The problem of the privileged middle school students of the Democrats

Shor concedes that a certain version of this class of highly educated neophytes has been a permanent feature of Democratic Party politics since at least the 1960s, but he argues that the downstream political effects of this demographic imbalance have worsened with the rise in education polarization – that is, the tendency of highly educated voters to tilt Democratic and less educated voters towards Republicans has exacerbated the ideological divide between Democratic staff and the middle voter .

“It’s always been true that this group had higher socioeconomic status and younger and all that stuff, but the extent to which those biases mattered has changed a lot over the past decade,” Shor said.

The way to compensate for these biases, says Shor, is twofold. The first is for Democratic candidates and their staff to engage in a more rigorous messaging discipline – in short, to “talk about popular things that people care about using plain language,” as Shor has already defined his brand. preferred messaging retainer previously. This approach would not prevent Democrats from talking about progressive-coded political ideas that enjoy broad popular support, such as passing a wealth tax for high-income people or the obligation for high-income people. workers to be represented on boards of directors.

In the longer term, however, the party will need to elevate the political and messaging preferences of its moderate black, Hispanic, and working-class supporters over the preferences of the young, highly educated, and liberal.

“We’re really lucky to have a relatively moderate and economically progressive bunch of people in the Democratic Party who have near-midway views on social issues and religiosity and all these other things, and the only thing is that the most of them are not. white, ”Shor said. “Someone told me derisively that what I was saying is we should book Maxine Waters instead of being random [Black Lives Matter] activists, and I think that’s right. I think we should probably care what [Congressional Black Caucus] members think about things.

Of course, Shor’s theory could be completely wrong. – and many on the left think so.

“This is both confusing and false,” said Steve Phillips, founder of political strategy group Democracy in Color and senior researcher at the Center for American Progress.

Ironically enough, critics like Phillips agree with Shor’s premise that the demographic of the Democratic Party’s staff does not reflect the demographics of its top voters, but they maintain that the main problem is that these staff members are too white, not that the staff are too young or too liberal. From this altered premise, they draw the exact opposite conclusion about the party’s message: that Democrats need to double down on a bolder view of incremental change rather than retreat to the center.

“It is true that the leadership as well as too much of the staff of the Democratic Party – and especially in the progressive ecosystem – are largely white… [and] the problem with the fact that the political leadership of the progressive part of the Democratic Party is disproportionately white is that there are no people who have cultural skills [in communities of color], you don’t have people who are fighters, and so the approach is to compromise, soften, avoid and tiptoe at a time when we are in a pitched battle ” , said Phillips.

In many ways, the disagreement between Shor and Phillips follows the same fault lines that emerged among Democratic office holders in the aftermath of the 2020 election. In Phillips’ analysis, for example, the party underperformed in 2020 because the democrats failed to transform their progressive base, not because progressive support for militant social positions has alienated swing voters. Shor, a long-time supporter of the persuasion versus participation debate, says the theory that the outcome of the 2020 election was the result of differences in voter turnout rather than changes in voting shift is “the closest thing to flat land in politics.”

“It’s just, like, an empirical question,” he said, citing The data which suggest that change in voting has historically played a much larger role than changes in turnout in determining the outcome of elections.

But whether Democrats should embrace the bold, progressive vision championed by the party’s young activists is decidedly not an empirical question – even if Shor and Phillip’s positions depend on their interpretation of a handful of points of view. data on the demographic composition and ideological tendencies of the electorate.

The first point of contention is whether non-voters in general – and non-voters of color in particular – support a bold message of progressive change or a moderate message based on populist political positions. Shor and Phillips point to different sets of data to support their arguments. Shor, for example, quote the original poll this suggests that only one in four non-voters identify as liberal, while three in four identify as moderate or conservative. Shor’s conclusions are corroborated by the results of a Study 2020 from the Knight Foundation, which found that only 20 percent of non-voters identify as resolutely liberal, while nearly 60 percent fall in the middle of the ideological spectrum. “It turns out that, you know, non-voters actually don’t have particularly strong ideological leanings, because if they did, they would vote,” Shor said.

Meanwhile, Phillips, who is black, argues that Shor fundamentally misunderstands the ideological preferences of moderates and conservatives of color. To back up his claim, he points out a recent Gallup poll who found high levels of support among blacks and Hispanics for the step-coded proposals to cut funding for police services. “If you’ve spent any time in a black barbershop or barbershop, you can understand some of the complexity and potential contradictions around the perspective of different black people,” Phillips said.

The second set of disagreements relates to whether increased participation by young multiracial voters could significantly alter the outcome of national elections. Shor says Democrats’ expectation that long-term demographic changes would give the party a semi-permanent majority has fallen flat, and that the rural bias in the Senate and Electoral College will soon make it virtually impossible for Democrats to win. a government majority without winning back at least a few rural voters in the main purple states.

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