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By Thomas B. Edsall
Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.
As the 2022 midterms draw into view, the question arises: To what degree are Democratic difficulties inevitable?
Ruy Teixeira, co-editor of the Liberal Patriot, argues in an email that “the cultural left has managed to associate the Democratic Party with a series of views on crime, immigration, policing, free speech and of course race and gender that are quite far from those of the median voter. That’s a success for the cultural left but the hard reality is that it’s an electoral liability for the Democratic Party.”
Teixeira went on: “The current Democratic brand suffers from multiple deficiencies that make it somewhere between uncompelling and toxic to wide swathes of American voters who might potentially be their allies.”
In Teixeira’s view, many Democrats have fallen victim to what he calls the “Fox News Fallacy.”
“This is the idea,” Teixeira explained, “that if Fox News criticizes the Democrats for X, then there must be absolutely nothing to X and the job of Democrats is to assert that loudly and often.” For example, he wrote, “Take the issue of crime. Initially dismissed as simply an artifact of the Covid shutdown that was being vastly exaggerated by Fox News and the like for their nefarious purposes, it is now apparent that the spike in violent crime is quite real and that voters are very, very concerned about it.”
In an analysis of the complexity of the current Democratic predicament, Sarah Anzia, a professor of public policy and political science at Berkeley, addressed the preponderance of urban voters in the Democratic coalition: “The Democrats have a challenge rooted in political geography and the institution of single-member, first-past-the-post elections.” Citing Jonathan Rodden’s 2019 “Why Cities Lose,” Anzia argues that the density of Democratic voters in cities has both geographically isolated the party and empowered its most progressive activist wing:
They need to find ways to compete in more moderate or even conservative districts if they hope to have majorities of seats in the U.S. Congress or state legislatures. But large numbers of their voters are concentrated in cities, quite progressive, and want the party to move further left in its policy positions — and not just on social-cultural issues.
Anzia contended that Democrats “have collectively staked out positions that have alienated certain supporters,” which is “related to the built-in challenge I just described.”
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