Here’s a bit of trivia I bet you haven’t heard much about from major media outlets: “So far, 50% the 40 Republicans guaranteed to be in the 2020 House freshman class are women and/or minorities,” The Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman revealed Thursday. We’re still watching the results come in, which means those numbers could go up.
Here’s another point to go with that: Donald Trump was at the top of the ticket for all of those races. Contrary to popular belief, he was not an albatross for Republicans down the ballot.
In fact, the point about women and members of minority communities winning on a Trump-led ticket undercuts many narratives floating around in media circles that believe, ultimately, that “demographics are destiny” — meaning the more diverse the United States becomes, the more voters will lean toward the Democratic Party.
The problem for Democrats is that they’ve believed that every year for nearly two decades.
In a 2016 column titled, “The God That Failed,” RealClearPolitics elections analyst Sean Trende, alluding to a book by left-leaning authors John Judis and Ruy Teixeira, observed of the 2006 and 2008 election cycles, “The Emerging Democratic Majority debate increasingly became an almost theological one, whose fundamental theories became nearly impossible to falsify.”
It was again evident in the aftermath of the 2016 election that the central thesis of the Democratic Party — that they’d glide to seamless victories for the rest of the century on the back of an emerging demographic majority — was wrong.
Building on this sentiment of a “false god” for Dems, Trende wrote at the time:
It’s not just that Republicans have now won four of seven elections since the book was published, although that is, as we would sometimes note dryly when I practiced law, a “bad fact.” It’s more that it is very difficult to shoehorn into the theory this election of a 70-year-old white male with a policy portfolio that is basically the antithesis of what the “Emerging Democratic Majority” recommended. It is even more difficult to do so given that Donald Trump won in the most racially diverse electorate in American history.
If you update Trende’s piece, you’d give the 2018 election to Democrats, but even with a Biden victory in 2020, you’d have to call this year’s election a draw, at best. The 2018 wave of wins for Democrats in the House has been obliterated by Republican women, minorities, and veterans who won across the country. Republicans are also on pace to hold the Senate.
Nancy Pelosi, for her part, is attempting to float above what Politico calls a “civil war” between moderates and the far-left progressives of her party. She’s trying to stay above the fray and prevent any challenges to her speakership. Meanwhile, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos, is refusing to run again for the position after a series of losses across the country.
These aren’t the actions of a victorious party. It’s more akin to a party in the middle of a meltdown.
The 2020 electorate is more diverse than in 2016. The coalition of more than 72 million Americans who voted for Trump and Republicans was equally diverse. It led The Hill’s Karin Lips to declare 2020 “the year of the Republican woman.”
As Lips notes, you wouldn’t know these women even existed in the media, which has fallen back to praising Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her so-called “Squad.”
The god of the emerging Democratic majority may be dead, but the press won’t give up its idols so quickly. They have to protect that precious narrative.
Why did they lose? Ironically, one of the best answers came from one of the original authors of the “emerging Democratic majority” thesis in 2002. In a recent interview with Persuasion, Teixeira said:
The Democrats spent three months with a discourse dominated by the protests around George Floyd, racial justice and so on, culminating in the defund-and-abolish-the-police movement, which was basically of very little interest to the median voter. To the extent that the Democrats are identified with that rhetoric — from language-policing to terming the U.S. a White-supremacist society — the less able the party is to appeal to working-class voters of all races and moderate voters in general.
Trump showed gains with every single demographic group across the country, according to Reuters, and his focus on working-class issues was vital in this respect. It allowed all Republicans to benefit from a more diverse set of voters, helping push so many of them across the line in critical races.
The irony of all this is that Barack Obama, who was supposed to be proof positive of the emerging Democratic majority, was an albatross to down-ballot Democrats. As FiveThirtyEight phrased it, Obama won, but Democrats lost the country in 2017:
At the beginning of Obama’s term, Democrats controlled 59 percent of state legislatures, while now they control only 31 percent, the lowest percentage for the party since the turn of the 20th century. They held 29 governor’s offices and now have only 16, the party’s lowest number since 1920.
You’re not going to find any similar kind of numbers for Trump, which, again, upsets every single narrative in the elite opinion pages across the country.
The press assumed that Trump would prove to be the end of the Republican Party, that the GOP would become a regional rump party at best. Instead, Republicans have as much power as ever. You can argue about how we got here, but the results and the numbers speak for themselves.