For decades before the election of Pres. Trump, Thomas B. Edsall has been covering how the Democrats have been losing the white working class vote. His latest, “Democrats Are Playing Checkers While Trump Is Playing Chess,” is an interesting survey of Democratic thought on the subject (rtwt), but is also strange in one respect.
Edsall refers to a Pew Research Center survey released earlier this month documenting the growth of the partisan divide, and presents graphics on the overall growth of partisanship.
But Edsall also observes that “[m]uch of the current polarization is driven by difference of opinion on issues of race and immigration.” And the analyses from Democrats and political scientists in the column also gravitate toward these issues; the column’s title refers to Trump exploiting race-related issues while the Dems talk about economics.
Accordingly, I’d suggest Edsall should have shown his readers the Pew survey’s graphs showing the changes in public opinion on issues of race and immigration. Here they are:
The seemingly obvious takeaway from the Pew survey is that in recent years, Democrats’ opinions on issues of race and immigration have shifted dramatically. Republicans’ opinions have not changed nearly as much. (And party identification has not shifted radically in the past few years.) Democrats might argue that Republicans’ opinions should have tracked theirs, but they can’t deny their own opinions are the ones that have changed more.
The Democrats and political scientists Edsall surveyed have plenty of theories of how Trump won. They have plenty of theories about why white working class voters left them over these hot-button issues. But until they account for their own relatively sudden polarization on these issues, they won’t even be playing checkers.
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