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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Instagram Socialism as a Problem for Democrats

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race.   Our next book, title TBA, discusses the 2020 results.

Some Democrats think that the controversy over "defunding" the police -- and other aspects of big-city progressivism -- cost their party seats in the 2020 congressional elections

Derek Thompson at The Atlantic:
One analysis of Census Bureau data projected that by 2040, roughly half of the population will be represented by 16 senators; the other, more rural half will have 84 senators at their disposal. If Democrats don’t find a way to broaden their coalition into less populous states with smaller metro areas, it may be impossible to pass liberal laws for the next generation.

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times published an analysis of California ballot measures that found that “the state’s two major population centers have grown more and more different” from the rest of the state. Residents of Los Angeles and the Bay Area were at least 30 percentage points more likely than other Californians to support various propositions, such as reinstating affirmative action and allowing parolees to vote. A 30-point gap is massive—akin to the difference between deep-blue Massachusetts and purple Pennsylvania. From a political perspective, Los Angeles and the Bay Area look like leftist havens in an otherwise moderate state.

Many of their causes are virtuous, such as universal health care and higher pay for low-income service workers. But given the dynamics of online communication, which prizes extremity, Instagram socialism usually functions as a crowd-sourcing exercise to brand widely appealing ideas in their most emotional and viral—and, therefore, most radical—fashion. Thus, major police reform (a popular idea) is branded “Abolish the Police” (an unpopular idea); a welcoming disposition toward immigrants (a popular idea) is blurred with calls for open borders (an unpopular idea); and universal health care (a popular idea) is folded into socialism (an unpopular idea).

Defund police, open borders, socialism—it’s killing us,” said Representative Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat from South Texas who nearly lost a district this year he’d previously won by 20 points. Beyond giving Republicans and Fox News easy ways to tarnish otherwise appealing reforms, Instagram socialism’s sloganeering is a turnoff for moderates who spend time online but are not, in the modern capital-O sense, Online. The average voter in a general election is something like a moderate 50-year-old woman without a four-year college degree who stays away from partisan media and follows politics only occasionally. She might hate Trump, but her dispositional conservatism makes her less likely to embrace policies tweaked in a social-media lab for viral emotionality.