Boston is the capital of liberalism–a tradition we have followed since we were a British colony in revolt. So it was not surprising that the two finalists in the Boston mayoral race were liberals–or, as we like to be called now, progressives.
This past mayoral race exposed a kink in the progressive movement, however. Progressives better hope that that kink does not destroy the progressive movement from the inside out.
The kink became apparent in the mayoral run-off race between Rep. Marty Walsh and Councilor John Connolly. There was a definitive demographic difference between Walsh’s supporters and Connolly’s supporters. These two different demographics formed the Democratic coalition that swept Obama into office twice. However, a coalitional shift is underway–the kink in the progressive armor is ominous for the Democratic Party’s future.
In 2012, Obama received 93% of the African-America vote; 71% of the Latino vote; 73% of the Asian-American vote. Furthermore, Obama received 60% of the vote from people who did not graduate high school. These numbers show that Obama, and, hence, the Democratic Party, have a firm foothold with minorities–particularly working-class minorities. This represents only one component of his coalition. Educated or professional people–both white and people of color–constitute an integral part of the Democratic coalition. It was necessary for Obama to keep educated professionals in his corner to overcome the 39-59% deficit in the white vote that Obama faced. Among those who have completed post-graduate study, Obama won 55% to 42%.
But once again we return to that word “kink.” And here is the kink in the Democratic Coalition: Educated white Obama supporters dropped by 5%. Romney won educated white women 52% to 48%. The coalition that brought the Democrats into power in the House and Senate in ’06, and peaked in ’08 with the election of President Obama, is starting to shift to the right. The coalition of working-class minorities and educated whites has been the Democratic formula for success throughout the past two decades. And that winning coalition is waning, shifting to the right (well, the educated white segment of the Democratic Coalition is shifting to the right).
The heart-wrenching break-up was apparent in the Boston Mayoral Race despite the fact that both candidates were Democrats. Marty put together a coalition of working-class whites and blacks. He is a transformational figure in that he was able to pull all working class people together, despite their ethnicity, into a winning coalition.
John Connolly did well with educated people, particularly educated whites. Connolly’s supporters were particularly critical of Walsh’s support of unions.
The incessant criticism of unions by the Connolly people–their irrational fear of unions–is something the Democrats should be worried about. It is obvious that the Democratic Coalition is splintering. And in analyzing the Boston Mayoral Race, one can see why the two components of the coalition are starting to divorce.
The educated whites that supported Connolly think they have no investment in a party or candidate that came up through the unions and remains a strong supporter of unions. They fear that if the unions get their way the city will be bankrupt and big business will be driven out of town. The Democrats need these educated whites and they need union support as well. The Party depends on donations from both components of the coalition, and the massive ground game union men and women carry out exceptionally well.
This fear of organized labor on the part of educated whites who are Democrats but are beginning to leave the party is a national phenomenon, and the Boston Mayoral Race has elucidated the problem.
The solution–the mending of the Democratic Coalition–rests on the shoulders of the men and women of organized labor. Rid your local of corruption; get involved in your union; demonstrate to the country that unions are not selfish institutions, but a necessary bulwark against the greed of big corporations; Fight to get unions into retail giants like Wal-Mart; demonstrate the compassion union men and women have for all working people, not just unionized working-people; in fact, unions should be more effective at helping non-union shops organize if they so desire.
The only way to heal the division in the party is to show educated white Democrats that unions are helping to promote the same principles that they subscribe to–mainly, stopping corporate greed and corruption. The unions must re-brand themselves as the final defense in the attempt of big business–avaricious billionaire CEO’s–to turn this country into Ayn Rand’s dream: a completely laissez faire country with no social safety nets; all New Deal legislation repealed; a corporatocracy. Our principles are one, so let us fight to keep the Democratic Party one.