We have been a politically fragmented country since its founding. That is the nature of a Federalist republic where power is dispersed and checked, and it is the genius of our constitution. A two-party system requires a coalition of interests, sometimes in conflict, to win an election. A shift in one member of the coalition can determine the outcome.
We may differ in economic concerns. The economy of the south differed from the economy of the north. The economy of the midwest differs from the economy of the coasts. Joel Kotkin noted that the vote difference correlated more to how one makes their living than education or race.
We may differ in cultural priorities. This confounds many who only think in economic terms. In What’s the Matter with Kansas, author Thomas Franks questions why the Kansas voters vote against their own best interests. This has become a mantra of the left.
It presumes that the author and his acolytes know what the best interests of other people are , and it further assumes that their analysis that leads to their privileged insights is accurate. It also presumes that others hold the same priority of values. Perhaps they voted differently because cultural issues outweighed economic ones.
Nassim Taleb may be closer to home when he questions the validity of bureaucrats and pundits who have no skin in the game ruling on those who do. The left assigns pathologies to explain differences, since there could be no rational justification for differences. This is why What’s the Matter with Kansas usually accompanies Anti- Intellectualism in America by Richard Hofstadter on their bookshelves.
The progressives faced a major headwind from their social justice victories on the 1960’s, Due to the advances in feminism, over half of the college graduates are women, even more in advanced degrees. Women are nearly half of the accountants, doctors and MBAs.
Blacks and other minorities also advanced. While racism is still with us, it is a much shorter wall to overcome. Obama’s ascendency would not have happened without this change. The profound victories of the Civil Rights era greatly overshadow the Black Lives Matter movement. The young minorities do not face the hurdles of their parents. This is wonderful progress but it dilutes the attraction of identity politics.
This left the identity caucus chasing smaller dragons. The gay marriage movement is their most recent success, but that victory led to smaller and more contested conflicts of transgender bathrooms and microaggressions. The politically correct became oppressively intolerant.
Voters place the highest priority on national security. If there is no existential threat, economics will dominate the campaigns. If economic growth and stability is sound, then social issues will dominate. This explains the dominance of civil rights in the 1960s.
Clinton’s identity politics failed to see the dissatisfaction with the economy. For the Midwest worker laid off or seeing their incomes stagnate while their adult kids moved home and addictions plagued their town, identity politics did not connect. If anything, it alienated them further since they belonged to none of the identity groups valued by the Democrats.
The identity caucus is fracturing and with it the Democrats’ power. Once the blue-collar union worker no longer finds a home in the Democratic party, he will not quickly return. I wonder how the elevation of Keith Ellison to head off the Democratic Party will affect the Jewish Democratic vote. Kanye and Jim Brown are welcomed into Trump Tower. As much as I share many concerns about a Trump Presidency I doubt this would have happened with any other GOP, or even a Democratic candidate.
As long as the Democrats blame fake-news, Comey, the alternate-right, post truth, and Russian hacking they will fail to adjust. This just furthers their preference for pathologies over understanding. This will only lead to further fracturing of their shrinking coalition. As much as they pushed unity, by focusing on identity politics rather than greater shared economic and cultural issues they shattered their coalition, and judging from their behavior and selection of leaders after their defeat they will not quickly recover.
But that depends on Trump.