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Democrats appear to be at increasing risk of losing their advantages with minority voters. A new post-mortem on the 2020 election compiled by a trio of advocacy groups warns the party could backslide with Black, Hispanic and Asian American voters because it treats those groups as “monolithic.”
That’s scary for Democrats. From a small-d democratic point of view, though, the report is excellent news.
All too often parties and activists treat our politics like a demographic Rubik’s Cube — move the right colors into the right place and everything will come together. It’s the logic of “The Emerging Democratic Majority,” which posited (in part) that America’s increasing diversity would move the electorate leftward. That notion had its mirror image in “The Flight 93 Election,” the Trumpist manifesto in which the pseudonymous author lamented that “the ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners” means “that the electorate grows more left, more Democratic, less Republican, less republican, and less traditionally American with every cycle.”
Reality might be more fluid and nuanced. There’s a strong conservative tradition among African Americans — think Malcolm X — and more than a few Latino voters have strong anti-socialist sentiments that make them suspicious of Bernie Sanders types. Even these observations might be too broad. As the post-mortem report notes, there can be differing values and priorities between “Hispanic men in the Rio Grande Valley, oil and gas workers in New Mexico, [and] Latinas in South Florida.”
If minority voters are up for grabs, Democrats would have to thoughtfully fight for their support, instead of taking votes for granted. On the other side, Republicans could find growing diversity in their ranks muddies the white backlash politics that have driven the party during the Trump era — and the party’s impulse to constrict the electorate might become less pressing if GOP officials took seriously the notion they can and should compete for Black, Latino, and Asian voters.
Either of these outcomes would be good for our vulnerable democracy, which depends on dynamism and persuasion to thrive — and suffers when parties assume a group of voters is, or isn’t, permanently in their corner. The 2020 Democratic post-mortem, designed as a warning, might just offer a glimpse at a hopeful way forward.