Ideological Diversity Is Going to Decimate the Democratic Party
Democrats might be about to learn the difference between defeat and humiliation. It will not be pretty.
The year 2022 might make 2016 look like a positive omen for liberal politics.
If the polling numbers right now were a horoscope, they would read, “Meet your fate one horror at a time. Watch out for friends who stab you in the back. Make peace with abandoning your goals.”
The problem? Today’s Democratic Party is not just losing Hispanic voters; it is losing the Hispanic vote, period.
And we’ve reached a point politically where salvaging things is off the table. We’ve seen the iceberg, we’re whipping toward it, but our ship is stuck on autopilot.
The Wall Street Journal now reports Hispanics seem evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans:
Asked which party they would back if the election were today, 37% of Hispanic voters said they would support the Republican congressional candidate and 37% said they would favor the Democrat, with 22% undecided.
What’s more, the Hispanic electorate nearly favors Donald Trump over Joe Biden: in a hypothetical match-up, 43 percent would choose Trump and 44 percent would vote Biden.
The numbers confirm a trend, a decline with Hispanic voters spanning nearly a decade. Barack Obama received 71 percent of Hispanic votes in 2012, Hillary Clinton earned 66 percent in 2016, and Biden earned 63 percent in 2020.
Those numbers show weakness, but support in the low 40s is a five-alarm fire — even Biden’s softer showing was enough to lose Florida by a bigger margin than Clinton did.
The shift we’re seeing here is astounding, and it exemplifies Democratic failure better than anything else. It is also completely at variance with Conventional Democrat Wisdom.
For the Party’s pundit class, Biden has applied the same winning formula as Hillary Clinton, even as he was freed from misogyny, and from “the emails,” and from Russian interference. And then he performed worse with Hispanics, inexplicably.
What the pundits simply can’t cognize or admit is that Biden was a terrible candidate to stop the hemorrhaging of the Party’s Hispanic voters.
And Biden really is just the face of the problem: he is the human embodiment of a failure to grasp ideological diversity. He symbolizes, miserably, the Party’s urgent need to reach voters as human beings rather than stereotypes.
Joe Biden flopped with Hispanics in the Democratic primaries. He lacked a ground game then, but he had no excuse not to change things up in the general election. He chose not to. Biden’s campaign in the general largely ignored Hispanics on the ground. He did not see Latinos as part of his “path to victory,” according to Democratic operatives.
And yet I think it would be foolish to assume that Biden didn’t care about Hispanic voters whatsoever.
I think it’s obvious that he did. But he was enthralled more by Conventional Wisdom.
According to the Conventional Wisdom, there are sets of voters who are black and Hispanic. They are motivated most of all by black and Hispanic politicians, but beyond that, they are motivated by black and Hispanic “issues.” Then there is another sort of voter, the swing voter, who is persuaded most of all by personal connection — negotiation and face-to-face interaction (retail politics).
Did you know the Biden campaign touted a laser-like focus on “Suburban Empathy Moms?”
These moms, for the Conventionally Wise, are exactly swing voters. Much is made about how the working class is coded as white and even referred to as the white working class; really, it is the Swing Voter who is coded as white most consistently.
The swing voter lives in suburbs. She is persuaded by content that appeals to her beyond her directly political sensibilities — suggestions of “empathy” are one example. Swing voters are winnable in the “Panera Breads of America.” They are obtainable through a multilayered approach.
Thus, when the Democrats confronted another voter loss — the Party’s bleeding of working-class voters — Senator Chuck Schumer replied, “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.”
Biden was not as blithe as Schumer when facing the news that Hispanic voters strongly preferred his progressive rival Bernie Sanders.
When Sanders led the field, Biden for the first time denounced deportations from the Obama White House, and he promised to replace Obama- and Trump-era immigration policies with a more progressive approach.
And that’s where the outreach seemed to end. Minus cringeworthy dances to “Despacito,” Biden largely trusted that his immigration policy and Battle for the Soul of the Nation messaging would get the job done for Hispanic voters.
According to organizer Chuck Rocha, Biden spent less than one percent of his super PAC money on outreach to Hispanic voters. Rocha claimed he himself was likely to have spent more on outreach during the primaries — for the Sanders campaign — than Biden did during the general election. Instead, Biden spent “99 cents of every dollar on white suburban voters.”
Conventional Wisdom explains the massive spending disparity. Swing voters are won at Panera; black and Hispanic voters respond to their “issues.” Biden seemed to misread Sanders’ success with the Hispanic demographic, believing that these voters simply chose the candidate with the most liberal attitudes about U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
If that thinking were true, there would be no chance for Hispanics to choose Trump, who is tough on immigration, often labeled a bigot, and known to dislike concepts such as “Latinx.”
To Biden’s mind, appearing on Univision and saying that he really likes immigrants was enough to show Hispanic voters he did not take them for granted.
At the general election, Biden’s strategy barely kept the Dems afloat. “Donald Trump Made Gains in Every Demographic Except For White Men.”
Spending works, and Trump’s Hispanic outreach was called “aggressive,” “frequent,” and “targeted.”
It appears that like other voters, Hispanics aren’t held captive to a few “issues.” Some of them are undoubtedly semi-political and are waiting for politicians to earn their vote. Others have a wide range of ideological preferences, suggesting that real dialogue is needed to bring them on board with whatever platform a politician has cooked up.
Ross Douthat put out a piece that describes Hispanic-voter affinity for several Trumpian policies: during the Covid pandemic, “reopen economy” polled at 66 percent, “COVID policy set by states” at 62 percent, and “living without fear of COVID” at 55 percent.
The next set of numbers might be more surprising, and more important for our political futures: “more border spending” earned 55-percent approval, “limiting refugees/asylum” earned 51 percent, and “reducing legal immigration” earned 49 percent. End of Conventional Wisdom.
Indeed, it hardly seems the case that Sanders won great Hispanic support based on his immigration stances alone — with some voters, it was probably in spite of those commitments.
Sanders earned support by connecting with voters, by meeting them where they were, and by showing his earnest desire to get the chance to represent them.
I am pessimistic, though, about Biden’s ability to do the same. In the primaries, Biden hardly connected with anyone capable of feeling the emotion called enthusiasm.
It was not only that the media downplayed him and donors ignored him — before the general election, that is — it was also that a whopping 58 percent of his electorate in the general said their vote would be against Trump rather than for Biden himself.
The Biden campaign showed a strong preference for substance-free rhetoric and hiding in the basement. But there’s another set of factors that I think leaves Biden even more powerless to win back defecting voters.
One is the strong set of prejudices Biden carries. These feel like a toxic brew of Conventional Wisdom and borderline unacceptable racism — the old-school kind.
When a civil rights leader, on a call with the newly elected Biden, requested that Biden not disappoint black constituents with slow progress, the president-elect outrageously fumed he had done more for black progress than “anyone thus far.”
Biden suggested that because he talked about the “Soul of America,” because he called Donald Trump a racist, because he wanted to “invest in” black entrepreneurs, and because he cares strongly about voting rights, black voters have no right whatsoever to be disappointed with his performance as president.
Listening to such rants, one gets the sickening feeling that Biden genuinely believes that black folks’ feelings are reducible to this sort of checklist. He believes his leadership is unquestionable so long as he calls Trump a “racist son of a gun” and says that black colleges are just as nice as rich colleges, or something.
Biden really, truly believes in stereotypes. And not seeing key voters as human beings bodes ill for winning them back.
Biden’s other liabilities are more generalizable to all Democrats.
They include a general confusion between representation and reality and a surprising lack of political acumen while in office. These factors, in Biden’s first term as president, have gelled into a combustible compound, dissolving the Democratic brand into a sequence of empty promises.
If only half of Hispanics agree with Democrats on immigration, and if the Democrats fail to deliver on their promises to the other half, where exactly do we think that situation leads?
The answer is clarifying day by day, election by election. With each immigration gaffe it sharpens further.
In short, it is political self-immolation.
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