The Democratic left was defeated in New York City. That doesn’t mean it’s a paper tiger.

Democratic voters don’t fall into clear ideological camps. In the 2020 presidential race, former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) ran on similar platforms to Biden ― liberal but not as left as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or Warren. In heavily White Iowa and New Hampshire, Buttigieg and Klobuchar basically matched or did better than Biden among voters who identify as “somewhat liberal” or “moderate” (as opposed to “very liberal” voters, who favored Sanders). But moderate Black voters in South Carolina and other states that voted later overwhelmingly favored Biden.

Similarly in New York City, Adams overwhelmingly won in heavily Black areas, while candidates who were ideologically similar to him, such as 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang and Garcia, were well behind. The progressive Wiley, who like Adams is Black, was in second in many heavily Black areas, while finishing first in areas where lots of very liberal Democrats live. Like Buttigieg and Klobuchar in 2020, Garcia appears to have been the favorite of White Democrats who aren’t very liberal.

This suggests there are three distinct cohorts in the Democratic Party: an unabashedly progressive, younger bloc that is majority White and full of college graduates; a liberal-but-not-that-liberal older bloc that is also mostly White and has a lot of college graduates; and a Black bloc that is not very liberal but doesn’t necessarily support the same candidates as the second bloc. (There are, of course, Asian and Latino Democrats and others who don’t fit easily into these cohorts.) What appeals to that Black bloc may be a long-standing connection with Black voters (Adams, Biden) more than ideological moderation (Buttigieg, Garcia) or liberalism (Warren, Wiley). A big barrier to victory for Wiley was running against Adams, who is a longtime elected official with an established Black political base.

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