A mixture of mostly college liberals and African-American voters has come together to push the Democratic Party slightly leftward. The Economist, after examining the evidence, explains that the center of American politics can hold, despite the current polarization. The Economist reports:
To the naked eye, months of left-wing victories in primary elections has placed the Democratic Party on a new path towards democratic socialism. This is misleading. The lesson of this year’s primaries is that Democratic voters are pragmatists who pick the candidate who seems most likely to win.
Ever since an exodus of white conservative southerners from the Democratic Party in the 1960s, objecting to the civil-rights movement, the party has maintained a fragile balance between a coalition of different demographic and social groups. Left-leaning college educated whites, blue-collar social conservatives and nonwhites—especially African Americans—unite under the Democratic banner to elect candidates who reflect a wide array of interests.
Because the party is made up of a coalition of interests from diverse backgrounds, ideological debates have not typically become wedge issues for the Democrats. Whereas being pro-choice is nearly a death sentence for a Republican candidate, a Democrat can take a pro-gun position in 2018 and still find a friendly electorate (Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania is a good example). There is plenty of room for ideological disagreement inside the Democrats’ big tent. According to the Pew Research Centre, just under half of Democrats describe themselves as liberal (meaning leftish), compared with two-thirds of Republicans who say they are conservative. Democratic voters are far from being the no-compromise liberals that the victories of Ms Cortez and Ms Pressley might suggest.
That said, the party has moved leftward a bit. The same Pew Research Centre study found that 28% of partisans described themselves as liberal in 2000, compared with 46% in 2017. The candidates have moved, too. The Economist’s analysis of a measure of candidate ideology, developed by Adam Bonica of Stanford University, finds that the average Democratic primary-winner in 2018 is indeed more liberal than in 2016 (see chart). Democratic candidates are also more scattered over the ideological spectrum than they have been in recent years. A higher share are either extremely liberal or atypically moderate compared with previous cycles.
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