Support The Bulwark and subscribe today.
  Join Now

Where Have All the Democrats Gone?

December 13, 2023
Notes
Transcript
Democrats used to be the party of the common man and woman, but they have taken a back seat to Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and Wall Street. In the process, the party has been hemorrhaging working-class voters. Can they win them back? Ruy Teixeira joins Charlie Sykes today.

show notes:

https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250877499/wherehaveallthedemocratsgone 

This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:08

    Welcome to the Bulwark podcast. I’m Charlie Sykes. Before we get started, a couple of things that are coming up, I want you to keep your eye out for. On Thursday and Friday. My morning shot newsletter is going to be devoted to a lengthy summary of all the deplorables of the year.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:22

    It’s a target rich environment. We have asked for nominations, which are continuing to pour in. You know most of the usual suspects. In fact, it turns out there are so many suspects. I had to break it into two.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:34

    There’s actually kind of a length limit on how long a newsletter can be, and I couldn’t fit all the deplorables of the year. Into one newsletter. So it’s going to be a two part newsletter. Also, on Friday morning, we’re going to wrap up the year I’m gonna take off the last two weeks, for vacation. So I’m gonna be joined by my colleagues, AB Stoddard, Mona Charen, and Will Saletan, and we are going to be looking back at the year in review and the year in preview, you know, the the MVPs of the year, the worst actors of the year biggest stories of the year, the most undercover stories of the year.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:07

    So you won’t wanna miss our special year end podcast on Friday. Meanwhile, in Washington, DC, the pattern is absolutely full. This is one of those weeks where we’re packing several months in. House Republicans appear ways to go ahead with the vote to authorize the impeachment of Joe Biden on a very narrow party line vote. We’ll see how that plays out.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:31

    We’ll talk about that tomorrow. Meanwhile, of course, Jack Smith, this is the big one going straight to the Supreme Court to say, could you answer the question whether or not the president of the United States is immune from any sort of legal accountability in our criminal justice system because that’s what Donald Trump is saying, and he wants the court to clarify this. To say this is a big deal is putting it mildly, I don’t think you can possibly overstate the stakes. If the court, in fact, does, go along with Donald Trump’s argument, then, frankly, the president is above the law. They could, of course, choose a middle ground They could refuse to take it up.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:06

    They could delay the trial. But they also could hand Donald Trump a huge defeat while reaffirming the constitutional principle that the president takes an oath to uphold the constitution does not mean he takes an oath that immunizes him from any accountability. So what else is going on? It does appear that the talks are broken down, and that Vladimir Zelensky is leaving without aid. The prospects of a long winter with America backing out of its commitment.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:38

    And we’re gonna talk about that, obviously. Hundred Biden is on Capitol Hill. He wanted to testify in public. They were insisting that he testified in private, so with the headlines, he’s not gonna testify. He’s gonna violate the subpoena.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:50

    We’re gonna have a lot of of that news. But to break all of this down, we are joined by our good friend, Ruite Tashara. Once again, by the way, I love I love the sweatshirt you’re rocking today, Rhee.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:01

    Hey. Thank you. Well, I’m a I’m a proud badger, and I spent many happy years in Wisconsin and you know, it helped me get the fine education I I have today. So I love Wisconsin. Go badgers.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:14

    And you got the hoodie out of it. Okay. So, Ruby, everybody knows senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute co founder and politics editor at the Liberal Patriot. Also, the author of the new book, Where have all the Democrat gone for those of you who are watching us on YouTube here is the cover. Where have all the Democrats gone?
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:31

    The soul of the party in the age of extremes where you are continuing to try to have Democrats guys. Look in the mirror. Ask why so many of the voters who had voted for you for decades are now voting Republican. So can we just step back for a moment? Because I know how much Democrats love this conversation.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:52

    But there have been so many polls recently. And increasingly, there seems to be a theme. Donald Trump is, in fact, leading Joe Biden, in certain swing states, according to some of the poll, Joe Biden’s approval rating continues to be very, very low. And there’s more and more evidence of what you have been warning about of the fracturing of the democratic coalition which people had taken for granted. So tell me what you’re seeing in the most recent polls.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:22

    What should we be paying the closest attention to?
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:25

    Yeah. Sure, Charlie. I mean, I think there are several things that really jump out at you here. One thing that’s been people have noticed and they’re kinda scratching their head. I mean, could this possibly be real is the compression of the Democrats’ margin very significantly among black and Hispanic voters, and they don’t break it down by working class and and college educated, but my bet is it’s primarily my working class, Hispanic and blacks.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:49

    But, I mean, these are These are margins that are still in the Democrats’ favor, but are like twenty points lower than they were in twenty twenty. And that’s potentially pretty disastrous. And, you know, I think just shows you how a lot of the people who the Democrats consider their most reliable constituencies are much less enthusiastic about them and and to the extent that, yes, it does raise the possibility Donald Trump could be elected president More broadly, if you just break down the voter pool into two big buckets working class and college educated, we’re we’re continuing to see just an accentuation of this pattern where Donald Trump and the Republicans have a big margin, positive margin on working class voters that’s now going up to like fifteen or twenty points, and you have the Democrats with smaller margins among college educated, which is not enough to counteract losing getting your clock clean among working class voters because there’s so many more working class voters. This is not not a good situation. Now things could change.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:51

    It’s early days, but these are not good signs.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:53

    That’s the big question. I mean, won’t they come home? Like, young voters. Okay. When they’re actually faced with a choice, Trump versus Biden, what are they gonna do?
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:01

    What are, you know, Bulwark working class voters going to do when they go in in the polls, you know, Hispanic working class voters. I think that there’s a lot of, you know, just kind of hopeful us out there. Hoping him out there that, you know, push comes to shove. It’s it’s one thing to tell a pollster in late twenty twenty three when you’re firing blanks, but when you actually have to make that choice, Will these voters come home, or is the Democratic Coalition permanently leaking some of these key constituencies?
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:29

    Well, that is the, gazillion dollar question. I mean, I think that is the standard pushback on, some of these polling results like early. People are almost like casting a protest vote as it were by what they tell pollsters. They’re all gonna come back home Well, you know, anything is possible and, you know, that is a pattern that at least typically obtains to some extent. But the idea that it’s gonna make up all of these drops in margin.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:57

    There’s poor performance among these constituencies, young voters, black voters, Latino voters, working class voters. I think is is not something that should be counted on. I mean, one thing that should make them a bit nervous is if we look at previous elections and yes, there was some coming home of, voters, you know, sort of compared to the early polls, but the early polls have never been this bad. In the recent times for the Democrats among these constituencies. I mean, they weren’t running these kinds of margins, relatively poor among blacks and Hispanics.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:28

    These are these are worse than we’ve seen. So even if there’s some coming home, you’re wind up with, you know, sort of a situation where you’re the amount of votes are getting out of these constituencies is significantly less than it was than it was in twenty twenty. And you can’t afford to do it. I mean, the other thing I’d say here, Charlie Sykes think is important is the kind of voters who are least engaged who are gonna come out in a high turnout election who are you know, seemingly caught between the two parties at this point. All the data we have suggests that they actually are more negative.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:02

    About Biden and the Democrats and have more conservative attitudes on a lot of key issues than the people who are still kind of currently firmly in Biden’s camp. So that’s that’s a lot of things to put on the table that suggests Some of what’s going on at least is real and can’t be waived away and certainly shouldn’t be waived away.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:21

    Okay. So let let me let me see if I can put some of the reaction to these polls and what you just described. Among Democrats, actually among, I think, a lot of observers, which is, like, how can this possibly be happening? How can Donald Trump who is so clearly unfit for office, who’s facing multiple indictments, who is, twice impeached, been defeated, disgraced in every single way, leaning into the most extreme elements. And the other day, he was in New York, and he’s surrounded by, you know, people that even deplorables think are deplorable.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:49

    I mean, just just the The worst collection of misfit toys, people who would not even have been allowed in Trump one point o know, he’s surrounded by the steep bannons and the Jeff Bulwark and everything. He continues to, you know, talk about Muslim bands. So I guess part of it is, like, Rui, how can this be happening? How can this man? This extraordinarily awful human being be leading in the polls and have a, I don’t know, fifty, fifty chance of being elected president.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:19

    And there’s a guy joking about being a dictator, but not joking about all the, you know, critics that he would go after the the campaign of retribution you know, the death penalty for for generals, and he’s leading. So so part of it is we there are people who say America’s completely lost his mind. Everybody’s crazy or, you know, everybody has been seller, brother. And then mainlining Fox News, you know, so how do you respond to that? Because, you know, part of it is that American voters have just completely lost their mind.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:46

    That none of the normal rules of politics apply anymore.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:50

    I think one thing to keep in mind here, Charlie, is most people don’t follow politics as closely as You and I do. You may pick up the paper or watch the news or whatever. Look at your social media feed, whatever your favorite source of information is. And absolutely, you know, steam’s coming out of your ears. What the hell is going on?
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:08

    How is this even possible? But most people aren’t that engaged with the day to day of politics. Most people don’t pay that much attention. The latest thing that Donald Trump said. You know, so that’s part of Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:19

    They’re living in a different world than you or I do. There’s some a lot of this is just noise. It’s just noise. They’ve heard about Donald Trump, they’ve heard about Joe Biden, They have opinions. Those opinions can change a bit over time, but they’re not prey to that cycle of outrage.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:34

    That I think drives a lot of people on the right and the left. So they’re more in the middle and they’re more like observing things. And I think for them, it’s not that clear which party is the extreme party. I mean, the polling regularly shows that Democrats are not viewed as being significantly less extreme than the Republicans at this point. So, you know, the idea that voters would fixate on the extremism of Trump is revealed by statements and say, oh, you know, gosh.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:01

    Gosh and Golly. Now I realize how I should never vote for this guy. That’s not the way it works.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:06

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:06

    They in fact are torn between the parties. They do in fact not like a lot about, you know, this is what we write about in our book about the cultural radicalism, which, you know, brands the party to a nontrivial extent, you know, people out there demonstrating for this and that who seem to be associated with the Democrats who people detest. And importantly, if you look back on the Trump years economically and the Biden years economically. That’s not such an e. In fact, for a lot of voters, it’s a pretty easy choice for Trump they feel like he did a better job and the economy worked better under his watch.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:39

    There was no inflation to speak of. Right. But all
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:42

    of the indicators are that they economy is doing quite well. I mean, I’m looking at my four zero one k. It’s higher now under Joe Biden. There was under Donald Trump. Household wealth, up dramatically.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:54

    So let’s come back to all of that because I think we need to do a a dive into this. And I found reading your book it’s so revealing when you just sort of break down, you know, it’s it’s very easy to go to the, you know, it’s Fox News, and they’re all racist. But the economic issue, the cultural issue. And but let’s set the stage here because the one people to understand where you’re coming from on all of this and just remind people that that you and your co author, John Judith, have been advising Democrats for a very, very long time how to win elections and not to lose elections. So two decades ago.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:28

    Let’s just go back two decades ago. You and your co author, John Judith, predicted in their book the emerging Democratic majority, the Democrats were on the cusp of securing political dominance. By the way, I believe the Republicans believe that as well as Democrats because what you argued two decades ago and what seemed to be self evident was growing numbers of non white city dwellers, college educated professionals set the stage for state advantage in national elections, the electoral future looked like it belonged to Blue America much more so than to its red counterpart. And back when Barack Obama won in two in two thousand eight, which seems like a very long time ago now, you were hailed as as a seer. I mean, the economy notes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:08

    You know, that this seemed due. Right? I mean, in two thousand eight, you were thinking, yeah, this is it. This is the coming demographic wave. Mhmm.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:15

    Then you get the tea party kinda dense the triumphalism, then the midterm losses in twenty fourteen, followed by Trump’s victory in twenty sixteen. And so your book now is like, okay. What did we get wrong? What was the fundamental thing By the way, I think your book kinda became conventional wisdom. I mean, I don’t remember it being actually that controversial.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:38

    I thought, you know, yes, this is and Republicans were clearly you know, back on their heels. And I think this was one of the, you know, this has been one of the motivation. So Mhmm. You’re right. We were dead wrong.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:49

    About the Democrat’s ability to hold on to the white working class. What did you get wrong? Do you think, Ruby?
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:55

    Right. Well, that that is pretty central. To our analysis at this point. Back in the day when the emerging Democratic majority came out in two thousand and two, it wasn’t immediately hailed as brilliant work of prophecy. People were kinda skeptical about it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:10

    Those were the George w Bush years. And the case we made was that if you looked at the way the country was changing in terms of the growth of the non white population, the realignment of professionals toward the Democrats, the trends toward the Democrats in the most dynamic metropolitan areas of the country, the changes in the voting patterns of women, particularly single and educated women, you put it all together and it looked like the Democrats and the where where they were coming from. And we sort of recommended they continue on a course in what we call progressive centrism. We’re in a good position to harness this emerging coalition. However, however, and this part got quickly forgotten.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:50

    We had a section in our the key chapter on the white working class. This is kinda basically, guys, you know, we do wanna bring this up here. White working class voters are still a huge section of the electorate. Yes. They’ve been declining, but they’re still very big, particularly in a lot of key states in the Midwest and so on.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:09

    And the political arithmetic of this emerging coalition can only work if you keep a very strong minority share. Of the white working class. Maybe forty percent overall, maybe closer to forty five in some of the Midwest states. So this is something that has to be paid attention to. And if it’s not, the whole coalition could fall apart.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:31

    That was immediately forgotten And in the wake of Obama’s election in two thousand and eight, it’s completely forgotten. It’s like, hey, look what happened. This is great. Everything they said true. Look at all the states that came online.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:42

    Look at all the constituencies. They’re just right about this. But what what was ignored there is that if you actually looked at the beneath the hood of Obama’s victory, he actually did quite well relatively speaking among white working class voters. But that was not something people paid much attention to. Now they should have come to their senses in twenty ten when the Democrats lose sixty three house seats and get their clock clean a lot because white working class voters do bail out in so many areas of the country particularly.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:11

    The Midwest twenty twelve Obama comes back and again were hailed this series because they look. He he won twice in a row. He got over fifty percent of the vote. The Obama coalition reemerged. But what people ignored in that case was that he doesn’t win this election without a swing back toward him in the in the upper Midwest.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:29

    He ran as a populist. He ran on the auto bailout. He crushed Romna on his plutocratic tendencies. I mean, he really ran a a very smart campaign that actually brought some of these voters back online. Twenty fourteen, though, things go south again, and of course that brings us to twenty sixteen.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:46

    When the Democrats weaknesses among white working class voters really come home to bite them. And that’s really the reason Donald Trump wins the electoral and people didn’t see it coming because they weren’t taking that constituency and its potential for political mischief as seriously as as they should have. And so you know, obviously John and I are rethinking our thesis as as we’re going along here from twenty ten through twenty sixteen. And after twenty sixteen, when I we saw how people were summing up this cataclysmic event, which was basically, oh my god. The racist and xenophobes have come out of the woodwork.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:22

    Right. You know, that’s the only reason why someone could possibly vote for this awful man whose awfulness you just retailed a few minutes ago and they just they were they were less gobsmacked. They couldn’t understand it. They couldn’t believe it. So they they landed on a very simple explanation.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:36

    These people are just not have with the way the country is evolving the multicultural, multiracial future. Donald Trump is a profound racist and xenophobe.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:45

    Well, including that part of it. Right? I mean, you know, the the race issue is, it would be naive to say that that’s not part of it. On the other hand, the Obama Obama Trump voter complicates the narrative a bit, doesn’t it?
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:56

    Right. Because, you know, that it never comported that well with the irrefutable fact that there were, like, millions and millions of Obama Trump voters. He supposedly racist voters in the Midwest and other places who voted for Obama then turn around and vote for for Donald Trump. And the thing that we emphasize in the book is you have to understand that in a sense, Trump ran the policy oriented campaign. He ran on trade.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:19

    He ran on immigration. He ran on how the elites don’t care about your jobs and they’re sending them overseas. Yeah. If they’re doing bad deals, they don’t care about you, the working class person, And what did Hillary talk about? She talked about how bad Donald Trump was and how awful he was and the terrible things he said.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:35

    They’ve even done ad studies on this that show the overwhelming proportion of Trump’s ads were in a sense policy related, even if you don’t think of them as policies or don’t care for them as policies. Whereas, like, the overwhelming proportion of Clinton’s ads we’re on some terrible thing Trump said and how we’re all in this together. And trump is just, you know, he’s just a terrible man.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:55

    And I’ll be honest, I thought that was going to work and clearly it didn’t.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:58

    So did everybody else? So did I for that matter, but when, you know, reality barks back, I feel you need to start rethinking your your priors.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:09

    Your book actually starts off with, you know, the an introduction, the party of the common man and woman, and and and talking about some of these blue collar areas that have once been reliably democratic that have switched and then talking to them. It is interesting. Because we have to talk about it is the economy stupid, and and the way the economy has has changed and the perceptions of the economy. So you’re right, and this is right in your introduction. There’s no single factor that has driven working class voters that have a Democratic party.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:35

    So then you list some of them. Democrats support for trade deals that led to factory closings in many small towns in mid sized cities Ron DeSantis that were once Democratic stronghold. It’s huge. Democrats support for spending bills that the working and middle class is paid for but that were primarily a benefit to poor Americans, many of whom were minorities. Democrats enthusiasm for immigration of un field workers and the party’s opposition to measures that might reduce illegal immigration.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:02

    This is interesting. You also point out Democrat support for abortion rights and opposition to any restrictions on those rights. We can talk about how that’s playing out now. Democrat support for strict gun control, which is always problematic, say, in the upper Midwest. Democrats support for an identification with the quest for new identities and lifestyles particularly among the young and the denigration of all those who are not supportive.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:24

    Okay. We we can go on. But let’s start with the economics. Because we can get sidetracked on is the economy good? Is the economy not good?
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:31

    Are you stupid to think that inflation is is a problem? But There’s a decade long transformation of the world through the eyes of white working class voters. And this is something that I don’t think that had been accounted for until the the Trump shock. So just talk to me a little bit about these small towns, these blue collar workers, how they see the economy and the political alignment, the nationalist versus the globalist debate.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:02

    Right. Yeah. Well, we do, talk obviously a lot about this. I mean, the book itself is divided up into two sections, the great divide. And cultural radicalism.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:11

    And the great divide, part of it is trying to recount this history of how Democrats come to be associated with an economic term, something that is not at all a benefit and is really anathematized by a lot of people in in certain areas the country that have seen their communities decline. Places dependent on resource extraction, farming communities, small towns and cities that are dependent on manufacturing. All of this really starts to bite in the late part of the twentieth century. And the Democrats are associated with a type of economic policy that wasn’t really doing anything about all this stuff. We had NAFTA under Clinton.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:50

    We had the also the deregulation of the financial and telecommunications sector, which lays the basis for future. Miss Jeff, and importantly, you have the China shock, which, you know, was put into motion by latter part of the Clinton administration. Which has been documented to have this very large effect on the political leanings of people and of communities who are affected by the China shock. By the trade exposure to to those events. So you put it all together and Democrats, which had been the party of prosperity, the party that could deliver prosperity for working class people.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:25

    You really see this starting to erode starting in the nineteen eighties and then just getting worse over time to the point where they have no advantage or they’re actually negative on this question that Gallup has asked forever. So what is left of the Democrats if they’re no longer the party at working class prosperity? That’s the question. A lot of, you know, sort of working class people and particularly white working class people started asking themselves. And it made them much more open to voting for Republicans that the Republicans were so great either, but they did offer an alternative.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:58

    And then you take it into the twenty first century when Democrats not only do not have the confidence of a lot of these voters in terms of their economic approach. The Democrats move from being the more liberal party on a lot of issues. Right? I mean, the party that’s for, you know, anti discrimination tolerance, gay marriage, what have you, into a party that seemingly is obsessed with a variety of boutique issues that a lot of people find inconsistent with their their norms, their traditions, and their way of life. And that’s, you know, that that interacts with their economic sense that their way of life is is being destroyed or substantially harm.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:37

    And they’re they’re being looked down on it. I mean, that’s counter. Right? I mean, why would you vote for a party? Who you believe, basically, who looks down at you.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:44

    It it’s a little hard to get there.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:45

    Let’s leave the cultural issues aside for a moment, but I do remember back in in twenty sixteen the the reaction again because maybe, you know, my view was because I live up in the upper mid midwest, but I just remember how some of this, you know, played together. You know, for example, If you were, you know, a white collar worker in in rural Michigan and gonna wash your entire town wiped out and everyone you know is unemployed, And then you hear politicians on on television talking about white privilege, you’re going, oh, what privilege? Not privilege. So you you had the shock, and then you had the the indifference and maybe the contempt. But let’s go back to this because some people would argue, we’d push back and say, okay, you know, despite all the demonization of, you know, globalization and, etcetera, and the and and the location, that it’s been good for the economy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:30

    Look at the stock market. It’s over thirty six thousand points the Dow Jones average. Working class Americans, they’re buying boats. They’re still living a good lifestyle. We are still a prosperous country.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:42

    It has led to one of the most dramatic booms and the spread of prosperity that we’ve ever seen in world history. So What is this great divide? Is it because the people who are doing well just do not see what’s been happening to the white working class is the white working class spending too much time watching Fox and being told they’re not doing well when they’re not actually you know, experiencing that it’s not that terrible. What do you think?
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:12

    This is I think sometimes a little hard for people who live in the more educated cosmopolitan sections of the country to appreciate the extent of the alienation of these kinds of voters from the Democrats and from, well, people like us. You know, you can take this story too back to the late part of the twentieth century and the decline of the labor movement. Which is absolutely crucial development for changing the character of the democratic party. The labor movement ceases to have nearly as much influence in the democratic party And the union movement provided a kind of working class anchor for the Democrats as a party, which would prevent them in some ways. Or push back against them leaning too far in a culturally leftist direction because that’s not where these people come from.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:57

    And there’s a there was a realization we we can’t go too far in this direction. So if you have the decline of the labor room on the one hand and you have the rise of the professionals and their influence within the party on the other hand and the development of the shadow party as we talk about in the bulk of these nonprofits and advocacy groups. All the groups in a sense come out of the sixties but really gain much more strength and money over time and influence in the Democratic party in the nineties and o o’s.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:24

    Mhmm.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:24

    They’re more setting the tone of the party. Its agenda. So I think back, you know, fifty years ago, you weren’t gonna get any Democratic politicians going around having the term white privilege even past their lips because they would realize how insane this is in a political sense. But I think when people live in a bubble, And there, to some extent, some of these politicians are elected by people who, you know, in these cities and buy these younger educated voters who feel like there’s no danger in saying this stuff, I’m just telling the truth. But there’s no sense.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:57

    There’s no sort of almost message discipline about how this might appear or be digested by people and other areas of the country, don’t feel so so privileged. So, yeah, I mean, I think it’s a lot about increased domination of the Democratic party by college educated, liberal ish professionals, mostly wide, actually. And the decline of the influence of unions and working class people. And I think that really changes your appeal, and it doesn’t mean you lose every election at all. Of course.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:26

    But it does mean I think what puts a ceiling on your support, which is really a lot what our book is about, not that the Democrats are gonna start losing every election, but Right. I think they’re basically in a a situation where they can’t become the dominant party with the weaknesses they have even as weak and crazy. As a Republican party is.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:43

    And and as you pointed out, in in the nineties, there was that sort of turn as the Democrats were, I guess, they thought they were modernizing them they became increasingly susceptible to the inference of interest groups like, you know, Wall Street, Silicon Valley. They embraced trade liberalization, which I did not think at the time was was that would have all the consequences that it did. And they endeared itself to professionals who were not threatened by globalization. I think Pamela Paul in the New York Times wrote about your book, and she writes, when it comes to economics, the authors say, Democrats have too often pursued the interests of their own elites and donors Since the nineteen nineties, the party’s pursued policies that worsen the economic plight of Americans were not well off. President Clinton, for example, supported NAFTA and China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, which undermined American Manufacturing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:29

    The administration also endorsed the banking act of nineteen ninety nine, which accelerated the financialization of the American economy, while Barack Obama conveyed a populist message on the campaign trail, as president, they say, he became a captive of neo liberal Washington. So what is neo liberal Washington? Well,
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:52

    neoliberal economics in general is kind of a shorthand term for
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:56

    the idea that the economic system works best when it’s
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:01

    deregulated when trade is very open where there are few strictures on what sort of people with capital can do, particularly financial
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:09

    capital. This is what Conservative Republicans said. Right? It was kind of a reversal of roles there,
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:15

    you know. And the well yeah. Now it is kind of in some sense. At least parts of the Republican party, but back in the day in the nineties, everybody was singing from the same home book, basically. The the difference with the Democrats is they were a soft version of the illiberalism.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:28

    They wanted to approach things in roughly that way, but they felt we needed to compensate the losers. We needed, you know, sort of safety net programs. We needed to be nice to the people who are losing out, and Republicans were less interested in that. And there’s actually a very interesting paper that recently came out by Suresh Naidu et al a bunch of economists who basically show that the Democrats move over time and are perceived as moving over time by working class voters as a way from, you know, a focus on sort of jobs in the macro economy and the way people were being compensated in terms of wages to accompensate the losers type approach and that this is coincides within the Democrats start losing votes among these working class voters is, you know, it’s not enough for them apparently to be compensated. But that was the dominant strain of thinking among soft neo liberals of the Democratic administrations.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:23

    This is where the the economics and the cultural issues seem to come together because you, you know, as as you write, You know, during the Clinton Obama years unions take a backseat to Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and Wall Street together with various environmental civil rights and feminist groups as to the shadow party, So in the twenty twenties, the party is now dominated by a host of left progressive organizations and companies that cater to hyper educated urban progressives. So the ACLU, Black Lives Matter, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Ford Foundation, the Center for American Progress. This is all from the the Wall Street Journal. I guess, you know, the other question though is, though, Joe Biden does not come from this world. Joe Biden seems to be a throwback to the era that you and John Judith are describing when the party was more attuned to the white working class.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:13

    He’s not part of this and yet the voters who are being polled now don’t seem to be cutting him any slack. They don’t see that Okay. There’s a far left. There’s an elitist left, but this is middle class Joe. Because Joe Biden does not meet these definitions.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:30

    I mean, you noted that you know, the Biden has, you know, curtailed some of the shadow party’s economic agenda, but has he gone along too much with the rest of the shadow party?
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:41

    Yeah. I I think so. I think of him in a way as being the designated normie of the democratic party. He does come out of that old sector of the Democratic party and its traditions. And that’s really why he’s president today to some extent.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:53

    Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:54

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:54

    I mean, he stood out in the primary scrum in twenty twenty. Nineteen twenty twenty is the guy who was like not crazy. I mean, most people in that primary contest were trying to run to the left of each other. And we’re sort of competing to see how radical they could be on issues of race and gender and immigration and so on. And basically Biden you know, refused to participate.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:19

    And even though people discounted him at the time, you know, he winds up being propelled to the nomination by moderate voters, particularly interesting black moderate voters. So, you know, the people spoke in a way, the Democratic rank and file spoke, and he wips the nominee. And while he didn’t be trumped by as much as a lot of us thought he would, he nevertheless was able to prevail and that was a very a very good thing. But once he’s in office, He’s still the leader of the Democratic party that currently exists today, and I think his ability to box out the shadow party and gonna sort of terminate erratically curtail its influence was was minimal even if he intended to do that, which is not at all clear to me. But I think he has to his credit tried to you know, brand the party a little bit more along those lines.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:04

    Every once in a while that makes it tentative, sort of move in the direction of being a little tougher on immigration, a little tougher on crime. Is rhetoric is, you know, just naturally tends to be a little bit more along the traditional democratic lines, but I do think in the end it isn’t enough to refashion the image of the party. And I think we see that in the polling data today in terms of how people view the Democrats and view their stands on a variety of issues and know, I mean, it’s fair. Right? The Democrats are significantly the left of people and race gender immigration crime and a lot of other things.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:37

    They did test the, by administration for being. And then I think this is a controversial issue. We do talk about it in the book, but to some extent his economic program mean aside from the fact, you know, critically and fatally that it’s been associated with inflation, which they’ve radically under estimated how bad this would be for their economic image and for how people would perceive them. They basically organized their economic strategy around climate change. And, you know, the so called inflation reduction act is really a climate change and an investment kind of bill.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:11

    And people aren’t that interested in climate change, particularly working class voters. You know, this is not a high salience issue for them.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:19

    They think that that is a threat. Right? I mean, and look, I mean, I’m I’m not gonna try to litigate whether or not, you know, the the nature. I mean, if if you do believe it’s a negative threat to the planet. I mean, go for.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:28

    But politically, it is important to understand that in the industrial rural Midwest, for example, the focus on climate change often reads as a threat to the economic security and the jobs and the affordability of energy and and and a variety of other issues. And so I do pick up on that, and I think you’re seeing that in some of the polling as well.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:50

    Yeah. I think that’s exactly right. I mean, it is, in fact, not that of a proposition for a lot of these these voters, and I think it’s another example of how the priorities of the shadow party and of professional lead to dominate the Democrats override and outvote in a sense, the priorities and and preferences of the people who they should really be trying to reach. For those people, yes, climate change is existential crisis. No crisis too high.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:17

    We need to move as fast as possible to replace fossil fuels with renewables. And the reaction of your median working class motor, particularly in rural America or small town America is like, what? Why do we need to do this? You know? This is me.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:33

    I I’m not seeing the the benefits for me in this, and I don’t understand why you’re so upset about it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:40

    Let’s talk about some of the more optimistic things that you see happening though. I mean, you and John Judith argue that, America needs a Democrat party that is liberal on economic and moderate and conciliatory on cultural issues, but you gave an interview to time after the Hamas Israel issue, saying that, you know, people in the Democratic party have been leery about intersectionality and everything having to be colonized. So let’s just talk about this break because in terms of many of the the shadow party that you’re talking about, I have seen more pushback among Democrats and among progressives against this left wing, the intersectionality, oppression, woke ideology, since October seventh, and we ever saw before that. I think that there was initially kind of a shock realizing, you know, these are our allies. And they’re behaving in this particular way, which has led to, I think, a reevaluation.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:34

    So you’ve suggested that maybe some of this pushback against the intersectional left might be a constructive contribution to these trends you’ve been describing.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:45

    Yeah. Possibly. I mean, I I think, your initial point there is is correct about what we think the sort of sweet spot is being you know, somewhat left on economics and culturally moderate. You could really form a coalition that that did have some significant and durable majority status. That’s really where a lot of Americans are.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:05

    And, it shouldn’t be that hard to get there, but obviously, parties are hard to change, and they have for all the reasons we talk about in the book, the Democrats have had difficulty doing that or even realizing perhaps they need to do it. But Beneath the surface Charlie, I mean, I think there’s been a gathering fed upness with some of this intersectionality or wokeness or whatever you wanna call it, and the liberalism that’s associated with it, and all the dumb things you’re supposed to have to say to be a good Democrat. I think the dumbness as it were or the fervor, I guess, crested with the George Floyd summer. And I think ever since then, it’s kind of gone down a bit. It’s much more permissible to say some things.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:47

    We’re not permissible at the time, but it’s still dominant and hegemonic within democratic party circles, and everybody feels very leery about pushing back too much on this even if the doubts are creeping into their mind. But I think what’s happened with the October seventh thing for a lot of people is they’ve looked at these people in the street who seem to be implicitly pro Hamas, and they sort of can’t believe it. Wait a minute. Look at what just happened. This is not a matter of intersectionality.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:17

    You can’t understand this issue and have a moral stand in it by simply saying the Palestinians are the oppressed and the Israelis are the oppressors. This is nuts. So I think it’s a kind of this is nuts moment for a lot of people where they say, okay. I went along with this as far as it went. I didn’t wanna annoy the kids.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:35

    I wanted to be on the right side of history, but now I just have to say this has gone too far. This is not the right way to look at the world. We’ll see how far it gets. But I do think you’re right that there are more people, willing to push back harder now than there has and we’ll see how far it goes. I think there’s a lot of institutional obstacles to it getting too far at this point.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:59

    I mean, the people who are in the intersectional camp as it were, control the commanding heights of cultural production. They’re the people who staff the nonprofits, the advocacy groups, the foundations, They’re being challenged, and that’s the first step. Right? Being challenge is the first step.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:13

    Before October seventh, I don’t know that there was a particularly robust pushback against identity politics you know, there were center left to folks like Yasha Munk who were saying, you know, this leads into some illiberal corners you don’t want to be their warnings about what was going on in university campuses, but just the surprise that we’ve seen over the last several of months, you know, it tells me that we had not fully engaged, you know, the testimony of the three university presidents that, you know, blew up in their face. I think part of the problem was was not that they were re reaffirming academic freedom, it’s that they’re so selective about it, that they have been so hypocritical that they have gone so far into saying, you know, the university should be safe space. You shouldn’t use this word. You can’t use this word. We can allow, you know, this person to feel, threaten any way whatsoever.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:00

    Except when it comes to Jews on campus, when they are being assaulted. And I think that that was one of those aha moments. Now whether it it actually has an effect, we just don’t know, And I think that in terms of your critique, of the extent to which Democrats had allowed the the identity politics shadow party to dominate, you know, the the commanding heights, that might be changing. I think there’s a little bit more space to push back against some of that. Again, how this plays out in twenty twenty four?
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:29

    I just don’t know. Okay. I just wanna just come back to this because we’re gonna get reaction to this saying that this critique of the white working class be more willing to vote for Donald Trump is a sign of I’m I’m trying to dance around this without getting right at it is. I mean, to what extent is this kind of, you know, pulling off the scab of of American racism? I mean, you wrestle with us.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:54

    You you provide the detailed economic and cultural argument, but ultimately, Aren’t we watching Republicans appealing to some of the basest instincts that have long deep histories in our in our culture? And so maybe you know, some of the anti racist activists have gone too far in the last decade, but are they wrong? How much of this is about race?
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:18

    Well, several replies to that. One thing that I always like to point out to to people who say it really is all about racism and xenophobia as it’s kinda funny for Democrats to be talking about this in terms of reaction to working class people. To the situation and to the Democrats. When for forty years prior to twenty sixteen, they were talking Jonathan Last. About the corruption of the neo liberal economic model and how is oppressing working class people and destroying communities So you have some of the people in these same destroyed communities winding up voting for someone like Trump.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:56

    Isn’t there at least an interaction effect here between some conservative cultural attitudes, perhaps, and they’re actually existing and lived experience as people in these communities and, therefore, isn’t that part of understanding why they moved in the way they did. A second comment is if you look at the actual trend data on racial attitudes, even the so called racial resentment variable, which I don’t think much of. Trump got less votes from the most resentful voters than Romney did in twenty twelve. In other words, where where Trump really made his gains was among people of more moderate views on on these issues, then that and if you look at the distribution of these racial attitudes between twenty twelve and twenty sixteen, they moved in the wrong direction. People didn’t become more racially resentful.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:44

    So none of that fits very well with the standard story. And I think that’s really important. And the third thing and critically, and this is really what should have opened people’s eyes in twenty twenty. If and in fact, it’s all about resentment and status threat, and people who just don’t accept this glorious multicultural, multiracial America. Well, why did Trump get more votes from Hispanic and black voters.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:08

    And why is he getting even more votes now? I mean, and among working class people, There’s something else going on here that cannot and should not be reduced to question of racial attitudes. And I think that that’s just a killer a killer point for a lot of of these kinds of arguments. If you’re right about, you know, the continuing influence of white supremacy, why do we have all these non whites? Toying with this candidate who supposedly represents this bid to restore, you know, white supremacy or strengthen it and, you know, unleash white Christian Jonathan Last, what have you.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:41

    There’s, you know, various hysterical takes on this by by people, but And
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:45

    a lot of denialism. Yeah. Denialism. I mean, I just
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:49

    it it can’t possibly be happening. The polls are wrong. You know, they’ll come home or there’s a million ways of trying to explain it, but the reality is reality. Working class people of all races are now more sympathetic than the Republicans they used to be. We need to think about that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:05

    In the time that we have left though, let’s, I want you to address the how the abortion issue is playing out because you, you cite that as one of the reasons that has eroded, support among the white working class. I think Democrats are thinking that that abortion is going to work very much in their favor in twenty twenty four. How is this playing out demographically? Is this one of the factors that we’re seeing in the, Hispanic and and black working classes that abortion is not playing in the same way that it’s playing among suburban swing voters?
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:38

    Yeah. I I think actually things have changed in an important way because prior to the dobbs decision of that long interregnum when Roe was free weighed was the law of the lamb. It really wasn’t that hard for Republicans basically to portray the Democrats as being for unrestricted abortion at any time and for the pro life people to make hay out of that. And its salience was just not that high was sort of a subtext to a lot of American politics for a long time. But for some working class voters, it was another straw, you know, sort of didn’t exactly break their backs, but it was another factor pushing them toward the Republicans in a way for the Democrats.
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:18

    What you have now and what has decisively changed is in the wake of the Dodd’s decision, you basically have the Republicans being able to portray very easily. It’s having me stream position because the dobbs decision did unleash a lot of these people to act like, you know, basically they were pretty close to wanting to abandon abortions entirely extremely unpopular. So Democrats are now basically saying, portraying any Republican at any time no matter what their actual position is is essentially being for banning abortions full stop. Really unpopular and the Democrats have benefited from that. And they probably will continue to benefit from it in twenty twenty four.
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:57

    The question is how much because it’s a little hard to read from the results of the Ohio referendum, for example. That Democrats now have the magic bullet that’s gonna gonna slay Trump. If you look at the exit polls from that particular election, this was a plus two Biden electorate, you know, which is a ten point more democratic electorate than actually existed in in Ohio prior to that. So clearly abortion brought out in a relatively low turnout election like that, a certain kind of voter. Twenty twenty four is gonna be a really different election where you’re gonna have many more voters coming out of the Bulwark who are more peripheral, who are less engaged, who are probably not gonna vote just on the base of abortion, and who in fact are quite sympathetic relatively speaking to Donald Trump and where he’s coming from.
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:44

    So I’ve always thought it was a little foolish to try to not to argue that abortion rights won’t benefit the Democrats. I think that’s entirely fair, but to argue that they have completely changed the terrain in the context of a presidential I think is flawed and just doesn’t really take into account the way the electorate actually is.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:04

    So let’s talk about what you want to see the Democrats do what they perhaps need to do next year, you have described as a prosperity agenda. The Democrats do well when they are the party of the common man, the working man, when they are convincing people that the best times lie heads, what is prosperity agenda. What should Joe Biden be embracing?
  • Speaker 2
    0:47:24

    Well, I find it a little bit hard to answer that in the sense that I think that, you know, they have a limited and rapid degrees of freedom at this point given all the things they’ve done under Biden’s watch in the way that sort of most voters perceive the Biden economy at the current time. I’d say one thing they shouldn’t do is run on bidenomics. I mean, that was remarkably poor choice on their part. I mean, if people don’t like Biden particularly and they don’t like the economy at all, why would you wanna run and put them together and everyone would buy an army? I mean, you’re kinda asking for trouble.
  • Speaker 2
    0:47:58

    So, I mean, you always need to pay attention where voters are coming from. Right? Voters were most concerned about cost of living and prices. They really dislike their Biden performance on inflation. They don’t even know much about these various acts that have been passed by the Democrats.
  • Speaker 2
    0:48:13

    They have no idea what’s in them. No idea. So maybe you should actually run on, you know, your your commitment. I mean, this is in the short run. I think a prosperity agenda is abundance of Janice More long term proposition, you’re basically gonna focus laser like on bringing prices down, making life easier for the normal person, you’re gonna make sure energy prices stay down and along those lines.
  • Speaker 2
    0:48:36

    I mean, Biden’s actually done a pretty good job of oil and gas production in the United States, which is one reason things are worse than they are. So why not talk about that? Now, of course, this is a kind of thing his own party will slam him for. If he does it, but know, I think it’s appeal to a normal voter should not be underestimated in the context of my commitment. I Joe Biden.
  • Speaker 2
    0:48:58

    My commitment is to keep prices down and make sure you know, your life is prosperous. And along those lines too, I mean, people don’t know what’s in the inflation reduction act. Right? Other than we seem to be spending a boatload of money on on climate stuff But a part of that was the prescription drug. Part of that bill by keeping prescription drug.
  • Speaker 2
    0:49:15

    Why don’t as someone once said to me, why aren’t these the ten most famous drugs in America because Biden’s always talking about because that’s what Trump would do. I mean, this is a concrete thing that they did. People feel strongly about that has to do with prices. So why not talk about it? So I think all of those things are just at least a a beginning bid on trying to move the Democrat economic message in a different direction.
  • Speaker 2
    0:49:39

    And I think beyond that, the question of, you know, prosperity has a lot to do with other things besides climate. Has a lot to do with other industries that Biden doesn’t even talk about, and people would like to hear more about maybe. And it has to do with it’s too hard to build stuff in the country. It just is. I mean, why not a message that says we’re gonna unleash the productive potential of the American economy?
  • Speaker 2
    0:50:01

    Because it does have potential. You gotta get rid
  • Speaker 1
    0:50:03

    of all these barriers in the way. People are are frustrated with a lot of this stuff. They know from their communities and from what they read or hear about that When we wanna do something, it seems to take forever to do it. I mean, you know, you talk to your neighbors. I talk to my neighbors.
  • Speaker 1
    0:50:18

    Everybody’s like, Jesus Christ, they’ve been doing this project for know, fifteen years. Why isn’t it done? So I think that’s an underlying, you know, vein of frustration that Biden could potentially tap by saying, hey, I’m the guy who’s gonna get stuff out of the way. I’m a different kind of Democrat, but again, that’s the kind of thing he would get blowback about. Well, speaking of blowback, another indication that Biden folks are prepared to move to the center or pivot toward the center or these negotiations about the border.
  • Speaker 1
    0:50:45

    I don’t think that they’re going to come up with a deal. But it is interesting, isn’t that one to get your take on that? They have shown a rather significant willingness to whether you wanna say cave in or to compromise with Republicans, obviously recognizing the border is a political liability. This is an opportunity for them perhaps to blunt the edge. So is Joe Biden kind of getting it that he’s gotta do something significant on the border and will it be enough, do you
  • Speaker 2
    0:51:15

    Well, I think his instincts on this are probably pretty good. I think the problem is he’s a creature of his party and is surrounded by people and under pressure from groups that don’t really want them to do anything about this. But, I mean, when you’re having a issue upon which you have a twenty three percent approval rating like border security, It’s that’s really bad. You know, another thing is it’s salient. I mean, a lot of polls now show that you know, second to the economy and inflation, what have you, immigration pops more than anything else.
  • Speaker 2
    0:51:45

    So clearly, it’s on a lot of voters’ minds. Nobody thinks he’s doing a really good job except for the most liberal Democrats. So this is a golden opportunity to rebrand yourself on this issue and say, yes, I’m doing something about border security. Look at this deal. That I cut with the Republicans on Ukraine and Israel aid.
  • Speaker 2
    0:52:02

    So it would be potentially a real win win, you know, for the Democrats. But I just don’t think they’re gonna be able to do it. There’s just too much resistance. And I think if I were them, I would have made this deal three weeks ago, but I’m not them. And they’re they’re just probably gonna you know, continue to do this very unproductive dance with the Republicans on the issue rather than seizing an opportunity to actually decisively say something different about immigration in the board and then what they’ve said before.
  • Speaker 2
    0:52:32

    Because obviously, they do need
  • Speaker 1
    0:52:33

    to say something different about Gration and the board. Well, we’re gonna find out what what happens. We’ll find out whether Republicans even wanna have a deal. I had David from on yesterday, and he said they’re not even negotiating in in good faith here. But clearly something’s happening.
  • Speaker 2
    0:52:47

    I don’t know about that. But, I mean, there there’s a there’s a political logic to them too of of not Right. Having a deal so they could keep on criticizing. But this is this is what deals are all about. I mean, I think it’s silly to accuse either side of not negotiating a good faith.
  • Speaker 2
    0:53:01

    I mean, negotiations are hard. And when push comes to shove, you know, things have to give and sometimes it doesn’t happen. But yeah. I mean, I think that there was potentially a deal there. Maybe there still is, and we’ll see if they move to take it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:53:15

    Alright. The book, I’m holding this up for the YouTube by listeners. The book is where have all the Democrats gone? The soul of the party in the age of extremes by Ruite Tashara and John Judith. Thank you so much for coming back on the podcast.
  • Speaker 1
    0:53:27

    And if I don’t with you. Have a great Christmas and a great new year, Ruby.
  • Speaker 2
    0:53:31

    Thank you very much, Charlie. Thanks for having me.
  • Speaker 1
    0:53:34

    And thank you all for listening to today’s Bulwark Podcast. I’m Charlie Sykes, we will be back tomorrow, and we’ll do this all over again. We’ll work podcast is produced by Katie Cooper, and engineered and edited by Jason Brown.
Want to listen without ads? Join Bulwark+ for an exclusive ad-free version of The Bulwark Podcast! Learn more here. Already a Bulwark+ member? Access the premium version here.