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Sunday, March 28, 2021

Public Opinion and Progressives

 Ruy Teixeira notes problematic issues for progressive Democrats:

* Immigration. The surge at the border is real and Democrats currently lack a coherent immigration policy with a plausible enforcement regime. This makes them vulnerable to typecasting as being in favor of open borders.

* Police conduct. Support for reform is real but strong voices within the party are demanding much more than that. Defund the police and similar demands could re-emerge, particularly in the wake of a police killing that attracts wide attention.

* Crime and public safety. There has been a spike in violent crime and murders, which Democrats are reluctant to talk about. If it persists and Democrats are viewed as being complacent or ineffective in addressing the problem, the potential for working class backlash, and not just among whites, is very real.

* “Anti-racism” and “Anti-bias” training and education. The spread of training and curricular models that are highly ideological and counterposed to the views and values summarized above poses genuine problems. To the extent Democrats are viewed as promoting these models and making them standard within schools, workplaces and government offices, the party’s ability to occupy the center ground will be compromised.

* “Equity”-driven programs. So far, including in the American Rescue Plan, Democrats have been putting their chips down on universal programs and benefits, which disproportionately help blacks and Hispanics because they are disproportionately lower income. However, there is considerable pressure to promote “equity”, which has come to mean equality of outcomes rather than equality of opportunity. This has led to calls for racially-focused programs to eliminate outcome disparities, rather than relying on the provision of universal benefits and opportunities. To the extent Democrats becoming associated with equity in this sense, it also pushes them off the center ground.

Other possibilities could be mentioned, but these examples make clear the contours of the battles that could emerge and that the Democrats will likely not be able to avoid. If they wish to command the center ground of American politics, capitalizing on the strong economic hand they appear to currently hold, they will need to couple that with a conscious effort to steer back to the center on these cultural issues. If not, they will likely fall short of the progress that now seems within their grasp.