Cracks in the Democratic base

  • 30 May 2017
  • NormanL
Cracks in the Democratic base

Democrats, as we know, are angry. They are also fighting each other, and the Bernie Sanders insurgency is coming up empty at the ballot box. Let's add one more ingredient to their woes: a key part of their electoral base -- African-Americans -- is just not that interested in voting anymore. It could mean a rough ride for Democrats in the 6th district special election in Georgia, and into the future:

In 2016, turnout among whites was up across the country, and in highly educated areas like the 6th District in the suburbs of Atlanta. This redounded to Democrats’ advantage. At the same time, black turnout was down precipitously, from 66 percent in 2012 to 59 percent in 2016. This black-white turnout gap continued in the first round of Georgia’s special election, where the Democrats got impressive turnout levels from all races and ethnicities — except African-Americans.

Lower black turnout in 2016 might be explained as a reversion to the mean after that group’s historic turnout for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. It’s possible that Clinton could never inspire black turnout the way the first African-American president could. But even if this shift is more of a return to the old status quo, Democrats will still have to grapple with these turnout levels going forward, and there are powerful lessons we can learn from the party’s failure to raise or maintain previous black turnout levels in 2016. Painting Trump as a bigot did not motivate more African-Americans to vote, in 2016 or in the Georgia 6th. Hope and shared identity seem to be much more effective turnout motivators than fear.

The entire article is worth a read, and we encourage you to do so. Election trends can be very fickle -- more than once, each major party has been declared "dead," only to surge back to life, and election victories, a few years later.

But another item to kepe in mind is that Democrats also have no real national message on policy. All they have is a full throated anti-Trump scream. So far, that's won them nothing in the special election races for Congress. Until that changes -- and there are very few indications it will in the near term -- Democrats may continue to spin their wheels on election day. If so, their frustration will only grow deeper...and their anger (ot tantrum, if you prefer), will become greater.