The US has a long history of candidates who admit when the results are crucial. Or … it had a long history. POLITICO’s Nancy Cook breaks down on why Trump refuses to accept reality when much of the world has already – and why it could mean trouble for President-elect Biden’s transition.
The Biden coalition “is very broad and very flat,” said Paul Maslin, a Democratic pollster who worked on Jimmy Carter and Howard Dean’s presidential campaigns. “The new democratic coalition, Demographics is Destiny, is … not there nearly as fast as people would hope.”
At the beginning of the Biden era, Democrats largely kept or expanded their core electoral blocs while winning with independents and in suburbs. But it is a patchwork federation, not a major realignment – the elections showed no convincing signs that the electorate is moving more permanently to the left.
In a referendum on Trump, Biden’s supporters were primarily motivated by a desire to defeat the Republican president. There is no guarantee that the different groups will stay together if there is no galvanizing opponent like Trump on the ballot.
“The big challenge for Democrats in the next cycle is how to get all of these Democrats back to the vote in the medium term,” said Chuck Rocha, Bernie Sanders senior advisor and architect of its Latino public relations. “I think we need to get better at talking to people … start earlier to talk to black and brown voters.”
In many ways, Biden was a model candidate to compete with Trump. According to polls, he appears to have done better than Clinton with both young voters and seniors. He drove people of color to metropolitan elections and kept Trump from getting the score with his white base.
In addition, according to exit surveys, Biden defeated Trump in the suburbs, where America’s most votes are cast. This is a significant win – and the foundation of Biden’s coalition – that reflects the party’s emerging strength in increasingly diverse suburbs, four years after Trump narrowly beat Clinton there.
The postponement came despite appeals to Trump suburban voters more open than any other president since Richard Nixon. Biden gained overwhelming margins in such democratic suburbs around Philadelphia and Detroit and more modest victories in conservative suburbs, where he slashed Trump’s margins for 2016. Even in Republican-heavy Texas, Trump carried about 8 percentage points fewer suburban areas than in 2016, according to the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.
If the Democrats can move forward in the suburbs, last week’s elections hinted at the kind of city-suburban alliances that could fuel the resurgence of the party in the Sun Belt, a critical part of the Republican coalition.
It’s already happening in Georgia, where Biden combined the skyrocketing participation of colored people with a dramatic improvement over Clinton’s performance across the board Atlanta suburbs. In counties of Gwinnett and Henry, which Clinton won in the mid-single digits, Biden beat Trump by nearly 20 percentage points. Biden now leads closely in Georgia, which last supported a Democrat as president in 1992.
Of the Atlanta suburban coalition, Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who advised the Biden campaign, said, “It’s the new South … It’s the future of the Democrats in the South.”
Antjuan Seawright, a South Carolina-based Democratic strategist, said Biden relied on “some of the most important constituencies in all of our lives … You can almost feel the heaviness of the vote that was cast by blacks because it was a life or a death vote.” for blacks. “
Still, the 2020 story was one of incremental – not tectonic – shifts. And Biden’s massive number of votes belied the fact that Trump also received millions more votes than in his 2016 offer.
“People expected these tremendous compressions [of Trump’s base voters] In some of those constituencies, profit margins have increased tremendously, and they haven’t, ”said Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and an expert on election demography.
The Biden coalition is similar to the Obama coalition, he said, but “there are clear differences.”
For Democrats, he now said, “There’s no choice but to do better among white non-college voters, and that’s partly what they got in this election, wasn’t it? What they really need to do is more. .. You can’t just count on non-whites and educated liberals. That’s crazy. “
The instability of the coalition was evident in the Latino vote – strong in some regions of the country, weaker in others. In Arizona, where the Democrats were aggressively courting Latino voters, Biden’s victory was largely attributed to the Latino craze in Maricopa County, where Biden won more than three-quarters of the vote in Latin American counties. according to the UCLA Latino Politics and Policy Initiative.
But the Republicans won with Latinos in Florida and South Texas.
Fernand Amandi, a veteran Democratic pollster and advisor in Florida, said, “No matter how you decipher, unpack, or investigate [Biden’s] Victory, ”the record number of votes he has accumulated corresponds to a mandate. But he said that because of Trump’s uniqueness – and its “distorting” effect on the election, which confused pollsters and unpredictably moved voters – the makeup of the future democratic coalition may be less clear.
He said: “I don’t think we’ll know what the new democratic coalition is by then [Democrats] run against a Republican president who is not Donald Trump. “
In the meantime, Biden will have at least two years and a broad base of people who once voted for him to work from there. His government agenda has the ability to secure support across parts of his coalition and to unite more permanently.
Because of the breadth of the coalition, Lake said, “It might be more difficult in some ways and you have to fight to get it to the vote … but it’s a better coalition ruling” because it’s so broad. Biden’s political style lends itself particularly well to coalition building – generally considered tastier than some other Democrats like Clinton.
Democrats are concerned that voters whose main motivation was to oust Trump may not necessarily represent a loyal constituency for the party in the mid-term election or in 2024.
Biden himself is very aware of the polarization of the electorate – and its fragmentation – – He called for his Republican-Democratic cooperation victory speech in Washington on Saturday. In part, what he said reflected the government reality he will face, with a Senate likely to remain in Republican hands.
But it also spoke for the weakness of the coalition that brought him to the White House.
“The last thing Democrats should do after this election is cocky about how things will get better and rosier and la-di-da going forward,” Maslin said. “It’s still a tough, tough slog in this country.”
Looking forward to half-time, he said: “We are not in a position of strength after what happened this year.”