Poll: The left’s ‘coalition of the ascendant’ isn’t really all that liberal

posted at 4:41 pm on April 30, 2015 by Noah Rothman

Demography is destiny, dear boy. That’s the central argument in the popular book authored by John Judis and Ruy Teixeira, The Emerging Democratic Majority. Their thesis held that the Democratic Party would enjoy decades of dominance as the “coalition of the ascendant” – unmarried women, young people, and minority voters – overtook the white majority. That hypothesis enjoyed some confirmation in the form of the presidential election results in 2008 and 2012, but it has since come under intense scrutiny. Even one of EDM’s authors has begun to critically revisit his theory.

“After the 2008 election, I thought Obama could create an enduring Democratic majority by responding aggressively to the Great Recession in the same way that Franklin Roosevelt had responded in 1933 to the Great Depression,” Judis wrote. “Obama, I believed, would finally bury the Reagan Republican majority of 1980 and inaugurate a new period of Democratic domination.”

“In retrospect, that analogy was clearly flawed,” he conceded.

The interruption of Hillary Clinton’s coronation by the impertinent socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has led some observers to again take a critical look at the Democratic coalition. Writing in The New York Times on Thursday, Nate Cohn noted that the Democratic Party is generally happy with simply handing Clinton the nomination. While the liberal commentary class is starving for a competitive primary, the polls indicate that the average Democratic voter is not.

That might seem somewhat surprising if you’re an affluent, secular, well-educated person living along the coasts, in places like Bethesda, Md., Berkeley, Calif., or Montclair, N.J., where the party really is dominated by the uniformly liberal voters who love Elizabeth Warren and harbor at least some reservations about Mrs. Clinton. From that vantage point — which happens to be the same as that of many political journalists — it often looks as if Mrs. Warren could even defeat Mrs. Clinton.

But the Democratic primary electorate is nothing like these liberal enclaves. Elsewhere, the party includes a large number of less educated, more religious — often older, Southern or nonwhite — voters who are far from uniformly liberal.

The majority of Democrats and Democratic primary voters are self-described moderates or even conservatives, according to an Upshot analysis of Pew survey data and exit polls from the 2008 Democratic primary.

Cohn’s demographic analysis of the leftward orientation of various aspects of the Democratic coalition is revealing. He noted that, despite their reliable support for Democratic candidates, the members of the “coalition of the ascendant” are among the least dogmatically progressive Obama voters.


Cohn found that African-American and Hispanic voters are generally moderate Democrats. “Many black voters are moderate or conservative, allowing Mr. Obama to overcome the disadvantage faced by left-liberal Democratic candidates,” Cohn wrote. That’s a … debatable assertion, to say the least. But it is interesting to note that minority Democratic voters are less attracted to the party’s platform than previously believed.

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The stats indicate that Dhims do, indeed, vote for free stuff, despite describing themselves as “conservative”.

vnvet on April 30, 2015 at 4:57 PM

“In retrospect, that analogy was clearly flawed,” he conceded.

Really? You think?

Yeah, it’s so easy to bury Reagan! Just be a Democrat!! Why if Reagan (might have–we don’t know) stimulated the economy with his lack of Harvard degree, all that is required is being a Democrat in a recession!!

Credulity so thick you can cut it with a knife.

Axeman on April 30, 2015 at 5:16 PM

The problem is they’re low information voters who believe the lies of the liberal elite and racist voters. That’s how Obama got elected twice. Blacks and Hispanics only voted skin color.

SayNo2-O on April 30, 2015 at 5:24 PM

“Obama, I believed, would finally bury the Reagan Republican majority of 1980 and inaugurate a new period of Democratic domination.”

What empirical evidence did you have that Obama was either capable or interested in reversing this phony “great recession”? You’re not still going on that lie that we were “losing 600,000 jobs a month”? Your desire to elect a black dude so great that you forced yourself to believe that? That “recession” can be laid squarely at the feet of the democrats’ intentions and the Republicans’ fear/apathy.

Judge_Dredd on April 30, 2015 at 5:24 PM

That’s it? 4 stinking comments in an hour? This was a great post! You’re all a bunch of Tea Gabbing Rothman-haters! :P

Judge_Dredd on April 30, 2015 at 5:41 PM

Point of order – in the Leftist lexicon, “moderate” == liberal.

Steve Eggleston on April 30, 2015 at 5:46 PM

Blacks and Hispanics only voted skin color.

SayNo2-O on April 30, 2015 at 5:24 PM

That isn’t true. Blacks voted Democrat, as they usually do, only in slightly higher percentages. If Clinton had been the nominee, Black Democrats would have voted for her in comparable numbers, even if they did so with less enthusiasm.

theblackcommenter on April 30, 2015 at 6:40 PM