Evaluating the Obama coalition

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The topic that didn’t get discussed often enough after the election is the viability of the so-called Obama Coalition. John Judis and Ruy Teixeira wrote a book titled “The Emerging Democratic Majority” that was based on the belief that demographics pointed to a permanent Democratic majority.

Part of the description for their book says “In five well-researched chapters and a new afterword covering the 2002 elections, Judis and Teixeira show how the most dynamic and fastest-growing areas of the country are cultivating a new wave of Democratic voters who embrace what the authors call ‘progressive centrism‘ and take umbrage at Republican demands to privatize social security, ban abortion, and cut back environmental regulations. As the GOP continues to be dominated by neoconservatives, the religious right, and corporate influence, this is an essential volume for all those discontented with their narrow agenda — and a clarion call for a new political order.”

The Obama Coalition was built, in large part, on identity politics. The book’s description isn’t accurate. In fact, it isn’t close. What we’ve learned since this book was written is that Obama’s coalition isn’t transferrable. It’s his. Since he’ll never be on the ballot again, it’s time to admit that significant parts of that coalition have switched allegiances to President Trump. Other parts of former President Obama’s coalition decided to sit this election out because neither candidate excited them.

Putting it briefly, there’s a reason why it’s called Obama’s Coalition. It’s Obama’s coalition because it doesn’t work for candidates who aren’t Barack Obama. Bernie Sanders put together his own coalition. Admittedly, it was significantly smaller than Obama’s but at least he realized he couldn’t rely on former President Obama’s coalition.

While Democrats don’t have to start from scratch, they have to rethink their identity. They’ll have to rethink their policies, too. If they don’t, they won’t win back white working class voters. Without them, they can’t win states like Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.