The Democrats’ coalition could fundamentally change by 2020

But the Republican pollster Gene Ulm says that if Democrats veer left, they are taking a risk, particularly with well-educated suburban voters. Those voters are already cross-pressured between their personal “reticence” about Trump (Ulm’s phrase) and their satisfaction with the economy. Adding a historically ambitious liberal agenda to the scales, he argues, could tip those conflicted voters toward choosing Trump for a second term, especially if they conclude that the Democratic proposals will threaten the strong economy. “These types of issues definitely will decide where the suburbs will go, where white college-educated people will go,” he says.

Trump and other Republicans, Ulm adds, face a mirror-image threat. While many voters may feel that some of the solutions emerging from the revivified Democratic left go too far, he says, they do see the policies responding to legitimate problems that Republicans sometimes appear to discount. “Voters oppose the Green New Deal because of this crazy price tag and wacky stuff that it’s going to do, but it doesn’t mean they are against the environment,” Ulm says. “They oppose Medicare for all, but that doesn’t mean they are against people being able to have access to health care. They are against free college for everybody, but that doesn’t mean college ought not to cost less.” Voters, he adds, give Democrats “some credit for good intentions here.”

And indeed, other ideas emerging from the Democrats’ 2020 field have drawn consistent support across racial lines in recent polls.