Demopublican lessons about the Rising American Electorate identify opportunities addressed by the unique strengths of the Green Party.
A major shift in a generation’s views on a handful of issues (i.e. LGBT rights and climate change) is not a proxy for a wholesale embrace of orthodox liberal ideology.
Both the terrain for fighting and who lines up where can shift. Assuming long-term stability has led to strategic errors and costly electoral losses for the Democrats.
While party identification is often a good predictor of vote choice, partisan attachment is on the decline. Instead of viewing voters as stable fixtures who are “born that way,” we should recognize that they are only stable until they’re not, and all indications point to expecting more fluctuations over time, not less.
The two ideological wings of America essentially offset each other. And more fundamentally, even with their recent uptick, liberals do not represent a majority of either the electorate or even the Democratic coalition. Discarding the concept of a big tent and concentrating on purity and base enthusiasm undercut the coalition that had delivered majorities to Democrats in the past.
The assumption of the loud proponents of demography-is-destiny was that an ideologically-pure, liberal set of values and policies was what Democratic voters wanted, and what would appeal to the ascendant Rising American Electorate. What they didn’t realize was that neither the country, nor the growing demographic groups they so doggedly targeted, describe themselves as liberal.
Key groups in the Rising American Electorate have a high proportion of Independents, particularly Millennials and Asians. Independents aren’t simply acting like partisans.
The Rising American Electorate also tends to be concentrated in urban centers. Yet when building an electoral path to majorities, our Constitution gives immense power to sparse places. It is simply not possible for a party to gain significant power in our system without winning in some of the non-urban areas.
- Fundamentally, a new path to the majority will require targeting communications, policy ideas, and appeals based on values, beliefs, and experiences—not simply age or race. And also
- respect for and representation of the diversity of experiences, interests, and opinions among the groups in the Rising American Electorate, making room for voters who fall outside those growing demographic groups.
In the right’s new media ecosystem, a willingness to accept and rationalize lies has become a test of tribal loyalty. Unfortunately, the effects run even deeper as Trump’s acolytes in politics and social media model their behavior on his, combining the worst traits of the school yard bully, the thin-skinned nastiness that mimics confidence; the strut and sneer that substitute for actual strength, vindictive smash-mouth attacks have replaced civil engagement.
Championing opportunity and the culture of success is now supplanted by a ruthless contempt for “losers,” which easily translates into disdain and mockery for the fragile, the broken, the poor…
As parents, we struggle to teach our children empathy and compassion. We hope to teach them character, humility, impulse control, kindness and good sportsmanship. We want them to learn how to win and lose graciously, treat others with respect, avoiding name-calling, and tell the truth even if it’s inconvenient.
Young people have an acute sense of the hypocrisy of a society that touts virtue but lavishes fame, wealth and power on people who flout it.
Especially for young men still searching for a model of what it means to be a man, Trump’s behavior will carry significant weight. And why not? He may be a bully, a fabulist, a serial insulter and abuser of women, but our alpha-male president is a billionaire, married to a super model, and has been elevated to the most powerful job in the world. That is a powerful symbol because for many young men, Trump is both liberating and revolutionary: freeing them from the demands of civility and what many of them see as overly feminized hypersensitivity.
And the folks who had once been the culture’s chief defenders of character and virtue seem to be OK with that.
“The president is the symbol of who the people of the United States are. He is the person who stands for us in the eyes of the world and the eyes of our children.” But during the recent presidential campaign, Bennett reversed himself, saying that conservatives who objected to Trump “suffer from a terrible case of moral superiority and put their own vanity and taste above the interest of the country.” Last August, Bennett wrote an essay making the case for overlooking questions of character in choosing a president: “Our country can survive the occasional infelicities and improprieties of Donald Trump. But it cannot survive losing the Supreme Court to liberals and allowing them to wreck our sacred republic. It would reshape the country for decades.”
Like Bennett, most conservatives have been willing to make the trade-off: They were willing to inject toxic sludge into the culture in order to win a political victory. Needless to say, this is a dramatic reversal for the right…
Conservatives once recognized that politics was a means, not an end, because they believed that we live in communities sustained by moral capital, recognizing, as social psychologist Jonathan Haidt notes, that moral communities are “fragile things, hard to build and easy to destroy.”