Monday, November 22, 2021

Suburban Skies

Coffee Clatch, Park Forest, Illinois, 1954. Photo by Bob Sandberg, via National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

 Monsignor Ross Douthat, apostolic nuncio to 42nd Street, peering into his Kristol ball for a way to advance-explain the Republican victory in the 2024 presidential election (he takes their win in 2022 for granted) without mentioning the word "gerrymander" ("The Diminishing Democratic Majority") It's all about those suburbs:

I’ll call this, to be provocative, the “emerging Republican majority” scenario, in which it turns out that of the two big political migrations of the Trump era — affluent suburbanites turning more Democratic, working-class whites and then Latinos turning more Republican — the first one was temporary and provisional, and the second one permanent and accelerating.

Ross doesn't know, by the way, that there's a big intersection between "affluent suburbanites" and Latinos, because US suburbs are turning increasingly Latino, many neighborhoods resegregating as young whites seek to move into cities and old ones to exurbs; 54% of the Latino population lived in suburbs by 2016, by no means all of them very affluent of course, and that's growing, so you don't know what's going on. Also, not to repeat what I've said a million times, Latins are not a monolithic group and if you can't tell the differences in orientation between Venezuelans in the Houston area and Tejanos along the Mexican border, Puerto Ricans in Harlem and Dominicans in the Bronx, Cubans in New Jersey and Ecuadorans in Queens, you're going to be missing important parts of the picture. Moreover, that possibly "permanent and accelerating" swing toward Trump between 2016 and 2020 was from 18% the first time round to 27% in the second, not an emerging majority. 

George W. got 34% of the Latino vote in 2000, 44% percent in 2004; McCain got 31% in 2008, and Romney 27% in 2012. So Trump's 2020 result is aligned with that of the Republican candidate the Latino community liked second least in the last 20 years, we need a couple more elections before I'm calling that a GOP wave.

Like other Republicans of his class, he's counting on the party distancing itself from its bumptious, frightening leader:

In this possible future, it will become clear that the Glenn Youngkin result in Virginia was a bellwether — that there’s certain kind of suburban voter who will vote for a moderate-seeming Democrat over the Trumpiest Republican, but who will swing back to the G.O.P. as soon as there’s any excuse to do so. Meanwhile the characteristic Obama-Trump voter, whether in rural white America or in Latino areas of Florida or Texas, will remain so culturally alienated from contemporary progressivism that there’s no easy way for Biden or any other Democratic politician to win them back.

Trump lost "Latino areas" of Florida and Texas in 2020, decisively, though nowhere near as lopsidedly as he did in 2016. I wish people would learn that. As to Youngkin, as Steve was saying yesterday, he's really not much of an example of successful de-Trumpification:

Youngkin won after securing Trump's endorsement and appearing at an "election integrity" rally at Liberty University, and after a Trump Lite campaign of racial demagoguery.

In fact Youngkin didn't win the Virginia suburbs, though he did much better there than Trump did last year—46% to Trump's 37%. Where he really scored, I'm sorry to say, was among white voters, 72% of the Virginia electorate, with a phenomenal 59% going for Youngkin as opposed to 52% for Trump in 2020.

That, to my mind, shows two things about what kind of bellwether it was. First, that Youngkin's dogwhistle strategy, making the appeal to racists through the classroom issue, with the bogeyman of "critical race theory" instead of some more conventional complaint like crime, was really successful: it gave the voters he was addressing a feeling of being licensed to vote for it, because this wasn't attacking Black people, it was attacking "élites", and in defense of the voters' own kids. Nothing racist going on here at all! And then the other thing is the turnout issue: it was extremely high, partly thanks to the vote reforms put through by Virginia Democrats in 2019, with 55% of the voters showing up, which is the highest turnout anybody can remember in a Virginia gubernatorial election (in the whiter rural southwest of the state, where Youngkin took 82%, turnout was up 31% over 2017),  but in the 2020 presidential election, it was 75%, so there were still an awful lot of people who could have voted but didn't, and they were, as always, the young, the poor, and the marginalized.

And those voters weren't turned on by McAuliffe (I've complained about him before—he's just one of the most corporate Democrats around in his personal presentation and background) and may have been disappointed in Biden as well, as so many have been in recent months (I'm wondering, too, if immigrants are angry over Biden's failure to reverse Trump immigration policy). The lesson being not so much that the candidate needed to be more "left", I still think that's a poor way of putting it, but needs to have a way, as Biden did last year, and Phil Murphy did in New Jersey this year, of pulling more of those voters in: Bernie, Black women, or both, but Black women are the most effective if you have to choose one.

And if Douthat is wrong, and Republicans stay Trumpy, he's going to blame it on us, as part of a Democratic "calculus":

This possibility confronts Democrats with a strange political calculus, albeit one that they already faced somewhat in Trump’s first term. It may be that the things they (rightly) fear most about a Trumpian revival — all the paranoia and conspiracism that gave us Jan. 6 — are also the only things that, by alienating suburban voters from the G.O.P., keep the present Democratic coalition viable.

I think suburban voters are, as they always have been, about cars and kids, that's why American suburbs exist, and really should be ready to respond to all the Biden legislation is doing on those counts, if any of it starts getting implemented early enough—they may not, but that's just the best bet, especially since it's so worth doing in its own right.

As to Republicans getting less Trumpy, I've been waiting a long time for that to happen, and I'm not seeing signs any more. Certainly not in the Virginia election. If Douthat wants to help fix the party, he's welcome to try, but he should be talking to them, not me.

No comments:

Post a Comment