John Judis and I came up with the idea of an emerging Democratic majority. A dangerous misinterpretation of it helped elect Trump.
Yes. And publications like this are critical to preventing the loud radical minority from derailing the silent moderate majority. Thank you.
Thanks, I joined Persuasion for exactly this kind of sensibility: articulating a positive vision of where we can go rather than taking cheap shots at those who disagree. I hope soon to see a conservative analog to this kind of reasoning. We collectively need some brainstorming on how a healthy conservative party can re-make itself post-Trump.
Just dropping in to agree that this kind of thoughtful and searching content is exactly why I’m here. Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with any given contributor, I’m delighted to be a member of this community.
I assume that the above essay is not addressed at the likes of me, those of us who did not regard Clinton's loss as "tragic" and who, with due respect to the author, find the notion that the Democratic party has a claim to "the soul of America" rather silly.
Clinton was a repellent candidate who ran as a technocrat's technocrat in the midst of a bipartisan populist uprising, one that was thwarted on the Democrat side by internecine skullduggery. As Secretary of State she oversaw an incomprehensible foreign policy stance, brokering weapons to the House of Saud that they continue to use on the Yemeni, and orchestrating a collapse of Lybia that re-introduced the slavery of black Africans to the region. While Trump ran on a ridiculous platform of economic nationalism spelled out by Steve Bannon, Clinton pushed weak-sauce ideas like taxing the rich and raising the minimum wage, which are equally ridiculous but don't enjoy broad support. Her attempts to appear personable were cringe-inducing. While Trump appealed to racists, Clinton's supporters tarred everyone who supported Trump for any other reasons as equally racist, thus scattering the moderates.
Biden undoubtedly stands near the psephological center in a way that Sanders does not. Even so, his position on gun control is quite far from that center, his having promised among other things to appoint the fatuous Robert "Beto" O'Rourke to deal with the issue. He wants to throw even more money into an education system that deservedly has no credibility. He has promised to restore Title IX guidance to the destructive form it took under Obama.
This last item touches (sorry) on a related one - Biden appears to have committed an act of sexual assault that Trump merely described as being in the realm of the possible. (To think otherwise requires a double standard about "believing women" that's hypocritical even for politics.) Having pushed the idea of Trump's mental unsoundness for the whole of his presidency, the Democrats have nominated a man exhibiting obvious senile decline. This is all to say that there's more than one way to lose an election.
This is amazing. I agree with others who have commented-this kind of piece is why I am here.
I have one objection to this very reasonable analysis: it overemphasizes the role of messaging and underemphasizes the role of policy proposals, particularly economic ones.
Hillary Clinton's policies were rightly interpreted as a defense of the current economic structure, making her vulnerable to attack on her economic policy from the left. Trump's promises to protect and expand social security and medicare helped separate him from his GOP cohort during the 2016 primary and allowed him to hold his own on that front in the general election. Moreover, the part of the Democratic base that endorses identity politics is also largely interested in truly progressive economic policies. In other words, identity politics alone was insufficient to mobilize even the base it explicitly targeted. Thus Hillary Clinton both alienated disaffected, white swing voters and also failed to energize the mythic "base": the worst of both worlds.
I would also like to caution against the facile interpretation of Biden's success in the primary. Interestingly, black people are the only racial demographic in the US with a more favorable impression of socialism than capitalism.  As to why South Carolina (and Super Tuesday broadly) delivered Biden such a landslide win, there are many explanations, but the voters themselves make the case plainly: they thought he was the most "electable."  All in all, it would be reductive to conclude that a candidate who won explicitly on "electability" accurately represents voters' true policy preferences.
None of this is to undermine the evenhanded story the authors tell. I simply believe there is an important parallel story grounded in policy and not merely the ephemeral interpretations of political messaging.
Great piece. Between the two parties, it seems like a choice between Scylla and Charybdis.
Good article. Much appreciated. I come from that large white working class mix. Raised by a single mom working at two jobs. At times, along with siblings, farmed out to live with other family members able to provide support. Always will believe Clinton’s elitist “basket of deplorables” remark was the end of her campaign. It was a tragic mistake that will not be forgotten by some but most, I hope, will forgive. Odd, but it seems at times that many in this country don’t understand the white working class any better than they do people of color.
I'm so grateful for this piece.
This kind of thoughtful analysis is why I'm here. Keep it coming.
In my humble opinion, the VP pick will decide how serious this group is about bringing in a broader demographic.