By making so many voters angry, Trump will succeed where Clinton failed—and get Democrats to voteby Stan Greenberg / April 18, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in May 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
Get yourself into a totally different mindset when you try to understand this year’s US mid-term elections. Congressional elections are, of course, no rare thing. They happen every two years, and when the White House is not up for grabs, the President can normally expect a bit of a bruising. But this time around, we can look out for something more significant.
November’s vote will almost certainly kick off a new progressive era of reform, much like the cluster of elections, starting with the 1910 mid-terms, which launched America’s first progressive era.
A new American majority has been growing now for some time. It is composed of black people, Hispanics and Asians, unmarried women and millennials. Already by the 2012 election, these Americans collectively comprised 53 per cent of the electorate, rising to 54 per cent by 2016, and by 2020 this majority should reach 56 per cent. What I labelled the “rising American electorate” was poised in 2016 to form part of a progressive coalition with the growing number of well-educated suburban voter and college-educated women, while also running respectably with white working class women. That coalition should have readily defeated Trump and put Democrats in power.
If only Democrats had understood their post-financial crisis moment—and their own base. But Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton believed that, because Trump had offended so many of these groups, demographics alone would bring victory for the Democrats.
They believed that group identity and a sense of being shut out of life’s opportunities would motivate voters, along with their anger at the deadening political polarisation and gridlock in Washington. These assumptions had long encouraged Democrats to—in that celebrated British phrase—keep calm and carry on.
Right back at the moment when he first catapulted to national fame at the 2004 Democratic Convention, Obama memorably told the crowd that “there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America—there’s the United States of America.” It was an optimistic speech focussed on inequality, on the need to invest in education and to remove barriers to entry at the top. He never gave up on this upbeat, one-nation tone.