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Democrats Should Never Compromise on Race


Sean McElwee has a great piece on the point that there really is zero middle ground on issues of racial justice and thus there is no reason for candidates to offer compromising positions to try and appeal to mythical whites who supposedly want to vote for Democrats if only Dems didn’t care about the blacks so dang much. Here’s the conclusion:

Much like on other racial issues, white Americans have polarized along the lines of party on immigration. As the chart below shows, in 1992, there were virtually no differences across the parties in support for lower immigration to the United States among whites. In 2016, there were deep partisan divides, with 65 percent of white Republicans and only 30 percent of white Democrats supporting decreased immigration to the United States. When candidates tack to the center, they have far more to lose with their own base.

David Baake, a Democrat running in New Mexico’s Second District (which is nearly 50 percent Latino, though the voting electorate leans whiter), tells me that in his race he sees little benefit in adopting a hard-line approach: “Views are so polarized that there isn’t anything to be gained by moving to the right. Such a move would only depress the base, which uniformly favors a compassionate approach to fixing our immigration system.” He advocates for a statute of limitations on deportation, explaining that “Trump’s base isn’t interested in compromise.”

In the late 1970s and early ’80s, there were very little partisan differences in white views about the causes of racial inequality. By 2016, these partisan divides were strong, on a variety of questions. Importantly, much of this result is the dramatic increase in racially liberal views among white Democrats. Despite this, many pundits continue to demand that the party move to the center (or even the right) and abet racism.

My analysis suggests that there would be little to be gained—it’s not the 1980s anymore. Democrats trying to tack to the center or right on race will end up alienating not only people of color in their base but also whites, who hold increasingly racially liberal views. And unlike in the past, there aren’t a lot of voters who are up for grabs, who swing between the two parties. Rather, Republicans have moved right, along with their voters. Much like the GOP couldn’t “out-segregate” Eastland, Democrats won’t be able “out-MS-13” Republicans, and they shouldn’t bother trying. Instead of investing in the squishy (and mythological center), Democrats should invest in turning out their base. It’s still early, but there’s evidence that Gillespie’s racist campaign has bolstered Latino turnout. The future of Democratic party is building a coalition to defeat racism at the ballot box, not pander to it.

I think this is absolutely correct. And that’s why I was very happy to see activists interrupt Ralph Northam’s victory speech to harass him over his ridiculous pandering on sanctuary cities. Northam’s late pander probably attracted approximately 0 Gillespie voters to his cause and instead just caused a mild hubbub on the Democratic left. Moreover, it was completely unnecessary. I realize that the white working class is a holy grail to Democratic consultant firms and lord knows the media as well. But pandering is not going to help you win elections. The only way forward is to create both racially and economically progressive positions, engage in massive GOTV efforts in communities of color, and hope that enough working class whites see this platform as in their interests to hop on the train. If they don’t, there really isn’t anything you can do about it except also become a racist party. And even if some Democrats were dumb enough to try that, they would never be as good at it as Republicans.

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