democrats, 1860 with the Lincoln Republicans, 1896 with the McKinley and the GOP, 1932 with the FDR coalition, and then 1968 with GOP electoral dominance. So now we should be entering a period of Democrat dominance. But as Richard Mayhew* aptly demonstrated, electoral realignment theory just doesn’t pan out under close scrutiny. There are just too many holes in realignment theory to show that there is a real pattern. In reality, elections are decided by unique circumstances. The quality rather than the ideology of candidates determines national elections much more than is acknowledged. And while demographic trends should not be ignored, nor should we simply rely on demographic analysis to predict election results. The politics of demographic groups change over time. After all, I don’t think Democrats are counting on the Irish Catholic vote as much as they used to. Some trends on Tuesday should be encouraging for Republicans, including garnering a majority (or plurality) of the Asian vote, a much more substantial percentage of the Hispanic vote, especially in Texas, and some inroads among women. Again, the midterm electorate might be different, but those groups should not be counted on to vote in exactly the same way for all perpetuity.

*In the world of political science, academics aside from Mayhew are akin to the priest who delivers 25 minute homilies that ultimately seem to have no point and which are forgotten by the time the Creed starts, whereas Mayhew is the young priest who delivers a meaty seven minute homily that you’re still thinking about the next day.

Demographics is not destiny. American politics is more than just the presidency. And the Republican party, as flawed as it is, is safely off of life support.

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26 Comments

  1. American politics is an ever changing battle between the two parties. In that battle there are never any final victories or defeats. If one of the two parties should ever disappear, a new party standing for much of the same things would arise. Continuity within chaos is the odd form of American politics since the rise of Andrew Jackson gave birth to the modern two party system.

  2. Curious how voting patterns vary between countries.

    The 2012 French Presidential election saw a turnout of 79.48% in the first round and 80.35% in the second. The media, both left and right, claimed the disillusionment of the missing one-fifth spelled the death of democracy.

    In the 2012 US Presidential election, the turnout was 58.2% and no one batted an eyelid.

  3. I don’t remember “the emerging Democratic majority”. I do remember talk that the GOP was becoming a regional party. See map.

  4. Paul Zummo is correct.

    Pennsylvania has been very difficult for the GOP in presidential years since Clinton won in 1992. The Philadelphia suburbs were majority Rockefeller Republicans a generation ago and they more than canceled out the vote in the city of Philadelphia. It is important to note that they voted for Reagan twice and Bush 41 once. This region flipped in 1992 and the GOP has not found a way to win it back. Romney did carry some of the Philadelphia suburban counties in 2012. It is not about the GOP being dominated by Bible thumpers, but putting out weak candidates. I think Bush carried Pennsylvania at least once but Philadelphia City voter fraud led to a Donkey win in both 2000 & 2004. Western Pennsylvania has remained stagnant in population and is not a Democrat sure thing outside of Allegheny County anymore, as evidenced by the winners in state senate and legislature elections. Soon to be former Governor Corbett governed weakly, refusing to contest the gay marriage ruling AND the voter ID ruling AND selling the state stores to bail out the state pensions. Tommy Wolf-cub will be a one term governor once Pennsylvanians realize he will push for tax increases ostensibly for “the rich” and people who are struggling will be surprised to find out that they are “rich”.

    It’s true that Northern Virginia swayed Virginia in 2008 & 2012. However, Cucinelli narrowly lost last year to the cretin McAuliffe in 2013 after getting NO help from the national GOP and Gillespie, not the best candidate, made things a lot closer than anyone thought against a thought to be popular incumbent.

    Florida twice voted for Obumbler, relying heavily on the black and Latino vote. There is no second Obama in the wings for the Donkey Party. Cory Booker, a black senator from New Jersey, may come close but is he going to be able to repeat what Obumbler did? Doubtful at best.

    A GOOD GOP candidate can carry Pennsylvania, Virginia, Iowa, North Carolina and Florida in 2016. New Hampshire used to be the one GOP enclave in the Northeast but it’s gone now. On the other hand, Louisiana, Arkansas and West Virginia are lost to the Donkeys. Walker, Perry, Kasich, Jindal – the next GOP candidate MUST be a governor from the Midwest or the South and NOT a one term Northeastern moderate (NO Romney) or McCain type who should be retired.

    The GOP still has fossils in the Senate who can cause a lot of damage. McConnell can’t be trusted. McCain is a nasty old man who needs to go. Cochran from Mississippi should have retired. Roberts from Kansas is another one who voters held their noises and elected just to get rid of Harry Reid.

    The race for 2016 begins now. The GOP must put forth ideas that are popular and resonate with their base and independents. Repeal of Obumblercare, tax reform, the Keystone pipeline, energy independence (nuclear, oil, gas, coal), abolishing Common Core and instituting real education reform, reform of Medicare, repeal of Dodd-Frank (those two belong in prison for the rest of their lives), real health care reform in allowing insurance companies to compete against each other like car insurance companies do, and FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY including passing a budget – all are winning ideas. 24 Senate seats must be defended, and they are ALL winnable. Nevada and Colorado could be GOP pickups, as Buck narrowly lost to Bennett in 2010 and Harry Reid is no longer in charge of anything significant in the Senate. The GOP needs to get rid of Murkowski and McCain.

  5. I agree with most of what I hear about “the Republicans must do thus and so”. In addition tho, people who don’t think of themselves as active working members of the GOP can help bring change. Republican or Democrat leaders are not going to be better than the people they lead. Those who are Catholic and conservative must do their part to inform and engage their local culture, helping more people to understand the the moral issues, and make the decision to follow Christ in a rising tide of Christianity that really does lift the whole society.

  6. Did I hear right that Ben Carson has thrown his hat in the ring for 2016 Pres. elections?
    A great and inspirational guy, I have bought a couple of his books, and he did a flying visit here to NZ a couple of months ago to talk to and inspire a whole lot of young underprivileged Pasifika kids – but is he politically tough enough? Time will tell.

  7. Good analysis from both Paul and Penguins Fan. I have one quibble though:

    “The Democrat field meanwhile is essentially Hilary Clinton and . . . umm, is her husband eligible to run again? Elizabeth Warren is being touted as a potential candidate, but does anyone see her as a legitimate threat to win a general election?”
    .
    Nobody thought Barak Obama was a legitimate threat to win the general election in 2006 either. I think she can take Hillary. And if the GOP holds true to form, I think she can win the general election.
    .
    It’s all going to depend on whether or not voters have had enough of “historical firsts.”

  8. Thanks Pinky. Agreed on all counts.

    Did I hear right that Ben Carson has thrown his hat in the ring for 2016 Pres. elections?

    It is looking that while. While he seems like a thoughtful man, his should be a candidacy that goes nowhere. Getting hopped up about someone because they once delivered a great speech has been done before, and that turned into the disastrous presidency of Obama.

    Nobody thought Barak Obama was a legitimate threat to win the general election in 2006 either. I think she can take Hillary. And if the GOP holds true to form, I think she can win the general election.

    I thought that even as I was typing the comment, but to me Warren doesn’t have quite the same crossover political appeal as Obama. That said, she could be dangerous, especially for Clinton.

  9. Fauxcahontas got 53% against Scott Brown in Massachusetts in 2012 with a 39 million buck war chest. Color me unimpressed. One should never underestimate an adversary, but if the aging Warren is ever on a national ticket it will be as Veep for a Democrat who thinks there is still milage in the tired War on Women meme.

  10. I would disagree with you about ‘re-alignment’. You can discern a number of distinct periods in American electoral history. You’ve had inchoate periods (1788-1800, 1824-34, 1854-60); dominance by one party (1800-24, 1860-74, 1894-1928, 1932-68), advantage to one party (1834-54), and even competition (1874-94). What you can see retrospectively is that there has been a secular increase in their duration and we entered a new era in 1968 from which we have not emerged and which has been characterized by a lack of enduring advantages for either party in federal politics.

    Not much more than a year ago I was reading the spew of an obnoxious Democratic partisan (who signs himself “RTod”) that the polls results he was consulting indicated that the GOP was doomed (oh, and all their majorities stem from gerrymandering, which is demonstrably untrue). Waal, there are still 10 races not called, but (depending on the number of ballots Democratic poll workers have secreted in their car trunks) it appears we have the largest Republican House caucus since 1930 and Barack Obama will face in Congress the most disadvantageous balance of forces of any Democratic president since 1897 (when the big issue was the gold standard and three of my great-grandparents were still in school). I’m enough of a political partisan to be enjoying the doom.

  11. My understanding of the situation in Pennsylvania was that Corbett was undermined by careerists in the Republican legislative caucus who were not all that numerous but held crucial gatekeeper positions.

    Just shy of half the population of Pennsylvania is small town and rural and the dense settlement in the eight counties around Philadelphia and Pittsburgh comprehends about 37% of the state’s population. The balance is held by nine fairly unpretentious provincial cities of which only State College is heavily invested in higher education, media, or technology. There’s fertile soil in Pennsylvania for a dissent from the social projects of the chatterati, but you have to plant it. For the entire period running from 1952 to 1992 the Republican Party ran political temporizers or the vaguely liberal for marquee races. Santorum showed in 1994 that you did not have to do that and Toomey demonstrated that again in 2010. The only congressional district the Democrats won this year outside of the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh metros is a hideously gerrymandered piece of work which assembles swatches of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Allentown/Bethlehem, and Harrisburg metros with connecting territory.

  12. Repeal of Obumblercare, tax reform, the Keystone pipeline, energy independence (nuclear, oil, gas, coal), abolishing Common Core and instituting real education reform, reform of Medicare, repeal of Dodd-Frank (those two belong in prison for the rest of their lives)

    The Keystone pipeline is not that important and ‘energy independence’ is a rotten cause if it means public subsidies directed at various and sundry technologies and projects.

    If you want ‘real’ education reform, the federal government’s contribution to that should be to transfer the NAEP to the Labor department, replace federal aid to primary and secondary education (and all categorical and bloc grants while we’re at it) with general revenue sharing distributed to state governments according to formula, strip NCATE of any para-statal authority it currently possesses to accredit teacher-training programs, eliminate federal student loan guarantees, eliminate enhanced bankruptcy protection for student loans, eliminate federal grants to higher education (and any sort of corporate body, while we’re at it), and comprehensively replace the federal regulatory architecture governing higher education with ERISA protections for employees and with consumer-protection law governing the interstate contractual relation between institution and student (which in turn would emphasize disclousure and audits with sanctions for lying institutions). Let the states and localities fix their bloody schools without federal interference.

    You can replace Obamacare. You likely cannot simply return to the status quo ante. For reasons of salesmanship, you might grandfather the population over a certain age (say, 47 or thereabouts), leaving Medicare roughly intact for them and then craft a revised public insurance scheme for the rest of the population.

  13. Nobody thought Barak Obama was a legitimate threat to win the general election in 2006 either.

    Haven’t noticed that she’s been getting push like Obama did from the start— when he won his Senate election in ’05, they were making a big deal of it on CNN and it was supposed to be deeply touching. (I only remember because I thought him describing his wife as his “baby mamma” was horribly tacky.)

    Warren, OTOH, hasn’t had that kind of fluff.

  14. I wonder if there is a Democrat out there that we’re not thinking of that will challenge Hillary. It is a weird position, in that she seems so invincible in the primary and yet is such a bad candidate. Six years ago proved that she is beatable. I’m thinking more of a nonentity than Elizabeth Warren. I don’t think the Dems will be lucky enough to find someone as well known with absolutely no standing as Obama.

    Or maybe the Dems just think it is Hillary’s turn this time.

  15. Aside from education and fiscal fraud issues, it would be good to work on Voter ID and paper ballots – or a way to monitor and match electronics with paper from the sign-in table. Temp jobs galore for those registrars to dole out on their big day and a worthwhile expenditure of tax dollars from the citizenry.

  16. I wonder if there is a Democrat out there that we’re not thinking of that will challenge Hillary. It is a weird position, in that she seems so invincible in the primary and yet is such a bad candidate.

    Rather like Richard Nixon in 1960 and 1968. I think we’d see them on the horizon at this point (and with minions schlepping around Iowa). Aside from Warren, the names which have been bruited about are Capped Teeth and Hairplugs (and the fun never stops with that crew http://theothermccain.com/2014/10/17/glad-i-wasnt-caught-with-hookers-too-hunter-biden-didnt-say-after-dismissal-from-navy-reserve-for-blow/), Gov. Dean (Yearrrgh), Sen. Manchin (fat chance), Gov. O’Malley (see Ann Althouse on his chumpificaiton this election), Gov. Rendell (who has some of Dean’s kinetic energy but leavened with a history of assaulting reporters), Gov. Schweitzer, and Sen. Webb. If you average it out, it’s actually a better bench than the Democrats have fielded in the last 20 years inasmuch Webb, Schweitzer, Rendell, O’Malley, Manchin, and Dean have all superintended a public bureaucracy (which only Gov. Richardson among their 2008 aspirants had). Webb, Schweitzer, Manchin and Dean have another agreeable property: they’re not lawyers.

  17. Art,

    Rick Santorum was soundly defeated in 2006 by the son of Governor Casey. Son of Casey will likely be reelected for life. Son of Casey voted for Obumblercare and was reelected in 2012 and has a power base in Scranton – Wilkes Barre.

    Corbett was brought down by many things. Obumbler’s porkulus gave Pennsylvania a fat check that Ed $pendell gave to the schools. Corbett’s administration told the schools not to count on getting that money each and every year. Wolf Cub then ran saturation ads accusing Corbett of cutting school spending by the amount of the porkulus. School districts across Pennsylvania have found themselves responsible for funding pension shortfalls due to a law signed by abortionist Governor Ridge that increased state employee pensions. These pension liabilities have been eating up state spending as well. Wolf Cub thinks he can push through a natural gas severance tax and an income tax increase, like $pendell tried to do. Wolf Cub and his bozo ring haircut will fail. Corbett gave in to gay marriage which hurt him badly in the Pennsylvania bible belt and he did nothing to reform pensions or taxes.

    “Only State College is heavily invested in higher education, media, or technology.”
    Not true. Penn State is the biggest state university but it isn’t the only state university. Pitt and Carnegie Mellon have a huge impact on the Pittsburgh economy.

    For those who would build and benefit from the Keystone pipeline it is a big deal. Energy independence does not mean public subsidies for garbage like Solyndra. If you read my post I never mentioned any of that so-called renewable fraudulent nonsense.

  18. “Let the states and localities fix their bloody schools without federal interference.”

    AMEN! At least 50% of what takes place at a public school on a daily basis is secretarial work for the fed govt–vs real teaching–and that doesn’t include the state programs for which secretarily work is required to meet federal rules/regs. All of that energy being sucked away from instruction for our students. Our schools will continue to fail as we long as we are required to do everything except teaching & meeting the needs of our students.

  19. “For those who would build and benefit from the Keystone pipeline it is a big deal. Energy independence does not mean public subsidies for garbage like Solyndra. If you read my post I never mentioned any of that so-called renewable fraudulent nonsense.”

    The entire country would benefit by the Keystone Pipeline. The ability to produce our own energy is as much of a national defense matter, if not more so, as is the ability to produce our own food ( which we cannot do without the requisite energy supplies.). We are controlled ultimately by those who provide us with energy & food–try doing without them sometime & see how far you get. 😉

  20. Penn State is the biggest state university but it isn’t the only state university. Pitt and Carnegie Mellon have a huge impact on the Pittsburgh economy.

    The referent was not to Pittsburgh or Philadelphia but to the nine smaller cities. Only State College and Allentown have a research university, and the one in Allentown is a modest private institution and no larger than you’d expect for a community that size.
    ==
    Just to point out, research institutions with enrollments like the three in Pittsburgh will employ in toto roughly 9,000 people exclusive of any teaching hospital they may have, and have the equivalent of 17,000 students in residence if you pro-rate the seasonal presence. Add in employees family members and knock-on effects and you figure about 4.5% of the population in greater Pittsburgh is enrolled at these schools or derives sustenance from them. That’s not chump change, but Pittsburgh is not and cannot be a college town in the manner of Ithaca or State College and is much less invested in higher education than (say) Binghamton or Trenton.

  21. Rick Santorum was soundly defeated in 2006 by the son of Governor Casey. Son of Casey will likely be reelected for life.

    You mean he lost an election so none of the other elections he’s won count?

    Re Casey Jr, Arlen Specter is the only U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania who has served more than 3 terms since the advent of popular election and he was eventually voted out of office. He might have been dispatched in 1992 if his opponent had not had a history as a tax scofflaw. He had only one easy contest in six attempts. Incumbent Senators have been ejected from office every dozen years so in recent decades in Pennsylvania, so I would not wager Casey Jr was impregnable

  22. For those who would build and benefit from the Keystone pipeline it is a big deal. Energy independence does not mean public subsidies for garbage like Solyndra. If you read my post I never mentioned any of that so-called renewable fraudulent nonsense.

    There’s nothing wrong with renewable energy if it’s cost-effective. There have been dramatic improvements in the utility of wind power over 30-odd years, to take one example. The problem is setting the likes of Steven Chu up as venture capitalist. Industry is for the most part financed by the capital markets, but commercial banks have as we speak commercial and industrial loan portfolios which amount to $1,700 bn. Extractive industries amount to about 3% of domestic product. The Department of Energy had at one point a $50 bn portfolio, i.e. it rivaled the entire population of commercial banks as a source of funding in the mining and energy sectors.

    The availability of physically accessible supplies in the event of an implosion in international trade (as would occur during a general war as we had to 1945) would be a concern for war planning. That does not militate toward development and extraction of domestic reserves, but toward having the technology and the plans to make such reserves accessible if necessary. If you have what it takes to ramp up domestic production in war time, ‘energy independence’ is not important in ordinary circumstances and it’s insurance to keep some in the ground. The problem we faced in 1973-81 was that most of the proven reserves were concentrated in a politically contentious subregion and held by a modest number of states which could act as an effective cartel and extract tribute from the rest of the world. That made development of sources elsewhere and improvements in the flexibility of international oil markets worthwhile projects and that ultimately destroyed the effectiveness of OPEC (which is the only commodity cartel of the era which had any success). So, if there are not explicit or occult costs which have to be socialized, sure, build it. If not, don’t. Just because not building it is one of the President’s shticks does not mean his opposition has to make building it one of theirs.

  23. I thought ballots had to be rotated to minimize the “top of list” affect. Should be random, but I don’t think that is truly developed.

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