Matt Yglesias has an interesting point on the future of the Clinton coalition in the Democratic Party. The argument in a nutshell: the prospects of a centrist Democratic Party are as good as that of the Republicans relying on the working class white votes. The minority, the young, and what’s left of the union votes that currently constitute the Democratic coalition are not terribly interested in a Center-Right agenda as the Democratic Party offers today. Insurgencies from the left are likely.
Unfortunately, Yglesias does not know history: this has happened before, between 1978 and 1980. It is largely forgotten that Jimmy Carter was actually a conservative Democrat and that he was reviled by the Left for that very reason. Ted Kennedy challenged Carter, both politically and electorally, and I always wondered if the working class voters he activated contributed to the Reagan victory in 1980. This experience certainly did not deter Clinton then Obama from leaning ever more to the right and largely abandoning the unreliable and politically incorrect working class white voters to the Republicans–if they bothered to vote, which many of them do not after decades of neglect.
Like it or not, a coalition built on high propensity voters who can be mobilized cheaply, based on identity and symbolic politics of various kinds–ethnic politics, religious politics, gender politics, etc–is the norm for both parties now. In a nation built on a great diversity of identities and symbols that don’t naturally overlap, I can’t but worry that this is inherently destabilizing–it certainly seem conducive to subverting trust in the authority. The “Bud Light” voters, who have no taste, are the runt of the litter who are being neglected, and for good short- to medium-term political reasons too.
I can’t but worry about the repeat of the politics of 1980s in Venezuela: collapsing oil prices required serious adjustments in the politics of redistribution, with more flowing to those who were politically connected and much less those deemed less valuable. The latter supported the coup by Hugo Chavez, and, even after the coup failed, he was duly elected president anyways. Trump is now playing the role of Chavez, promising another “Bolivarian” revolution…or he would if we in norteamerica cared much for Simon Bolivar.
Is this something to be fearful? That is harder to tell: Bolivarian Venezuela is a mess, although it has also provided a surprising amount of economic and social benefits to the formerly less privileged. While the supporters of the regime will insist that this is the work of CIA, and there is some truth to it, no doubt, it is also the product of the de-institutionalizing, chaotic style of politics that Chavez and his acolytes brought that deliberately fostered social chaos, a little bit like the Cultural Revolution of Mao, instigated for similar political aims, although a bit more ordered perhaps. I don’t see Trump reprising the role of Hitler. I can, however, trump replaying Chavez, on a bigger, messier scale.