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Taking its cue from Ruy Teixeira and John Judis' 2002 book The Emerging Democratic Majority, the Democratic Party bet its future on demographic change.

As "people of color" increased as a percentage of the population, fewer people got married and had kids, and people stopped going to church as frequently Democratic prospects would soar. The future American electorate--more black and Hispanic, more single and childless, more agnostic/atheist--would provide a new base, a minority-majority "coalition of the ascendant."

Thus was born the left's obsession with what is now called "identity politics," with its implicit goal of strengthening ethnic and racial identity and group solidarity. Just about everything Democrats have done since Teixeira/Judis, on issues as diverse as health care, abortion, immigration, and racial preferences, has been done on the assumption that demography is indeed destiny.

While Barack Obama's election with unprecedented support from blacks, Hispanics, and single women seemed to initially confirm the wisdom of the approach, few predicted then what American politics would look like now: Republicans in control of Congress and the vast majority of governorships and state legislative chambers and a Republican president about to push the Supreme Court in a solidly conservative direction for decades to come.

The demographic trends that Teixeira and Judis identified have the most part continued, but Obama's triumph turned out to be less a harbinger of Democratic dominance than decline.

To understand why it is important to consider how ethnic and racial appeals in a multicultural democracy create a zero-sum game in which for every vote gained another (and perhaps more) is lost.

At the heart of identity politics must always be a theory of victimhood in which certain groups are victimized by other groups. Building a coalition of alleged victims thus requires that they continue to see themselves as such, which in turn requires a constant search for signs of racism, sexism, and homophobia, a dismissive view of any apparent societal progress in such areas over time, and a continued inflammation of ethnic, racial and gender grievances.

By its very logic, identity politics collapses if racism or sexism declines, or at least is perceived to have done so by those afflicted by it.

Such an electoral strategy consequently begins with an assumption of incorrigible racism and general bigotry on the part of white people, the oppressor group against which the victim groups must be protected by enlightened Democrats.

That this message will not be received well over time by many in that white majority was something Democrats apparently failed (and still fail) to consider. Indeed, by reducing everything to race, identity politics makes everyone more race-conscious, including whites. As Michael Barone put it, "when you keep telling white Americans that they will soon become a minority--a message that sometimes sounds like 'hurry up and die'--then many non-college graduate 'deplorables' may start acting like members of a self-conscious minority, and vote more cohesively."

Identity politics, with its naked racial and ethnic pandering and need to mobilize minority voters by demonizing the white majority, understandably produces white resentment and further flight to the GOP.

But the electoral peril of such a strategy goes even further, because it renders the Democratic Party increasingly dependent for electoral competitiveness upon minority turnout and support, with no way to alleviate that dependency--the more Democrats embrace the identity politics approach, the more elections they lose and the greater grows their dependence upon minority support in the next one.

Worse still, troubling data for Democrats is emerging that the groups they have bet their future on might not be future Democrats at all, or at least not to the extent necessary for continued party viability.

Reuters, based on a recent poll, tells us that "enthusiasm for the Democratic Party is waning among millennials." A Pew report indicates that black voter turnout from 2012 to 2016 produced the "largest drop on record." The headline over a Josh Kraushaar article chock full of data in National Journal reads "Democrats Underperforming with Hispanic Voters." Yet another Reuters survey tells us that black male support for Donald Trump doubled after Kanye West expressed support for him. And then there's that Harvard-Harris poll alerting us that blacks are actually the racial group most opposed to the open-borders immigration Democrats favor.

The broader point is that, having bet the farm on the identity politics approach, and alienated the majority of the white majority in the process, Democratic electoral prospects operate on a razor-thin margin of error, even slight dips in turnout and support from a single minority group can spell defeat.

If young people begin to more equally divide their votes between Democrat and Republican, if Hispanics and Asians (like previous immigrant groups) begin to identify more as "white" rather than as members of victimized minority groups, and if black turnout post-Obama continues to decline or even a modest fraction of blacks joins #WalkAway, the entire edifice comes crumbling down.

A political party that adopts a strategy of stoking racial fears and resentments in order to build a "minority-majority" coalition thus ends up as just a minority party, on the way toward electoral irrelevance and extinction.


Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.

Editorial on 07/23/2018

Print Headline: They were wrong

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  • RBear
    July 23, 2018 at 6:55 a.m.

    Gitz gets it wrong. (Taking a cue from most of the right wingers in here who just say "Gitz gets it right.")

  • BoudinMan
    July 23, 2018 at 7:30 a.m.

    Blah, blah, bleah, bleah, blah, blah. There. I just contributed as much as Gitz did. What non-sensical blather.

  • WhododueDiligence
    July 23, 2018 at 8:33 a.m.

    "By its very logic, identity politics collapses if racism or sexism declines, or at least is perceived to have done so by those afflicted by it."
    Does Gitz think that's happening under Trump, who embraced the alt-right movement in his appointments of Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller (among other appointees) and in the Charlottesville march? Is Trump (whose political popularity was boosted by his birther blather about born-in-the-USA Obama) interested in the decline of racism? Or sexism? Need we review all the evidence of Trump's sexism?
    The alt-right movement, which has gained strength in Europe and the US, is a form of identity politics. The Southern Strategy, which flipped the South from Democratic to Republican beginning with Goldwater in 1964, is a form of identity politics. But they're examples of far-right identity politics, which far-right-minded Gitz forgets to take into consideration.

  • mrcharles
    July 23, 2018 at 8:56 a.m.

    Nothing like a morning of BRG to fertilize the minds of the right.

    He is like the hard core evangelical of the anointed celestial decoders. They want the good old days to get rid of there "Felt" discrimination that prevents them from full scale rights to discriminate aginnnin others.
    The white man cries at night over others having the arrogance to say I AM HUMAN & HAVE RIGHTS OF LIFE LIBERTY AND PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. This is considered a slap in the face of the white man . Is it not written there is a chosen people? Just as children see monsters in the closet , the white man sees slackers, commies, those of wrong deity beliefs , and science telling them they are wrong.
    What the right does is create a Frankenstein of hate, fear, insecurity, meanness, and then take away justice and mercy to create their pinnacle of creation , the guy putin wiped the floor with recently.

  • PopMom
    July 23, 2018 at 9:24 a.m.

    So tired of Gitz’s obsession with minorities and his racism. He loves to make vast generalizations about everybody of color as if they are the same. I don’t know about his claim that blacks are responsible for a decline in Church attendance. When I drive by a black church on Sunday they seem pretty full to me. (I am of course on my way to eat breakfast.)

  • Nodmcm
    July 23, 2018 at 9:59 a.m.

    Professor Gitz is supposed to be a very intelligent man. Can he not see the foundation of the Southern Strategy deployed by President Richard Nixon in 1968, and how it is related to Democrats' embrace of civil rights in the early 1960s? I think he is writing columns for a different reason than to showcase his intelligence.

    July 23, 2018 at 10:02 a.m.

    What the right does is create a Frankenstein of hate, fear, insecurity, meanness, and then take away justice and mercy to create their pinnacle of creation , the guy putin wiped the floor with recently. MRCHARLES POSTED THIS, and it is just too good to not post again,

  • Delta123
    July 23, 2018 at 11:01 a.m.

    PopMom, the resident racist/ageist/sexist, calls Gitz a racist. Good stuff there. Where in his article did he say black people are responsible for the decline in church attendance? In that you are on your way to eat breakfast on Sunday morning, is it safe to assume you are one of those persons that is not attending church services?

  • Packman
    July 23, 2018 at 11:09 a.m.

    Dr. Gitz nailed it, again. The only dynamic he failed to address is the role of liberal intolerance. Libs refuse to associate with anyone that doesn't share their political beliefs lock, stock, and barrel. As a result, America has large clusters of liberals living amongst themselves. That we are a Constitutional Republic and not a true Democracy is what's costing libs political power.
    The Electoral College is a great example. Hillary may have received 90% of the vote in California but received the same number of EC votes as if she had received 51%. The same goes for House seats. An uber lib may receive 90% of the votes in an uber lib district but would have been elected with 51%. If some of those libs weren't so intolerant and could live near and associate with us Normals, they might win a few more seats at the table, so to speak.

  • RBear
    July 23, 2018 at 12:21 p.m.

    moz you played right into my comment. "Gitz hit the nail on the head in this commentary." Then you provided NOTHING to validate his point. All you did was say "Trump is president, you suck, get used to it." That's about as dumb a comment as anyone can make on Gitz's column. In fact, I'm sure the good doc is cringing at that response from you.
    Pack most of those "libs" are living where the economy is good, not because of intolerance. In fact, if you look at TX there is a trend happening where progressives from some of the economic centers such as Silicon Valley, Seattle, DC, and Boston are moving into places like Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. That's actually tipping the state more and more towards blue. So while CA may not be a big help from a progressive standpoint, if TX ever tips blue you might as well write off winning a presidency for the rest of your life.