In terms of the entire U.S. population (as of July 2022), those described by the census as “white alone, not Hispanic or Latino” made up 58.9 percent of the United States — down from 69.1 percent in 2000 — while the percentage of Black, Hispanic, Asian American and other minorities increased to 41.1 percent from 30.9 percent over the same period.
Have American politics reached a tipping point?
Eitan Hersh and Sarang Shah, political scientists at Tufts and Berkeley, contended in their Aug. 1 paper, “The Partisan Realignment of American Business,” that both the Democratic and the Republican Parties have undergone radical reorientations:
The ongoing development of the Democratic Party as a party not of labor but of socioeconomic elites, and the ongoing development of the Republican Party as a party not of business but of working-class social conservatives, represents a major, perhaps the major, American political development of the 21st century.
In an email, Hersh elaborated on their analysis: “This is one of the most important developments in recent American political history because we seem to be in the midst of a realignment, and that doesn’t happen every day or even every decade.”
One reflection of this trend, according to Hersh, is the growing common ground that cultural liberals and corporate America are finding on social issues:
A company taking a position on L.G.B.T.Q. rights may at first seem like it’s a company not staying in its lane and getting into political questions unrelated to its core business. But if the company needs to take a position in order to satisfy its work force or because potential new hires demand political activism, then the decision is no longer just social; it’s economic.
Another example: For a while it looked like the Republican Party could appeal to social conservatives but maintain the economic policy supported by business elites. But now, you start to see real attempts by Republican thought leaders to be more assertive in meeting the economic needs of their constituencies.
As a result of this realignment, Hersh argued, a crucial battleground in elections held in the near future will be an intensifying competition for the support of minority voters:
Democrats can win with college-educated whites plus nonwhite voters. They can’t win with more defection from nonwhite voters. The Republicans are making the argument that their cultural and economic values are consistent with working-class Americans and that their positions transcend racial categories.
If the Republican Party “could move beyond Trump and focus on this vision (which, of course, is impossible with Trump there making everything about Trump), they’d be presenting a set of arguments and policies that will be very compelling to a large number of Americans,” Hersh wrote.
Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who has long argued that Democrats need to regain support from white voters without college degrees and to stop defections among working-class Black and Hispanic voters, argued that the socioeconomic elite — well-educated, largely white liberals — are imposing damaging policies on the Democratic Party.
In a recent essay, “Brahmin Left vs. Populist Right,” Teixeira wrote:
The fact is that the cultural left in and around the Democratic Party has managed to associate the party with a series of views on crime, immigration, policing, free speech and, of course, race and gender that are quite far from those of the median working-class voter (including the median nonwhite working-class voter).
Instead, Teixeira contended:
Democrats continue to be weighed down by those whose tendency is to oppose firm action to control crime or the southern border as concessions to racism, interpret concerns about ideological school curriculums and lowering educational standards as manifestations of white supremacy and generally emphasize the identity politics angle of virtually every issue. With this baggage, rebranding the party — making it more working-class oriented and less Brahmin — is very difficult, since decisive action that might lead to such a rebranding is immediately undercut by a torrent of criticism.
I asked Teixeira whether the changing Democratic Party has reached a point of no return on this front, and he emailed back:
A good and big question. In the short run it looks very difficult for them to shed much of their cultural radicalism and generally make the party more attractive to normal working-class voters. Over the medium to long term, though, I certainly think it’s possible, if there’s an internal movement and external pressures/market signals consistent with the need for a broader coalition. That is, if enough of the party becomes convinced their coalition is too narrow and therefore some compromises and different approaches are necessary. That may take some time.
Michael Podhorzer, a former political director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., agreed that “There is no way to define ‘socioeconomic elites’ in which it isn’t obvious that both parties are dominated by socioeconomic elites.” He added that “since the 1970s, both left and right parties now represent different factions within the socioeconomic elites.”