Why have the Democrats proven so inept at electorally exploiting the growing evidence of the current Republican Party’s incompetence at governing? The Democrats certainly have a chance of doing well in the November elections, but why is this merely a possibility?
In 1980, just half a dozen years after the GOP’s Watergate humiliation, voters responded to the Carter administration’s failures by electing a Republican president and Senate and scaring enough House Democrats that Ronald Reagan was able to pass much of his agenda. After five-and-a-half years of George W. Bush’s presidency, it’s reasonably clear that he wasn’t qualified for the job and hasn’t exactly grown in office. The GOP establishment, which anointed Bush in 1999 even though many had personal experience of his unsuitability for the highest office, deserves punishment for negligence. Yet no Democrat—with the longshot exception of Virginia senatorial candidate James Webb—has emerged to offer the galvanizing change in direction and tone that Reagan once brought to the Republicans.
The satirical Onion headline earlier this year said it all: “Democrats Vow Not To Give Up Hopelessness.” If the voters turn to the Democrats this fall, it will only be as the lesser of two evils. America needs a less self-destructive Democratic Party, if just to keep Republican officeholders on their toes.
So, what’s wrong with the Democrats?
I’m going to speak more frankly than Democrats are used to hearing, but political correctness hurts them by shielding them from how the electorate really thinks. Although many Democrats would prefer to keep on losing, a few might want to know what ails them.
For 40 years, progressives have toiled tirelessly to replace interest-group politics with identity-group politics. But taking pride in one’s race is unseemly to the white majority, so partisan passions have become a sort of identity politics by other means for white people. Baby Boomers who once defined themselves by arguing over the Beatles vs. the Stones or George Lucas vs. Stanley Kubrick now express their self-conceptions by bickering over the Republicans vs. the Democrats.
The moment’s issues are less important than they often seem. In 2000, George W. Bush ran on a “humble” foreign policy and in 2004 on an arrogant one, yet the distribution of his votes by state and by demographic group barely flickered from one election to the next.
Still, some past Democratic failures were so egregious that—even though the media hardly mention them anymore (because the press shared the Democrats’ ill-chosen prejudices)—they continue to dog the electorate’s perception of the Democrats. Although we are constantly assured today that America was unified throughout the Cold War in opposition to the Soviet Union, the public at least vaguely recalls that during the Reagan years much of the Democratic Party wanted to beg the Soviets for mercy, almost up to the day the evil empire collapsed.
The Democrats’ other mark of Cain is the horrific 1964-1996 crime wave unleashed by the Great Society. After almost a quarter of a million excess murders and the reduction of great American cities like Detroit to wastelands, it was finally quelled by the old conservative nostrums of cutting welfare and locking crooks up and throwing away the key.
These were not fluke mistakes. Instead, they explain the unpopularity of the Democrats. Their common denominator was the Democrats’ tendency to sympathize more with foreign enemies and domestic delinquents than with their own country and their fellow citizens.
The Democrats’ fundamental weakness is that even after four decades of their strenuously celebrating the moral supremacy of every organized minority, our political system remains, more or less, one of majority rule. It’s hard to win a majority if you don’t personally want to be part of the majority because your ego centers around visualizing yourself as better than the average American. If you don’t like the American majority, either in principle or in person, the majority won’t like you.
The GOP, in contrast, presents itself as the party of normal American voters, whose demographic transformation lags decades behind the raw population totals. Because the median voter is in his late forties, non-Hispanic whites cast 79 percent of the votes in 2004, according to the Census Bureau, even though they comprise only 68 percent of the total population and just 57 percent of those under age five.
One-third of Kerry voters were racial minorities compared to only one-tenth of Bush’s. The president carried 58 percent of the white vote, and, perhaps most importantly, 66 percent of married white men and 61 percent of married white women. (The celebrated gender gap, by the way, is no more than half as large as the less mentioned marriage gap. Bush won just 53 percent of single white males and 44 percent of single white females.)
Crucially, the Democrats garner the votes of merely one out of three of America’s wedded white guys—the demographic segment that, to a fair if impolitic approximation, not only runs the country but also keeps the country running. Because Democrats have increasingly alienated the group that, more than any other, gets things done in America, it’s become implausible for Democrats to portray themselves as the natural governing party. Thus they have become dependent upon Republican miscues, which, luckily for the Democrats (although not for the country), have been abundant.
This relegates the Democrats to trying to lash together unwieldy coalitions of minorities united mainly in their alienation from majority attitudes. This is possible, but it’s harder than the GOP’s task of mobilizing a fairly cohesive body of supporters. The Democrats resemble the ramshackle multi-tribe army of the Persian Empire and the Republicans the cohesive Greek phalanxes of Alexander.
In truth, there are sizable schisms within the GOP, such as the increasingly yawning one between the pro-cheap labor globalist plutocrats and the working stiffs, which has finally surfaced over immigration. Yet it has taken a betrayal of the base as flagrant as Bush’s amnesty plan to outrage Republicans.
Why? Because far more than Democrats, the typical Republican is a team player, the kind of fellow who won’t let you forget that he played a little ball in school and, when the annual sales convention rolls around, is proud, deeply proud that he’s helped make this the best damn sales force in the industry! [Applause.] Equally masculine AFL-CIO rank-and-filers long helped the Democrats excel at the blocking and tackling of organizing winning campaigns, but they’re getting old and losing a step at the ground game. Most of the Democrats’ other white constituencies—feminists, gays, movie stars, New Agers, hipsters, and intellectuals—are too self-absorbed to build effective organizations.
Worse, many elements within the Democratic Party can’t actually stand each other. The white “lifestyle” liberals welcome minorities as allies because they believe being on the same side as African-Americans against the white majority validates their feelings of self-worth. Yet to be frank—not that they would ever say it in so many words—they also regard blacks and Hispanics as scandalously reactionary on such crucial issues (to them) as gay marriage.
Meanwhile, the racial minorities are heavily Democratic both for newfangled identity reasons and for old-fashioned ethnic clout purposes that St. Tammany himself would have understood, but they are also more culturally conservative and view their white allies as smug, out-of-touch, and patronizing.
Moreover, although this is kept out of the press except when the occasional Jesse Jackson “Hymietown” outburst breaks through, more than a few minority Democrats disdain the lifestyle Democrats as Jews or perverts or Jewish perverts.
Less crudely, important white liberal constituencies such as the antiwar movement, the wealthy but fading mainline Protestant denominations, and the environmentalists are quietly becoming annoyed by the Jews who provide about half of the party’s campaign contributions. For example, in 2000 the Arab-American Ralph Nader carried 2.7 percent of the national vote, but only 2 percent of the Jewish vote on the Green Party ticket. In the past, it would have been unthinkable for a far Left organization to get a higher proportion of gentile than Jewish support, but the times they are a-changin’.
Finally, although black and Hispanic politicians swear eternal amity, in the high schools and prisons of trendsetting Southern California, as Roger McGrath has documented, the burgeoning Latino population is violently challenging blacks for mastery.
Fortunately, both the lifestylers and the minorities share a mutual distaste for the white union members, who are the one Democratic constituency proud to consider themselves average Americans. Unfortunately, the Democrats are still heavily dependent on blue-collar labor’s money and get-out-the-vote elbow grease. And the aging guys in windbreakers know exactly how the other Democrats feel about them and return the sentiment with interest.
The Democrats can seldom appeal to one of their blocs without offending another, so the main message they can all agree upon is how much they hate George W. Bush. The problem with that strategy is that, yes, admittedly, the president is a national disgrace, but that also reflects badly on the nation that twice elected him, so a large fraction of patriotic Americans don’t want to hear it.
While Democrats esteem themselves as more socially prestigious than Republicans, their electoral prospects are undermined by the faint whiff of failure that many Democratic voters exude, the impression that they resent their country and compatriots because they haven’t quite fulfilled their own potential.
Surveys going back to 1972 have consistently found that more Republicans than Democrats consider themselves “very happy.” In a 2005 poll, the Pew Research Center discovered that 50 percent more Republicans than Democrats rate themselves “very happy” and that “if one controls for household income, Republicans still hold a significant edge.” Indeed, Pew reported that their multiple regression analysis of what makes people content showed “the most robust correlations of all those described in this report are health, income, church attendance, being married and, yes, being a Republican. Indeed, being a Republican is associated not only with happiness, it is also associated with every other trait in this cluster.”
While it may (or may not) be admirable of liberals to want to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” it’s also hardly unreasonable for voters to assume that the party whose members, on the whole, better manage their own lives could better manage the government.
Many white Democrats these days derive their sense of status, of identity, from their feelings of superiority, moral and intellectual, over the average white American. Democrats you see, are both more admirable because they believe everyone is equal and more intelligent because they have higher IQs. What? You didn’t know that? Well, it has been scientifically proven, according to the thousands of liberal websites that display a blue and red table showing that Democratic-voting states have vastly higher average IQs than Republican-voting states. For example, to choose two mostly white states, the average IQ in liberal Connecticut is 113 vs. 87 in conservative Utah, which means the median person in Connecticut would suddenly move up to the 96th percentile if transported to Utah.
In reality, this chart is an utter hoax, but it remains an unkillable fraud because it bolsters Democrats’ self-image as members of an oppressed elite. The two parties’ supporters actually appear to be cognitively on par. The 2004 exit poll showed that Kerry voters boasted about six weeks more schooling than Bush voters. Yet in the long-lost 2002 exit poll, supporters of Republican House candidates enjoyed the advantage in education, and in 2000, Bush and Gore voters tied.
Among whites, Democrats have received a little more education than Republicans but earn less money than their credentials would predict. That skew might be a key to the resentment of Middle America that is such a pervasive feature of Democratic psychology.
Even bigger than the income gap is the standard of living chasm. Democrats tend to live in places with much higher costs of living. Although they aren’t particularly rich themselves—Kerry won all three income categories under $50,000 and lost all five above that— Democrats do like to live near the rich. For example, according to ACCRA, an organization that tabulates regional costs for corporations relocating employees, the cost of living in the biggest blue state, California, is 40 percent above the national average. In contrast, life in the largest red state, Texas, is 11 percent cheaper than the American mean.
Housing differs sharply in price between red and blue America. Bush carried the 20 states with the cheapest housing costs, while Kerry won the nine states with the most expensive. And the mortgage gap has been growing. Bush was victorious in the 26 states with the least home price inflation since 1980. Kerry triumphed in the 14 states with the most.
Imagine two cousins, one with a graduate degree making $50,000 per year in a creative industry, living alone in a small apartment in a “vibrant” (i.e., dangerous and expensive) metropolis. The other with a bachelor’s degree earns the same income in an unglamorous business and lives with a spouse and children in a home on a quarter acre lot in a “boring” (i.e., safe and moderately-priced) suburb. Which one is more likely to vote Democratic?
Of course, Republicans can be hostile too, but their resentments tend to be directed outward toward foreigners, such as the French, who don’t get to vote, and upward toward America’s “cultural elites,” who are, by definition, limited in electoral strength.
And white Democrats are starting to die out slowly due to low fertility. In blue states, white people are less likely to marry and have children than in red states, where there’s more affordable family formation. Bush carried 25 of the top 26 states in white total fertility (number of babies per white woman), while Kerry was victorious in the bottom 16. In Utah, where Bush won 71 percent of the vote, white women average 2.45 babies. In the ultra-liberal District of Columbia, however, white women average only 1.11 babies and in Kerry’s Massachusetts 1.60. This disparity is no doubt even greater within states, with Utah Republicans averaging even more babies than their state’s average and Massachusetts Democrats even fewer.
Therefore, the Democrats are reliant on immigration and higher minority birthrates to keep them in the game demographically. That’s why Democratic senators voted 38-4 in favor of the Senate’s plan to put illegal aliens on the “path to citizenship” (in other words, make them voters) and increase legal immigration, while Republican senators voted 32-23 against it, and House Republicans are adamantly opposed. (Why George W. Bush favors the Senate plan remains mysterious.)
The Republicans might well falter enough that Democrats win big this fall. Yet if the Democrats truly want to return to being the natural majority party in America, they need to do some soul-searching about their feelings toward the American majority.
Steve Sailer is TAC’s film critic and a columnist for VDARE.com.