Category Archives: 2022 election

encouraging working class candidates

The quote below is from an article in The Hill by Alberto Ramos, director of talent development at New Politics. He says he “was raised by a gritty, single mother of three in a trailer park on the eastern desert outskirts of Las Vegas. Every day, we scraped and struggled to get by, but thanks to her perseverance and determination, we survived.” Now he works to encourage people from similar backgrounds to run for political office:

Peter Levine, Associate Dean at Tufts University conducted a survey of over 700 candidates for local office in 2021 …. He asked about the degree to which concerns over credentials, fundraising networks, economic hardship, or public scrutiny might cause an otherwise viable candidate to hesitate to run. The starkest differences appeared when factoring in childhood economic adversity.

Almost half of the people who experienced poverty and received welfare when they were children — regardless of their race, gender, or level of education — doubted their credentials were good enough, compared to only 15 percent of those who never had. One-third of those who received welfare as children were anxious about even being able to afford a run for office, compared to a mere six percent of their peers who never had.

Some forms of disadvantage are being slowly and arduously addressed. The proportions of women, people of color, and sexual minorities among elected politicians are rising. The same is not true of social class. The proportion of working-class members of state legislatures declined from an already low rate between 1960 and 2010 (Carnes 2018). Our survey is meant to inform efforts to turn that trend around.

See also: Challenges Reported by Candidates for Local Office; class inversion as an alternative to the polarization thesis; and social class inversion in the 2022 US elections.

social class inversion in the 2022 US elections

I’ve argued that democracy is dangerously threatened when influential left parties rely on upper-income voters and influential right parties depend on working-class support. In such cases, the left parties block significant progressive change and frustrate disadvantaged constituencies, while the right shifts from libertarian to chauvinist policies.

There is evidence of this class inversion in many democracies, including (among others) France and Germany. In the US, the inversion is partial, because race, income, and education push in different directions. This partly explains the incoherent positions of both major parties. Democrats draw highly educated whites and people of color; Republicans attract whites at both ends of the socioeconomic scale.

I have graphed the difference between Democratic support among college graduates and non-college graduates by state and candidate in 2022. If college is a proxy for the upper portion of the socioeconomic scale, then Democrats should perform better among non-college graduates, but the opposite happened in every case.

At a national scale, the Democrats won a majority of voters with college degrees (54%), but a minority of those without college degrees (43%). That 11-point gap is evidence of one kind of class inversion. On the other hand, the Democrats won a majority of voters with household incomes below $50,000 (52%) and a minority of those above that threshold (45%) and above $100,000 (46%). They drew half the white college graduate vote (50%), just 32% of the white non-college vote, and 68% of people of color with or without college degrees. Again, the picture is mixed.

There were some interesting differences by state. The class inversion was most pronounced in Wisconsin, where Gov. Evers won 62% of the college vote and 45% of the non-college vote on his way to reelection: a 17-point gap. Evers drew the support of only 37% of white voters without college degrees, 59% of white voters with college, and 83% of voters of color, regardless of education.

In the Ohio and Pennsylvania Senate races, the Democratic candidates explicitly courted working-class voters of all races. These campaigns were experiments in reversing the class inversion. Both Democrats lost non-college voters, and neither performed much differently from the national average with that demographic group. (Ryan got 34% of non-college white votes; Fetterman got 38%.) Of course, they had different opponents. JD Vance made an explicit pitch to non-college whites in Ohio that may have worked for him, whereas Mehmet Oz lost overall in Pennsylvania.

In Michigan, traditionally a blue-collar state, the Democrats performed very well. The interplay of class and race was particularly evident in that state’s results, with Gov. Whitmer drawing 42% of non-college whites, 60% of college whites, and 82% of non-college people of color. In other words, she reflected the Democrats’ formula of educated whites plus all people of color. That formula can win elections but makes Democrats dependent on an upscale portion of their electorate.

In Florida, the Republicans simply performed better than in other states. The demographics there are also somewhat unusual. The Exit Polls report all people of color as one category, and in Florida, that means more Latinos than in some other states. Notably, DeSantis won almost half of voters of color with college degrees (48%), who represented 14% of the state’s electorate. But he got 70% of white voters without college.

See also: class inversion as an alternative to the polarization thesis; social class in the French election;

the 2022 youth vote

Joe Biden today: “I especially want to thank the young people of this nation who, I’m told, voted in historic numbers again, and just as they did two years ago.”

For much detail on the youth vote, follow CIRCLE on Twitter, @civicyouth, or on their Election Center website. New analysis is appearing regularly. Some highlights so far:

  • “youth (ages 18-29) are the only age group in which a strong majority supported Democrats.”
  • “89% of Black youth and 68% of Latino youth voted for a Democratic House candidate. Among white youth, the vote was 58% for Democrats and 40% for Republicans.”
  • “In the Pennsylvania Senate race, where Democrat John Fetterman won by a slim 3% margin, youth ages 18-29 preferred Fetterman 70% to 28%, compared to 55% to 42% among voters ages 30-44, with voters over 45 preferring Republican candidate Dr. Oz.”

class inversion as an alternative to the polarization thesis

One deep story that’s being told about our current political crisis invokes polarization: two “poles” or ends of the spectrum are seen as moving apart and growing mutually hostile. That is a symmetrical metaphor. A different deep story emphasizes the anti-democratic and anti-constitutional turn of MAGA-style Republicans. I would add a third model that involves both parties, but not in a symmetrical way. It is also less about ideas and policies than interests and identities. It’s a story of inverted partisanship.

Envision a democracy with two main parties or coalitions. The left party favors more taxing, spending, and regulation and draws most of its votes from the lower half of the economic scale. The right party opposes government economic intervention and draws its support from the upper half.

This kind of system can be frustrating, since the median voter (who probably comes from the middle of the economic scale) often wields the deciding vote. Both socialist and libertarian principles are somewhat disfavored. However, if you are a socialist or a libertarian, you should believe that you can convince the median voter of your ideas. Meanwhile, the debate is a good one, because citizens can determine the role of government. And both sides are constrained. The left may want lots of government, but as taxes and regulation rise, so will resistance. The right may love markets, but cutting government deeply also creates opposition. The whole system is pretty stable–for better and worse–and it tends to reward ideas that benefit most people.

Now switch the demographics of the parties, so that the rich vote for the left and the poor vote for the right. In that situation, the left will not really do anything substantial to promote equity, because that would cost its affluent voters. You will see lots of virtue-signaling; superficial policies, hypocritically applied; and odd priorities, such as forgiving college debt but not medical debt. Meanwhile, the right will not get far by cutting taxes, since low-income people pay little or no income tax. The right will look for other ways to benefit its constituency, probably including appeals to racial, national, and/or religious identity.

In this situation, the path to ambitious progressive policies is blocked by the left party itself, while the right party is prone to dangerous escalation. You’ll see statements like John Daniel Davidson’s “We Need To Stop Calling Ourselves Conservatives” in The Federalist (Oct 22). Davidson floats adopting a “pro-worker, even pro-union political agenda that once belonged to the left” and displaying “a willingness to embrace government power.” But to what end? “Drag Queen Story Hour should be outlawed,” “parents who take their kids to drag shows should be arrested and charged with child abuse” and “teachers who expose their students to sexually explicit material should not just be fired but be criminally prosecuted.”

Davidson is not a political strategist, and many of his ideas would poll very poorly. In that sense, his own agenda would be constrained by voters. However, partisan political entrepreneurs on the right can develop cannier agendas that win Republican primary elections and legislative majorities in selected states and give them substantial power. They will not arrest parents for attending constitutionally protected public events, but they will arrest Black men for registering to vote in good faith or transport asylum-seekers to Martha’s Vineyard.

I think a model of a class inversion is more informative than one of “polarization,” which assumes that two durable coalitions have moved apart. In contrast, the inversion model presumes that some people have changed their parties–like the Obama-Trump voters of Luzerne County, PA.

There are signs of this class inversion in many democracies today. However, the picture in the USA is mixed, because wealth, race, and education don’t push in the same directions. Right now, according to the Washington Post-ABC poll, household income does not predict people’s opinion of the 2022 election very well. Democrats perform just a touch better among households earning less than $50,000 per year, and Republicans do better above that threshold, but the whole graph (see above) is pretty flat. That’s because income and being white correlate with support for Republicans, whereas education and being black correlate with Democratic support. The result is our somewhat mixed situation, in which the parties fumble between their traditional roles and inverted ones.

I am fully aware that race is at the heart of the issue in the United States–as it has been all along in this country. However, that observation should be the beginning of the conversation, not the conclusion. If the parties invert their class positions because of white racism, then the whole system is in trouble. Socialists, moderates, libertarians, and constitutionalists should all be alarmed. Again, this is not a new threat today; the end of Reconstruction offers a frightening precedent. But it will be a tough trap for our republic to escape.

Real constitutionalist conservatives have critical work to do on their side of the aisle. Meanwhile, Democrats need to win the votes of more low-income whites, whether that means taking Heather McGee’s advice to explain how racial injustice also harms whites, or taking Ruy Teixeira’s advice to reclaim patriotism and certain traditional values, or running campaigns like Tim Ryan’s in Ohio, or simply doing more to benefit low-income communities that include a lot of white voters.

See also the social class inversion as a threat to democracy; social class in the French election; why the white working class must organize etc.

the next two years

Last spring, I noted that my own predictions for US politics had been badly wrong. I doubt that anyone was interested in the reliability of my crystal ball, but it can be useful to lay out one’s own expectations, test them against reality as events unfold, and then reflect on why you were right or wrong.

In that spirit, I currently expect Republicans to win the House–and quite likely the Senate–and to sweep more really extreme characters into state and federal office. I think the outlines of current federal policy will then remain basically unchanged, because Biden will be able to veto Republican bills, and the House GOP has a poor recent record of even mustering the votes on its own side. There may, however, be hair-raising showdowns over the debt limit and annual must-pass appropriations.

State policies will vary, with red states and blue states heading in opposite directions on abortion, policing, climate, education, and other key issues.

The Supreme Court will probably ban the use of race as a consideration in university admissions. That will not only have a major impact on who attends college (which is the main issue) but will also begin a deluge of litigation to investigate and alter pervasive practices within higher education. Documents will be subpoenaed; people will be deposed.

The Supreme may also gut the Clean Water Act and could decide Moore v. Harper in a way that allows legislatures to override the’ decisions in presidential elections, which would throw the 2024 election into grave question.

We are headed into a recession. That will cause social needs and dissatisfaction to rise and tax revenues to fall.

The probability of an international crisis is reasonably high, not only in Ukraine/Russia but also China/Taiwan and Iran. Justice may prevail in each of those cases, but the risks to the people of those regions and the world are serious.

At home, we will see more frequent acts of overt political violence and perhaps some really major politically motivated crimes.

Trump will be running for president, first unofficially and then as a declared candidate. He will easily dominate the GOP primary. Meanwhile, there is a substantial probability that he will face at least one criminal proceeding. He will use his prosecution as evidence of persecution by his political enemies.

Echoing the Clinton and Obama years, the new Republican majority will grow rapidly unpopular. Biden’s popularity will be suppressed by the recession but boosted by his opponents: Trump and the Hill GOP. Democrats will help to amplify the most extreme Republican voices. Biden will poll ahead of Trump through most of the 2024 election season, but there will be a real possibility that state legislatures and the US House will overrule the voters, especially if the Supreme Court exempts legislatures from judicial review regarding elections. Certainly, Trump will pre-announce that he cannot possibly lose, and a fair number of Republicans will echo that claim. I believe there would be resistance within the GOP, but that would be an intra-party struggle that would make everyone else into bystanders.

(By the way, if I did the math right, then according to the Social Security Administration’s actuarial tables, there’s a 73% chance that both Biden and Trump will still be alive in 2025, and a lower chance that both men will be healthy enough to serve.)

My predictions may be too pessimistic. Last time, I was overly positive. Regardless of how things play out, I’d offer two thoughts about addressing our situation.

First, a lot more Americans should be learning specific skills for organized nonviolent civil resistance. I am not arguing that nonviolence is morally superior or preferable in all situations. I do believe that only large-scale movements that are predominantly nonviolent will be relevant and plausibly effective in defense of democracy in the United States at this point. Here are few resources for learning. I am actually quite optimistic that the American people will prove hard to dominate and will resist effectively, but skills will help.

Second, we may have opportunities to build a better system, not merely preserve a flawed one. For instance, the Supreme Court has already played a problematic role in our government, and a crisis may be an opportunity for basic reform.

To take one example of a very bad-case scenario: Biden actually wins more Electoral College votes than Trump does in 2024, but several state legislatures award their votes to Trump, and the House certifies him as the president. That would be the beginning, not the end, of a chapter in American democracy. The end would depend on us.

See also: how I misjudged our moment; time again for civic courage; how to respond, revisited; reforms for a broken Supreme Court; etc.