The Emerging Democratic Majority Thesis is Still Viable

At least that is Jonathan Chait’s position in a recent article at the New Republic:

[T]he Emerging Democratic Majority thesis iterated by Judis . . . is that the demographics of the national electorate are slowly moving in the Democrats’ direction. The minority share of the electorate is growing. And younger generations of voters are considerably more liberal than older generations, and the ideological/partisan affiliations of voters tend to stay relatively constant over time. . . . There are some decent criticisms to be made of the Emerging Democratic Majority thesis. The best is that, as the electorate slowly gets more liberal, the Republicans will adjust and move to the center — it’s more of an emerging center-left majority than an emerging Democratic majority. The Emerging Democratic Majority actually came out shortly before the electorate was temporarily reshaped by the 9/11 attacks. The authors endured quite a bit of ridicule before subsequent elections eventually began to bear out their argument. In American politics, there’s no such thing as an unbeatable majority. Short-term factors like wars, scandals, and the economy overwhelm everything else. But the basic premise of an electorate slowly, slowly moving leftward remains as true as ever.

Barring a catastrophe (for example, a nuclear weapon on an American city), I tend to agree. Ten years from now, the country will be less conventionally conservative than it is today, not more so (just as the country is, on balance, more liberal today than it was ten years ago). Indeed, the conservative politics that resonate today will seem dated very soon, but liberal Enlightenment humanism will never seem dated because it is, essentially, true and makes for human flourishing.

Human freedom really is like the sun at dawn; once its rays touch hearts and minds, they begin to open, and the landscape starts to take on a decidedly different color. One of the persistent bearers of those rays is YouTube.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to The Emerging Democratic Majority Thesis is Still Viable

  1. Paradigm says:

    “Indeed, the conservative politics that resonate today will seem dated very soon, but liberal Enlightenment humanism will never seem dated because it is, essentially, true and makes for human flourishing.”

    Honestly, this statement might well earn you the Smug Liberal of the Year Award. Politics is about values, about right and wrong, good or bad. Unlike true or false they are not absolutes but relative to who ever thinks it’s good or bad. Otherwise you could just end all political debate by proving that liberalism is true.

    • santitafarella says:

      I pretty much do think that the victory of liberal Enlightenment sensibilities are more or less inevitable. The proof is in the pudding: people are happier when they are free, and their minds work better under free conditions, and wherever minds are working and free, you have science and technology driving the economy to higher heights. And mixed economy capitalism works. It does. And fifty years from now our 14 billion dollar economy will be something like a thirty billion (or more) dollar economy (even accounting for inflation), and even if we assume relatively tepid economic growth. People will be living better and longer fifty years from now, and the nationalist, ethnic, and religious politics that animate people today will simply not be all that resonant. I just don’t see anything (barring a catastrophe) to stop this slow growth of Enlightenment liberalism. It simply works. And it’s better than anything else coming. I’m sorry it’s smug to state the obvious.

      Do you think the world will be poorer or richer fifty years from now, and how will that impact politics? Not at all?

      I guess I’m sounding triumphalist. But give me a plausible alternative scenario. The statistics are all moving toward, for example, urbanization, and urban areas are liberal. Half the planet lives in urban areas now, and it will be something like 70% fifty years from now.

      —Santi

  2. Is this the kind of crap you teach at Antelope University, or whatever joke school it is? Keep dreaming.

    • Ah, a great example of the new American conservative – via the Glenn Beck lunacy. No intelligent dialog, just emotion, opinion and exit.

      • santitafarella says:

        Jared,

        Nicely put. I, too, was waiting for the argument, which (of course) never came.

        —Santi

      • “Intelligent dialog” with an idiot, is merely wasted breath.

      • That is funny. Does anyone ever engage you in dialog? Amazing that you can classify me or Santi as an idiot so quickly. I will not try to call you an idiot, since that is nearly impossible to judge from your brief posts. It is impossible for you to judge us either. But you are clearly closed minded. For any idea which does not fit within your prescribed bounds you classify the author as “idiot” and stop dialog. You are what is wrong with America – you are a bigot. Your thoughts are the only thoughts and all others are wrong. How much of your what you think even comes from a valid education?

        Of course, the other possibility is that you really are just an idiot and incapable of having a discussion.

  3. santitafarella says:

    Culture Crusader:

    What can I say? I have a dream.

    —Santi

    • YOU: “Nicely put. I, too, was waiting for the argument, which (of course) never came.”

      ME: Well, I was waiting for you to give me an argument, which of course never came… Give me an intelligent one (if that’s possible) and you’ll get one in return.
      -CC

  4. Paradigm says:

    If you look at research on happiness you find that some really conservative countries like Switzerland, the Phillipines and Ireland as well as socialist Venezuela are among the happiest. Other research indicate that religious people are happier than atheists. Freedom does not make people happy, it makes them anxious.

    “Do you think the world will be poorer or richer fifty years from now, and how will that impact politics? Not at all? I guess I’m sounding triumphalist. But give me a plausible alternative scenario.”

    No offence but you sound more than triumphant, you sound delusional. The oil is running out, as is phosphorus, which is crucial for modern agriculture. Most of the fish in the oceans is now gone. Deforestation and erosion are major problems. In China people who used to be farmers now find themselves living in barren deserts. Did I mention global warming? All of this is the result of science, technology and freedom working in perfect harmony. (Don’t say greed or something like that because human nature is nothing new.)

    Also the mixed economy that you somehow equate with freedom will pit different groups against each other. I know this since I live in Sweden, one of the most liberal countries in the world. Once we became diverse taking in people from all over the world in the 1980s the political right has become stronger and stronger. One Swede (insert Wasp or whatever) will pay for another to keep the wellfare state running, but he is less willing to pay for a Chilean or Arab immigrant. People live in groups like that and don’t merge into world citizens. There will most likely be a similar development in America when public spending in say California go through the roof and other Americans are asked to bail them out. In Britain we have seen riots between Asians and Blacks who compete for the same wellfare benefits. This will happen in your country too.

    • Switzerland, conservative? I travel there regularly. One of my best friends is Swiss and lives in Zurich. While Switzerland is unambiguously conservative from a fiscal perspective, they are far from typical conservativism on a social front.

    • santitafarella says:

      Paradigm:

      O ye of little faith (in humanity), let me say this:

      First, you’ve left out the mind in your zero sum equations (global warming, phosphorous, peak oil, etc). For example, have you heard of Bloom Boxes? (Go to YouTube and type in Bloom Box and 60 Minutes).

      Second, I’ve been (perhaps over) influenced by Matt Ridley’s recent book, “The Rational Optimist.” He makes very convincing (at least to me) arguments that the world, over the next century, will be a much, much better place to live than it is today.

      In my view, if you are basing your argument for a bright future for conservatism based on the zero-sum mentality that immigration politics and peak oil represent, then you’ve already lost your way. Immigration, on balance, tends to be a positive thing. California, for example, is America’s economic engine. If it runs state budget deficits, it’s also true that it’s an enormously prosperous state, the home of (for example) Hollywood and Silicon Valley. And its illigal immigrants (not to mention its legal immigrants) certainly put, over time, far more value into the state than they take back out. There are good reasons more people live in California than, say, Alabama. And there are good reasons that Californians are more liberal than people in Alabama. California more closely represents the human future, not Alabama (or the Phillipines).

      Lastly, I did like your freedom is actually anxiety quip. That was clever. I’ll give you that one.

      —Santi

  5. It is strange, the dichotomy of both conservative and liberal viewpoints in american politics. Santi points out that people work better when they are free. And this is true. But freedom takes many roads, and both liberal and conservative agendas take hostages. The conservative agenda is far more “free” in regards to economic and fiscal policy. Who of us is not happier when we keep more of our money and use it in ways we see fit versus give it to the government? (and spend it very inefficiently, I might add).

    On the flip side, the liberal agenda is far more free on issues of individual rights. What happens between consenting adults is their business. Treating all people equally, gay, straight, etc. This, also, contributes significantly to a happier population.

    Thus the issue. Neither the typical conservative view point nor the typical liberal view point give real freedom. Some people care more about 1 area than another, which is how party lines are drawn. TED had a great piece on this a few years ago. I tend to believe that there are a lot of people in the middle, like me. I want freedom on all levels – economic and moral.

    • santitafarella says:

      Jared,

      I agree with you that both the left and right take freedom hostage, and that’s why America works: the left holds the right in check and the right holds the left in check. To my mind, this is the genius of the country, it’s stark balancings of power. What I mean by a more liberal America is one that is not leftist, it’s secure in its balance of powers. The far right is in check, and the left is in check. The problem is that we have Manicheans on the right who want a one party state. They want to control everything and give no ground anywhere. They are, essentially, fanatics. What heartens me about the nation’s shifting demographics toward traditional democratic constituencies is that America need not fear a right-wing takeover of all branches of government. Every decade this overwhelming of the balance of powers lessens. It is true that there are people on the left who would like to see leftists take over everything, but the reality is that this will never (and could never) happen because their constituency is too small. The right is moving (demographically) in the same direction, and this means that the country is drifting away from the wet dreams of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. That’s what I find hopeful in a shift to the left of center. I don’t want capitalism abolished or high taxes, and conservatism will always keep such tendencies in check. What conservatism must not do is dominate and vanquish the left from American politics. That’s the conservative goal—one party state authoritarianism—and that’s what I am hoping we can avoid.

      —Santi

      • @Santi

        I tend to see extremists on both sides. I also equally fear both sides and their attempts to dominate the party system. That is why I like/abhor the Teabaggers. The core of their group seems to be comprised of terrified, hypocritical, bible thumping, racists. The only reasonable topic of the Teabaggers was fiscal conservancy. But the fact that a new party almost started – even if I hated most of what they said – was awesome. I hope that I am wrong, but it now appears that they were nothing more than a Republican shill. The Republican party wanted to again try to run on fiscal conservancy, but after Bush spending like a drunken sailor, there was no way to feign such a thing. Viola, create a fringe group that is really just republicans, screams about fiscal conservancy, but who ONLY has Republican candidates.

        Life in the middle is sure not easy.

      • santitafarella says:

        I think what the ideologically motivated person wants is a one party controlled state. Left or right, it is a poverty of wisdom and proportion to desire such a thing.

        The great danger is that the right, in a time of crisis, actually has an outside chance of achieving this end. The left has no chance of ever doing this.

        It’s why I continue to root for the demogaphic shift to traditional Democratic constituencies. It weakens the right a little bit every year. The real story of the 2010 election is simply this: traditional Republican leaning constituencies turned out in high numbers in an off year election. Minds and demographic trends haven’t changed.

        —Santi

  6. Paradigm says:

    “First, you’ve left out the mind in your zero sum equations (global warming, phosphorous, peak oil, etc). For example, have you heard of Bloom Boxes? (Go to YouTube and type in Bloom Box and 60 Minutes).”

    And go to the real world and you will see how little these boxes mean. This is also typically liberal optimism – we just need a new gadget, magic pill or whatever and all our problems will be solved.

    “Second, I’ve been (perhaps over) influenced by Matt Ridley’s recent book, “The Rational Optimist.” He makes very convincing (at least to me) arguments that the world, over the next century, will be a much, much better place to live than it is today.”

    Haven’t read it but the title is telling, there is no such thing as a rational optimist (or pessimist). I know I and many conservatives are a bit pessimistic so I try to have an open mind and adjust for my inclination. But you and most other liberals just go with your optimism getting all high on it. You’re the kind of person who would point to former Yugoslavia as evidence that we can all live together in harmony. When that didn’t happen you just move on and get your high elsewhere. It’s very much like an addiction.

    “Immigration, on balance, tends to be a positive thing. California, for example, is America’s economic engine. If it runs state budget deficits, it’s also true that it’s an enormously prosperous state, the home of (for example) Hollywood and Silicon Valley. /…/ California more closely represents the human future, not Alabama (or the Phillipines).

    It all depends on what group is immigrating. Compared to the rest of America California has more Jews and Asians and less Blacks than the rest of the country. Alabama has four times as many Blacks and hardly any Jews or Asians at all. For whatever reason, it is a fact that these groups differ in how financially succesful they are.

    This simple fact explains why Californian companies have been succesful and those in Alabama hasn’t. But that doesn’t mean the state can provide for the other less succesful groups. The changing demographics in recent years have only been compensated for by the use of illegal aliens as cheap labor (California has by far the most illegals in America per capita). It’s a bubble ready to burst.

  7. Bob Loblaw says:

    “”Human freedom really is like the sun at dawn”‘

    Nice, but the left is anti-Freedom.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Bob,

      In those ways that the left is anti-freedom (as in restricting school choice or excessive taxation), it won’t prevail. But in those ways that it is pro-freedom (as in its promotion of women’s rights and gay rights), it will.

      —Santi

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s