Joel Kotkin writes The Three-Headed Democratic Party in New Geography:
Today we can speak really of three Democratic parties, each with a separate class interest. Their divisions are as deep, perhaps more so, as that between the mainstream Republican Party and the Tea Party. As the Republicans are divided between Main Street grass-roots activists and the corporate “moderate” wing, the Democrats face potential schisms over a whole series of policies, from policing Wall Street to the environment, monetary policy and energy.
The Gentry Liberals
This group currently dominates the party, and have the least reason to object to the current administration’s performance. All in all, the gentry have generally done well in the recovery, benefiting from generally higher stock and real estate prices. They tend to reside in the affluent parts of coastal metropolitan areas, where Democrats now dominate.
The liberal gentry have been prime beneficiaries of key Obama policies, including ultra-low interest rates, the bailout of the largest financial institutions and its subsidization of “green” energy. Wall Street Democrats also profit from the expansion of government since, as Walter Russell Mead points out, so many make money from ever-expanding public debt.
The Populist Progressives
Many more traditional left-leaning members of the Democratic Party – whom I would call the populist progressives – recognize that the Obama years have been a disaster for much of the party’s traditional constituencies, notably, minorities. Although the nation’s increasingly wide class divides and stunted upward mobility has been developing for years, they have widened ever more under Obama, as the wealthy and large corporations have enjoyed record prosperity.
Although too loyal to openly abandon the first black president, and perhaps too terrified of the Republicans, the populist Left sees Barack Obama as unnecessarily timid in pursuing the war against the hated “1 percent.”
The Old Social Democrats
Ironically, the weakest part of the Democratic Party is also the last bastion of traditional American liberalism. The old Democrats are the remnants of the great political party that produced the likes of Andrew Jackson, Harry Truman, and, to some extent, even Bill Clinton. Unlike the other party factions, this group can appeal consistently to the middle and working classes, including the famous “Bubba” vote. Unlike the gentry, or the coastal new populists, they tend to be relatively moderate on social issues.
This group is the most closely associated with private-sector labor, manufacturing and areas dependent on fossil-fuel production. Long dependent on white working-class voters, they are the most threatened by the increasingly hostile attitudes among them to President Obama and his gentry liberal regime. Already, some building trade unions in Ohio, angry about delays on the Keystone XL pipeline and other infrastructure projects, have even shifted toward the GOP.
I have contended that the two party designations poorly describes the political landscape for most voters. The two parties are actually two coalitions of varied and often conflicting interests. I have, struggled to identify distinctly the various factions of the parties. This article is a good start.