That much should be clear from the election results — and if not from that, then from the election reaction down ticket. We’ll get to the latter in a moment, but the New York Times analyzed the former this weekend to see where Joe Biden won in 2020 but where Democrats lost more broadly. The results show that “Joe from Scranton” didn’t sell except in places other than Scranton. His success came mainly from Academia and Democrats’ latest environs:
Demographics, it turns out, are not political destiny. But diplomas just might be.
The clearest way to understand the results of the 2020 election — and, perhaps, the shifting state of our politics — is through the education voting gap. Voters with college degrees flocked to Mr. Biden, emerging as the crucial voting bloc in the suburbs. Those without them continued their flight from the Democratic Party.
“The big-picture problem is that the Democratic Party is increasingly reflecting the cultural values and political preferences of educated white people,” said David Shor, a data scientist who advises Democratic campaigns and organizations. “Culturally, working-class nonwhite people have more in common with working-class white people.”
It depends on which demographics, actually. Democrats’ insistence on identity politics has been predicated on the idea that ethnicity overrides all other considerations. And to a certain extent it still exerts a signifiant effect, but that appears to be changing as the GOP adopts a more populist economic position. It’s not ethnic demographics that count now, but economic demos. And that spells trouble for Democrats in elections where Donald Trump isn’t the issue.
When the election results get filtered by composition of the workforce in counties, the disparity becomes glaring. Few bought the “Joe from Scranton” conceit in places where blue-collar workers largely exist. Blue-collar workers instead voted for Donald Trump, and that tended to be true even in ethnic demographics that Democrats dominate:
Of the 265 counties most dominated by blue-collar workers — areas where at least 40 percent of employed adults have jobs in construction, the service industry or other nonprofessional fields — Mr. Biden won just 15, according to data from researchers at the Economic Innovation Group, a bipartisan policy research group.
On average, the work force in counties won by Mr. Biden was about 23 percent blue collar. In counties won by President Trump, blue-collar workers made up an average of 31 percent of the work force.
Here’s a fun stat dug up by the NYT: Joe Biden actually did worse among these blue-collar counties than Hillary Clinton. And Biden actually won his election, thanks in large part to Trump making himself too much of an issue in 2020. Democrats down-ballot fared even worse despite the strong turnout for Biden in this election cycle. That portends disaster for Democrats in upcoming elections if they can’t find a way to connect with the working class. And as long as they continue to pander to ethno-sexual identity politics, they’re not likely to gain any ground with the demographics that are peeling off to the GOP.
For confirmation of this, look no further than Iowa. Politico reported yesterday that Iowa Democrats are in a “meltdown” over their losses, and now worry that the national party might make matters worse by eliminating their caucus as the first contest of the next presidential primary cycle:
If it was only that Democrats in Iowa had a difficult caucus or suffered down-ballot losses, it might not have been so bad. The party did poorly in congressional and legislative races everywhere. But Iowa, because of its coveted place ahead of all other states in the presidential nominating process, had more on the line than any other state. And expectations in Iowa were unusually high after Democrats flipped two House seats in 2018 and Democratic voter registration shot up ahead of the caucuses, briefly surpassing Republicans for the first time in years. Biden appeared competitive enough there early this summer that Trump aired defensive ads in the state.
It would have been easier to forget the handling of the caucuses — where an app failed, results were delayed and initial reports appeared to contain errors — had Democrats taken out Ernst or had Biden turned Iowa blue.
Instead, Biden lost the state by more than 8 percentage points, with Trump carrying all but six of the state’s 99 counties — just as he did in 2016. Ernst clobbered Theresa Greenfield by nearly 7 percentage points, freshman Democrat Rep. Abby Finkenauer lost her bid for a second term and Rep. Cindy Axne, the only successful Democratic House candidate, barely held onto her seat. …
The road back to relevance is going to be a slog, with deep ramifications for a national party that is laboring to regain a durable foothold in the Midwest.
It’s not going to happen at all as long as the party orients itself toward Academia over the the local lodge. The more that Democrats keep pandering toward progressives and treat people between the coasts as rubes, the tougher future elections will be. And with Nancy Pelosi already announcing that she thinks the 2020 elections were a “mandate” for her progressive agenda, Democrats are well on their way to blowing the midterms already.