In the iconic movie Trading Places, Dan Aykroyd played Louis Winthorpe III, a white-privileged upper-crust snob, and Eddie Murphy was cast as Billy Ray Valentine, a down-and-out black street hustler. When they become victims of a social experiment that forces them to trade places, they begin to see life on the other side of the tracks. And they are changed. In many ways, this has become an apt analogy for what has happened to the Republican and Democratic parties since the dawning of the Donald Trump era. Democratic demographics have changed almost as starkly as that of their Republican adversaries.
Indeed, they are trading places in what amounts to the most significant — and underreported — political realignment since the 1960s, when Democrats did an about-face, shifting their appeal from Southern whites to Northern blacks and other minorities. That drove the South from the arms of the Democratic Party into the welcoming embrace of the GOP.
However, even with the addition of less-educated Southern whites to their coalition, the Republicans were widely viewed as the party of the rich, the Democrats as defenders of the poor — with the two parties perpetually fighting over the middle class. But once Trump descended that now-legendary golden escalator, everything began to change. And now, seven years later, the political landscape has altered to the point of alarm for the left and delight for the right. It is what reliable establishment site Axios headlined recently as “the great realignment.” And it goes straight to the point: “Shifts in the demographics of the two parties’ supporters — taking place before our eyes — are arguably the biggest political story of our time … The GOP is trading soccer moms for Walmart dads.”
Indeed, as Trump and Trumpism have risen to dominate the GOP — and drive out disaffected neoconservatives — Republicans have significantly boosted their support among working-class and minority voters. At the same time, Democrats have become more white and more elite, transforming — though hardly by design — to the party of the very rich and very poor. The uber-wealthy and titans of industry were at one time mostly if not entirely Republican. Today, the likes of Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, and George Soros are men of the left.
Democratic Demographics Shaken Up by Hispanics
Exhibit A in the changing face of the two major parties are voters categorized as Hispanics — or more precisely Spanish-speaking Americans, since the term represents widely divergent cultures under one collective umbrella. The Democrats have proceeded on the assumption, long held true, that the party’s support of liberal immigration policies would assure that Spanish-speaking voters will always lean to the left, customarily by two to one, despite their inherent cultural conservatism.
Boy, has that ever changed. Multiple polls show Hispanics now supporting the two parties equally — 50% each, within the margin of error — after just 35% voted for Trump in 2020. A loss of anything near 15 points in November will signal doom for Democrats beyond what they might currently imagine. Support for Joe Biden among Spanish-speaking voters has gone from near 60% when he took office to below 30%. As a crucial element of the party’s traditional base, it is impossible to underestimate the devastating consequences of Hispanics abandoning the Democratic demographics.
On the flip side of the coin, the Democrats have rolled up a huge lead — 38 points according to a recent poll from NBC — among those fickle college-educated white women. Many of them were famously driven away by Trump’s rhetoric, and Republicans are hoping that runaway inflation and Biden’s all-consuming weakness and failure can at least reduce their losses among well-to-do Caucasian females. But given that a record 151 females serve in the current 117th Congress following the woman-friendly 2020 congressional elections, both female voters and candidates will play an outsized, yet still uncertain, role in the upcoming midterm elections.
The root cause of the steep decline is the disconnect between progressives driving the Democrats’ agenda and the party’s core voters. The party has quite simply placed itself squarely on the wrong side of a culture war. Leadership bowed to its most extreme voices following the killing of George Floyd, calling for defunding the police without seeming to give a thought to who would be hurt the most: its vital voting bloc and those most disproportionately affected by crime, black people, whose support for Democrats continues to fall. Even the famously uber-liberal voters of San Francisco have reached their pain threshold, rudely dismissing a trio of cartoonishly woke school board members and the city’s soft-on-crime district attorney.
Perhaps most revealing about the changing faces of the two parties is a stunning result from a poll conducted recently by The New York Times/Siena College. While working-class voters overwhelmingly named the economy as their primary concern, affluent voters listed abortion and gun rights. It used to be, per the old stereotype, that the wealthy concerned themselves only with lower taxes.
Quite a change, isn’t it? Only the most monumental in 60 years is all.