Saturday, November 14, 2020

David Shor on Electoral Coalitions in America

From an interview with David Shor, a Democratic polling and data expert:

We have an election system that makes it basically impossible for Democrats’ current coalition to ever wield legislative power. We are legitimately in a position from here on out where we would need to get 54 percent of the popular vote — which we did not even accomplish this time — for multiple cycles in a row, for us to be in a position to really pass laws.

On that split between voters who went to college and didn’t: Are we at a high-water mark for the “diploma divide”? And will college suburbanites stay with Democrats, or do you expect them to go back to the GOP after Trump?

There’s a pretty consistent trend: In almost every country in the Western world, the gap between college-educated voters and non-college-educated voters has been steadily increasing for basically the last 60-70 years. There are very strong social currents pushing this change — that as the college-educated share of the population increases, this should naturally incentivize politicians to create cleavages by education.

Politics is fundamentally about splitting the country in half. And if college-educated white people are 4 percent of the electorate, like they were in the immediate post-World War II era, you can’t do that. But if they are 38 or 40 percent, suddenly you can. So, it’s unsurprising that as the education share has gone up, we’ve seen this happen.

If you think mechanically about the reinforcing currents that caused this, as college-educated white people enter the Democratic Party and become an increasingly large share of the Democratic Party while the reverse happens to Republicans, that naturally is going to influence who wins party primaries and what kind of people win internal party fights. In practice — given the fact that college-educated whites donate at disproportionate rates and volunteer at disproportionate rates — I think it’s going to be very hard for Democrats to resist the pull of catering to their preferences, which is naturally going to lead to losing votes among people who aren’t them: not just non-college educated whites, but, as we as we saw this cycle, also non-white voters. . . .

There is a broader trend, though, that as college-educated white people become a larger share of the Democratic coalition and a larger share of the Democratic voice, they do pull the party on cultural issues. Non-college educated white people have more culturally in common with working-class Black and working-class Hispanic voters. So, it should be unsurprising that as the cultural power of college-educated white people increases in the Democratic Party, non-white voters will move against us. . . .

The joke is that the GOP is really assembling the multiracial working-class coalition that the left has always dreamed of. But I think it’s worth remembering that both Black and Hispanic voters are still an overwhelmingly Democratic group, though Hispanic voters by a lot less than they were four or eight years ago. 

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