February 3, 2015

PREMATURE TRIUMPHALISM: RIP, “Emerging Democratic Majority.”

As President Obama reminded us in the long-ago high noon of his presidency, “Elections have consequences.” One of the consequences of the Democratic whacking in the midterms is that political analysts are taking another look at the relative standing of the two major parties. In 2008-9 there was a lot of triumphalist Democratic (and despairing Republican) analysis about a long term Democratic majority. The tone is changing now, and analysts are working to understand why the GOP dominates Congress and state governments in a way that hasn’t been seen since the 1920s.

The most substantive rethink so far comes from John Judis, one of the clearest, best-informed, and least sentimental thinkers on the American left today. The man who predicted an “emerging Democratic majority” would rule American politics for the foreseeable future now sees an “emerging Republican advantage” in American politics. In a piece of solid analysis in the National Journal, John Judis argues that the Democrats are losing support among not only the white working class, but also the growing American “middle class”—college graduates without postgraduate degrees who tend to work in offices and make between $50,000 and $100,000. Many Democratic operatives and strategists have adopted Judis’s book The Emerging Democratic Majority as the guide to political success. The view expressed in the book—that the minority and youth vote would buoy the fortunes of the Democratic party—is clearly influential with the current Administration and with many Democratic candidates who have adopted identity politics as a key to victory.

But now the facts have changed, and Judis is taking another look.

Yes, convenient narratives often fail to meet the facts.

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