And even outside of one-time Obama voters, there’s a case that Democrats can win more nonwhite voters and racially-liberal whites without really sacrificing any white votes that might be available to the party. Christopher Stout, a political science professor at Oregon State University, argues, using survey research, that black and Latino voters have both become more aware of racism and more consciousness of being part of minority groups since around 2014, in part because of movements like Black Lives Matter. During that same period, according to Stout, white voters have become more sorted according to their racial views — so white Democrats are liberal on racial issues and white conservatives are conservative on racial issues too.
In Stout’s view, there is little downside for Democrats in talking about fighting racial inequality because people bothered by that kind of talk are already Republicans. But there is a potential plus in this strategy. According to Stout’s research, a candidate advocating for criminal justice reform, granting legal status to undocumented immigrants and making it easier to vote (he tested these three policy stances specifically) would increase voter turnout among people of color.
“Current political contexts make positive racial appeals a necessary component of any successful strategy for left-leaning candidates,” Stout told me.