Photo of the day

These NYT photos of Syria at night before and after the civil war are pretty amazing.

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Is the Emerging Democratic Majority dead?

Over a decade ago, a John Judis and Ruy Teixera made a provocative argument that, long-term, the Democratic part was on the path to ascendance due to their popularity with minorities and educated, urban college graduates (especially those in “ideopololises” like the Raleigh Durham area).   It actually seems now, as if the thesis is both right and wrong– very true for Presidential election years; not true for off-year elections.  That said, some recent data has caused Judis himself to question this thesis.  But Chait thinks he’s being a little too quick on the draw (and also has some nice analysis on where the original thesis went wrong):

Judis has now recanted his own analysis. In an election postmortem, Judis now argues, “the idea of an enduring Democratic majority was a mirage.” His essay, headlined “The Emerging Republican Advantage,” now swings in the opposite direction…

But the evidentiary basis for the original thesis is as strong as ever.

Prescient as it was, the original emerging democratic majority thesis overstated the scope of the Democratic coalition. Teixeira and Judis correctly described the Democrats’ strength with their most favorable constituencies, but they incorrectly assumed the party would maintain its standing with its weakest. The book fails to project the defection of areas along Appalachia, like West Virginia and Arkansas, along with similar areas of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Missouri, to the Republican Party. The national dominance Teixeira and Judis forecast therefore never quite happened. Instead, rather, Democrats have gained strength in some areas and lost strength in others. The trade-off has worked generally in their favor; every election cycle replaces older, whiter, Republican-leaning voters with younger, more racially diverse, Democratic-leaning ones…

Teixeira and Judis also failed to anticipate the problems this new coalition would present to the Democrats in Congress. The party’s new base is heavily concentrated in urban areas, whose voting strength underrepresented in both the House and the Senate. Additionally, they are far more likely than core Republican voters to stay home during midterm elections. This has allowed the Republican Party to gain a near lock on holding the House, and a strong geographic advantage in holding the Senate. The Emerging Democratic Majority thus comes with the very important caveat that it applies only to one branch of government…

But the core insight of the emerging democratic majority thesis has held up remarkably well. And Judis does not actually refute it in any convincing way…

Judis focuses on white middle-class voters, whom he sees as moving steadily toward the GOP. But the trend he cites begins with (depending on which example he uses) either 2006 or 2008, which were Democratic wave elections, a high point from which at least some regression both would be expected and would still allow a margin of error, given the massive Democratic sweep in both elections. Judis does not mention that Republicans need to ratchet up their share of the white vote continuously, or else dramatically improve their standing among nonwhites, merely to remain competitive…

It may be a long, long time until the Democrats’ national majority is wide enough to overcome the GOP’s structural advantages in Congress. But at the presidential level, the Democratic majority has already emerged.

Anyway, this strikes me as almost a half-empty/half-full argument (and Chait also points out the Teixera disagrees with Judis’ conclusions).  Long-term, Democrats definitely do have an advantage in their strength in the growing portion of the US population.  Short-term, who that population is means this advantage only really helps in presidential years.

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