What percentage of Democratic voters are one or more of the following?
(* With 10% of the country following some form of vegetarian diet, this number is based on the assumption that vegetarians break Democratic 3-1, which is a margin very similar to the LGBT community, non-Christians, and not "white non-Hispanic."
- Self-identified not-"white non-Hispanic" (39%)
- Self-identified non-Christian (28%)
- Some form of vegetarian? (14%*)
- A union member (13%)
- Not self-identified heterosexual (7%)
Also note: Women are also disproportionately Democratic. However, unlike all the other groups listed here, women make up a significant percentage of Republican voters, too.)
Even though there is some overlap between these categories, the vast majority of Democrats fall into at least one of these five. And by "vast majority," I mean "over 70%."
Now, of course there is still a not-insignificant straight, meat-eating, non-union, white Christian contingent within the Democratic Party rank and file. However, that group is older than the rest of the party, and as such continues to shrink as an overall percentage of Democratic voters. Non-whites, non-Christians, LGBTs and vegetarians are all disproportionately under the age of 50, which will make future incarnations of the Democratic Party even more skewed toward these groups. This process is accelerated even further by Republicans targeting their messaging, and making the vast majority of their gains, among Americans who do not fit into one of those five categories.
I write--or at least attempt to write this--in a value-neutral sense. It isn't good or bad, it is just who the Democratic Party is at this point. It is significantly not-"white non-Hispanic," and the "white non-Hispanic" segment is significantly vegetarian, non-Christian or non-straight. Among Democratic voters who fit into neither of these groups, it is significantly union. Further, demographic and political trends will only make this more so in the future. The end result will be a Democratic Party that looks much more like that Congressional Progressive Caucus, and a Republican Party that includes the Blue Dogs and Conservadems.
More in the extended entry
|This departs from my prognostications in the past in that I now see it more as a description of the future of the Democratic Party than a likely future progressive governing majority. Through a combination of a long-term decline in immigration (already underway), and by capturing an even larger percentage of the white Christian vote (a process that is long underway), Republicans and conservatives can stay competitive with Democrats electorally for a long time to come. However, this will also necessitate that states and congressional districts currently occupied by Blue Dogs and Senate Conservadems shift toward Republicans, remaking the demographic and cultural composition of the Democratic Party.
Over the long-run, Democrats in Congress will look more like the Progressive Caucus. Right now, the CPC is only group of Democrats in Congress who are representative of the Democratic rank and file. At least 74.7%, or 59 of 79, of the full-voting House members of the CPC are one or more of the following: non-white, non-Christian, or non-straight. Among all other full-voting Democrats in the House, that percentage is only 23.5%, or 42 of 179.
That is an astounding gap. It is also temporary. With such a large percentage of the Democratic rank and file fitting into the five categories described at the top of this post, almost inevitably more Democratic candidates for higher office will fit into those categories, too. Gradually--or maybe not so gradually, if a major Republican wave takes out hordes of Blue Dogs and New Dems in 2010--Democrats in Congress will become demographically and culturally more like members of Progressive Caucus.
This shift is also partially responsible for the current disconnect between Democratic leaders and the Democratic rank and file. The vestigial Blue Dog wing of the party bears little cultural and demographic resemblance to rest of the coalition. In fact, as we have written in the past on Open Left, in this regard it is far closer to the Republican Party than to other the Democratic Party. This is both why there is a major problem in passing progressive legislation right now, and why that wing of the Democratic Party is eventually going to be largely swallowed up by Republicans.
It is in this sense that President Obama can actually be understood as a transitional figure. Obama is able to connect the non-white, cultural progressive, and New Democratic branches of the Democratic Party all at the same time. He has also altered the national political landscape, in that the areas with the largest concentration of white Christian Democrats--which happen to coincide with the areas represented by Blue Dogs--are now the most Republican voting areas in the country. It wasn't long ago that Democrats were competitive in places like Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee and West Virginia were competitive in Presidential elections. Now, those are 5 out of the 14 states that John McCain won by 13% or more. Don't expect them to come back to the fold on the national level anytime soon, either (although the situation is very different in most other parts of the South).
Finally, this shift will also result in figures like Sarah Palin will playing a larger role in the future of the Republican Party. Digby points out that, despite her shortcomings as a candidate in other ways, Palin is good at making jokes about liberal cultural adherents, such as vegetarians, and how this endears her to the social conservative base. As the two parties become even more divided along cultural and demographic lines, more of the successful, conservative, Republican figures will demonstrate this ability.
It is also possible that the coalitions will rearrange themselves, and new dividing lines may form. In fact, this is inevitable, as it is a process that has occurred throughout American history. But from the vantage point of the now, the outlook of the two major coalitions over the next twenty or thirty years points almost entirely to an expansion of the cultural and demographic divide we are already witnessing.