John Judis just admitted that the “Emerging Democratic Majority” thesis he popularized in a 2002 book with Ruy Teixeira under that name, is not coming to fruition quite on schedule [The Emerging Republican Advantage, National Journal, January 31, 2015]. Published shortly after the Republicans used post 9-11 goodwill to retake their Senate majority and the House of Representatives, the book predicted that the Democrats would ascend back to power on the backs of two growing constituencies: ethnic minorities—with immigration swelling their numbers— and white collar professionals upset with the GOP’s cultural conservatism and aversion to issues like environmental protection. Judis and Teixeira did not expect the Democrats to win back working class whites, but thought the GOP’s pro-corporate policies would limit the hemorrhaging.
Judis and Teixeira were not the first to predict that mass immigration would benefit the Democratic Party. Five years earlier, Edwin S. Rubenstein and Peter Brimelow wrote a National Review cover story with the cutline “The Emerging Democratic Majority” [Electing a New People, July 16 1997). Their hypothesis was simple: If immigration trends continued and ethnic voting patterns (as of George H.W. Bush’s 1988 victory) held, Republicans would become a permanent minority by 2008.
But Brimelow and Rubenstein noted their assumptions were not set in stone. Immigration policies and voting trends can change. Reducing immigration has long been popular among white voters, and Republicans had the option to kill two birds with one stone. But they squandered their majorities promoting unpopular wars, social issues, and plutocratic policies.
In 2008, immigration policies remained unchanged, the Republicans nominated a man eager to increase immigration and depress the white vote. Democrats won in a landslide. At the time, many Leftists trumpeted the Emerging Democratic Majority thesis and predicted a long Republican decline.
Republicans took back the House in 2010, but believers in the Emerging Democratic Majority thesis saw it as just a last gasp of older white America, which turned out disproportionately in the midterms. The 2012 election, where Mitt Romney equaled George H.W. Bush’s 1988 white share (though there was low white voter turnout, more on that later) but still lost the general election by 3 percentage points, reinforced that view.
Then came the 2014 elections. While the minorities voted heavily Democratic, all of Judis and Teixeira’s predictions about the white vote failed. As Judis notes,
Democrats slid from 44 percent of the white working-class vote nationally in 2006 to only 34 percent in 2014, and from a 49-percent-49-percent split among college-educated voters in 2006 to a 54-percent-44-percent loss among these voters in 2014.
Furthermore, millennials did not save the Democrats. Judis again:
In 2006, 60 percent of young voters backed Democrats in House races; that number hit 65 percent in 2008, fell to 60 percent in 2012, and slid to 54 percent in 2014.
Judis did not separate white voters by age, but the results there are even more striking. In 2008, Obama won 18-29 year old whites 54-43. In 2012, Romney won them 51-44 and in 2014, Republicans carried the group 54-43. (Source: CNN and NBC exit polls.)
Does this spell continued Republican success? Judis suggests it might not:
The Democrats' best chances in next year's elections will come if Republicans run candidates identified with the Religious Right or the tea party or the GOP's plutocratic wing. If Republicans are smart, they will nominate for president someone in the mold of George W. Bush in 2000 or the numerous GOP Senate candidates who won last year—a politician who runs from the center-right, soft-pedals social issues, including immigration, critiques government without calling for abolishing the income tax and Social Security, and displays a good ol' boy empathy for the less well-to-do. Such a candidate would cater to the Republican advantage among the middle class without alienating the white working class.
Save his point about immigration, Judis is not completely off base. The 2012 election was the second successive Presidential election in which white turnout fell. Many conservatives took Sean Trende’s missing white voters thesis to suggest that Romney’s squishiness turned away Tea Partiers. However, as I noted in my piece about GOP moderate-but-still-immigration-patriot Scott Brown last year, Trende also noted that most of these voters were working class whites. Romney’s plutocratic image, not lack of conservatism, turned off these voters.
I also pointed to a NBC-Esquire survey that separated voters into four categories: The MBA Middle, Minivan Moderates (Judis’s “white professionals” is likely analogous to the two collective groups), Pick-up Populists (white working class), and the “The WhateverMan” (millennials),” who collectively comprise 51% of the electorate.[ New center: Why our nation isn't as divided as we think, ,By Tony Dokoupil, CNBC, October 15, 2013] I should note that these categories reflected both ideology and demographics, so partisans within each demographic are not counted. This is useful, as those groups are not really swing voters.
According to the study, the New Center is socially liberal and not terribly economic conservative
The new American center has a socially progressive streak, supporting gay marriage (64 percent), the right to an abortion for any reason within the first trimester (63 percent), and legalized marijuana (52 percent). Women, workers and the marginal would also benefit if the center had its way, supporting paid sick leave (62 percent); paid maternity leave (70 percent); tax-subsidized childcare to help women return to work (57 percent); and a federal minimum wage hike to no less than $10 per hour (67 percent).
However, the New Center supports right-wing positions on what VDARE.com calls “National Question” issues, including
the end of affirmative action in hiring and education (57 percent). Most people in the center believe respect for minority rights has gone overboard, in general, harming the majority in the process (63 percent). And just one in four support immigration reforms that would provide a path to citizenship for those who came here illegally.
Judis is right that the Religious Right, libertarianism, and the Tea Party turn off many middle-of-the-road voters. However, he was wrong to conflate immigration restriction with those issues.
Still, as the 2016 Election approaches, the two potential candidates most identified with restrictionism are Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum, who will likely be the leading Tea Party and Religious Right candidates as well. So this may appear to make Judis’s conflation come true.
My view: Fair or not, the more the cause of immigration patriotism is connected with the right wing of the GOP, the more middle class professional feel like it’s socially unacceptable—and the more millennials will snark “dey terk err jurbs,” along with crude jokes about Santoruming.
I miss Scott Brown!
Washington Watcher [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway