There’s been a lot of talk about the fact that the Democrats lost white working- and middle-class voters in the 2016 Presidential election. Ever since, they have been trying to figure out how they can win them back without sacrificing some other part of their coalition.
As I explained here, this thinking is flawed.
Too many election post-mortems have treated the electorate as a static thing, when the reality is that they are very mobile and could easily completely change the map in just a couple years. And they won’t be reapportioning the electoral votes again until after the 2020 election–so there is one more chance to use them as they are currently distributed.
It’s important to remember that the Democrats won the popular vote in 2016. So they should not be thinking in terms of how to get more votes. The pressing problem is how to get the votes they already have into places where they will be most effective.
There is nonetheless a kernel of truth in the Republicans’ oft-repeated claim that liberal Democrats have fallen out of touch with the rest of country by congregating in urban areas on the coasts. They are concentrated in such super-blue areas that they forget about the rest of the country.
Democrats may respond that they don’t want to be in touch with people who would support a man like Donald Trump. Why should they engage with people who support a man so antithetical to their beliefs?
There are two problems with this logic. The first is that not all Trump voters enthusiastically support him. Some of them could probably be persuaded to see things differently.
The second and far more important point is that venturing into the Trump-supporting heartland need not mean surrounding oneself with Trump supporters.
This map, by Max Galka of Metrocosm, illustrates it well. It shows the total votes cast in each county and the winning candidate’s margin of victory.
Obviously, the first thing you notice is that L.A. county is almost literally off the chart. But the more significant thing is that Clinton won the heavily-populated counties all across the map. Even in the much-discussed Rust Belt of the Midwest, the region that delivered the victory to Trump, the highly populated areas were going for Clinton, often by big margins.
New York and Los Angeles aren’t the only heavily-Democratic cities in the country; they just happen to be where most of the press and broadcasting industries are located, so they get the attention. But even the red states usually have at least one urban area that voted for Clinton.
So, it’s probably true that Democrats should move out of the coastal enclaves. Not because they need to get in touch with the heartland, but because they need to send reinforcements to the inland liberal enclaves.
Of course, the Democratic party is not an army, and Tom Perez can’t just order thousands of Democrats to march off and take Madison, Columbus and Detroit. There’s no one obvious mechanism you can use to make them do this. Most people don’t consider the number of electoral votes a state has when they are deciding where to settle.
There are ways this move can be encouraged, though. After all, lots of those blue columns on the map represent some city with a Democratic mayor and city government. If they play their cards right, I bet they can come up with policies that make their cities even more inviting to Democrats.
This is one area where the liberal entertainment industry that the Republicans so despise could really prove its worth. If it could make other cities have the same brand power as New York and L.A. it could help to attract other Democrats. (To some extent, this is happening with the city of Austin, Texas.)
One of key lessons of the study of history is that it often is useful to re-think the whole framework used for planning a strategy. It would be helpful if strategists regarded the electoral map as a playing field on which mobile units can move rather than as static territory to be gained or lost.