Amy Walter: How did one group of immigrant workers become the hardest hit by the coronavirus?
Speaker 1: Who is going to count our dead, and who's going to name our dead?
Amy Walter: That's this week on The Experiment, a podcast from The Atlantic and WNYC Studios.
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Amy Walter: It's Politics with Amy Walter on The Takeaway. Here's one more thing from me. Where do we go from here? After four chaotic and tumultuous years, President Biden has promised to put the chaos of the Trump administration behind him and return the country to normalcy.
We know that while the dysfunction in Washington was amplified during Trump's tenure, it was there long before he arrived. Even so, it's clear that our political divide has gotten deeper and our democracy feels more frail and vulnerable than ever. Are we in a breaking point, or will this be a time when the fever does really break?
There are no obvious answers to these questions and I wouldn't trust anyone who tells me they have them. What we need right now are fewer hot takes on Twitter and more thoughtful and nuanced conversations about the path forward. Thankfully, we can do that right here right now on the show. We've counted on a few trusted voices over these last couple of years to help us understand our politics.
Adam Serwer: My name is Adam Serwer. I'm a staff writer for The Atlantic.
Susan Glasser: I'm Susan Glasser from The New Yorker magazine.
Astead Herndon: Astead Herndon, national politics reporter at The New York Times.
Amy Walter: I spoke with them about the future of American politics, what happens to Trump's grip on the Republican Party, and whether or not President Biden will be able to unite the factions within the Democratic Party.
Susan Glasser: What is normal? Joe Biden campaigned last year on the idea that I'm going to make America America again. Intuitively, we might all have a sense of what we think that means. It actually reminds me, and this is a weird analogy, maybe, but when I moved to Russia and covered Russia at the beginning of the Putin era, this was the goal and the desire articulated by everyday Russians after the tumult of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and this first, really awful decade of the 1990s after that.
They wanted and they said over and over again. It was like the cliche, a normal, stable, civilized country, a normal country. I think that this is a political yearning that comes after a period of tumult and perceived chaos. Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, famously and correctly said, "Is a chaos candidate who would become a chaos president." This instability, this uncertainty about even basic functions of our government of our democracy, as of course, most powerfully crystallized by this Trump or Dameron, at the very end, the bonfire of the Capitol.
This is what people want corrected for. I think this is, of course, where Biden has started out strongest is on the optics. You always want to take a job when the previous occupant, in some ways, has left in a smoldering ruin. He's been strong Biden on the optics, but-- There's a big but.
First of all, we don't have consensus on what normal is. Second of all, was Trump a temporary crisis, or a symptom of a long-running one? Are we still in the crisis, or is the crisis over? It seems to me that we're still in the crisis, and we can talk about that.
The third and final point I would make is that, even if the Biden presidency is a return to the status quo anti-Donald, what is the status quo anti-Donald? It was pretty screwed up, or we wouldn't have had Donald Trump to begin with. Actually, it was a reality of extreme political polarization and partisan gridlock in Washington that looked and felt extremely dysfunctional against almost any metric except the metric of, say, the last year of the Trump presidency.
Amy Walter: Adam, is this a tipping point where we are going to look back and say, "Okay, this was actually a return to 'normal' the year 2021," or are we going to look back and say, "We should have realized that the last four years were actually the beginning of something"?
I'm wondering if there's any point at which, as you've looked back, and seen how our country has handled other moments like this if that can tell us anything about maybe where we're headed now?
Adam Serwer: I think if you look back to, say, 1868, the nation is on the verge of this democratic revolution where Black men are getting the vote. Then by 1876, this call comes crashing down. I think, particularly, in our extremely fast news cycle, it is easy to not see the big picture or to understand that political shifts happen in ways that are measured by years, not necessarily by weeks or months, although obviously, significant things can happen and change things in those shorter time horizons.
On the one hand, politics can end up being more volatile than we think it is. I don't know that back to normal in the pre-Trump sense is necessarily in the offing. If the Biden administration is successful at containing the pandemic and reviving the economy, there is going to be a substantial sense of things getting back to normal in an individual we can get back to our life sense. In terms of alleviating political polarization, I'm not sure that that's going to happen.
It would be unwise to make predictions about the near-term future of politics, in part because things are very volatile because of all the things that are likely going to change in the next 12 months with regards to the pandemic, with regards to people being able to go back to work depending on how robust the Democrat's relief packages, and how many people benefit from it.
I would not assume that we are simply going to plod along on the same trajectory that we seem to be in during the Trump administration in the same way that people would probably not have predicted Donald Trump becoming president in 2016 at the 2012 Obama inauguration.
Amy Walter: I'm wondering, too, about that. Just this just plodding along analogy here. One of the clear effects of the Trump era and this pandemic is it has exposed so much about who we are as a country that has been there all along but we either chose not to see it, or it can be covered up in some way. It seems like we do that a lot in the country. We open these wounds and then we say, "Oh, God, we can't really deal with that. That's really uncomfortable, so let's just stick a Band-Aid on it until-" I don't want to get too gross here, but like, "-it starts oozing out again.
Adam Serwer: People generally want to take the path of least resistance. Conflict is difficult. Our system has so many counter-majoritarian mechanisms. It is actually difficult to deal with big problems when the country is as polarized as it is at the moment, along lines of class and education and race and everything else.
Amy Walter: Astead, let's go to you. Your area of expertise, at least for this last year, was covering the Democrats 2020 campaign. You were there in the front row watching a party that many said, "It's a party dominated by liberals. Bernie Sanders is going to be the nominee, or Elizabeth Warren, somebody in that track." Then they end up picking an old white centrist guy as their nominee.
Folks were saying, "This marriage is going to work right now with Biden and the party because Trump is the existential threat, and once Trump's gone, this marriage may hit some rocky moments." Do you think the marriage can work now that Democrats control everything in Washington?
Astead Herndon: That's the key question is just how this big tape keeps itself together. Biden has certainly made this a key facet of his pitch. He talks about unity, but they're trying to fashion unity around public opinion about doing things that are popular, not necessarily by partisan unity between Democrats and Republicans, because they think that's something that's unachievable. There's still a huge diversity of ideological opinion and of just the way politics will work even among Democrats.
They need a universal belief in these policies to be able to pass something because their majority is so slim, but when you get to things like the filibuster, when you get to things like reconciliation, these political process questions, there is not uniform beliefs among Democrats. That's really going to be the central tenant to Biden's agenda.
After COVID relief, things like Voting Rights Act, things like police reform, things that Biden has made, climate change, things that he has talked about will require those type of things to happen for those big agenda items to pass.
It's going to be the core question of if he is viewed as someone who is simply about beating Donald Trump and removing him from office. Certainly, that will be a part of his legacy, or if it's going to be part of that affirmative agenda-setting, which will require him getting Democrats on board with some of these process questions that are critical to passing those bills.
Amy Walter: If we're talking about returning to normal, back in the olden days, and I think, Susan, you, and I are probably the oldest one on this roundtable, there were these Democrats. There were a lot more Joe Manchins on the Democratic side who came from Conservative state. It seems like, and maybe I'm wrong about this, but there aren't the same sorts of deep divisions about some of the issues and ideologies that you might have seen in the '90s, or even in the early Obama era when he was dealing with John Barrow in Louisiana, or Ben Nelson in Nebraska.
Susan Glasser: Amy, I think you're right. The ideological sifting and sorting of the parties has included, essentially purging, from each party, those who are too much outliers. You and I do both remember in the 1980s and 1990s, it was still not entirely uncommon to have, for example, an anti-abortion Democrat in the US Senate even. That just doesn't happen anymore.
It was very interesting project; my husband, Peter Baker, and I wrote a biography of Jim Baker, who was perhaps the premier Washington operative from the end of Watergate to the end of the Cold War. The structural incentives of politics were so fundamentally different. Jim Baker happened to be also an exceptionally gifted deal maker and negotiator. He was famous for making bipartisan deals on things like tax reform, and social security stuff that politicians talk about now, but seems completely out of reach, even if you had someone as skilled as him.
Why? in part, it is the structural reasons for our politics having shifted. First of all, divided government was reality. Then, you had Reagan for two terms, and George HW Bush, but Democrats were in control of the House for that entire time and for the Senate for that entire time.
Not only that, but the two parties, as you pointed out, were different in terms of their composition. It was completely standard practice for many states to elect a senator of a different party than that state went with in the presidential election. Now, you can count them, I believe on one hand.
Amy Walter: You actually need one other thumb, but it's sick. It's only six. At any moment, we could get to one hand. Astead, I want you to weigh in on this, especially because you have talked to so many voters within the Democratic coalition in this last year and a half, about what their expectations for normal look like.
We saw, at least among elected officials, the real tension point seemed to be on things like immigration and border issues, and of course, there's these issues about, "defunding the police".
Talk to us about that, because it seems like that may be the place where the party cohesion gets really tested as opposed to what we're seeing right now, which is a debate over the size of a stimulus package and fighting the pandemic.
Astead Herndon: I think that when we talk about the next steps, it's not going to be over things like you mentioned the funding the police. There's also a belief across the Democratic Party on the Washington level, that that's not something they really want to do. The question is, though George Floyd Justice and Policing Act, which the House did pass, requires a 60-vote threshold in the Senate at this point, which it will not get, likely.
What is Joe Biden, and what is the Democratic Party willing to do to implement even the type of policing reforms that they say that they want? It's going to require the institutionalist that we know of Joe Biden to be willing to push the Senate, to be willing to lobby, and to go through Trumpesque strong manning of the rules to be able to get his agenda passed and done.
That's the key question here is whether there is a willingness, from Biden's point of view to be able to do that, or is this a president that says, "Hey, I was bringing things back to normal, and normal isn't changing the filibuster. Normal isn't pressuring my own party. I'm going to let the chips fall where they may on the agenda because that's my top concern." I think that's going to be the push or pull point that's inevitable in this administration.
Amy Walter: This is a question for all of you. Astead, I can serve it to you, but the people that Biden has put in his administration, a lot of them are throwbacks to the Clinton era, to the Obama era, to the DLC-centrist times of the '90s. Does that give us a hint about how comfortable the administration itself is going to be, or in this case maybe not be, with really pushing the envelope?
Astead Herndon: Yes, I think I think that is one sign. I think the Biden administration is not going to fall into easy traps, and so when you have those appointments, you have people who leaned on experience, people who leaned on previous confirmable from a senate level background.
I also think that that is, for some people, a sign of a political era that is gone. Basically, will Joe Biden be the one from the campaign? I think we saw multiple Joe Bidens in the campaign. There is one that thought that Republicans would turn back to normal, that what you needed to do is to remove Donald Trump and America will return to its natural state.
There is another one who talked about a robust, progressive agenda, who talked about Democrats having to be able to stump out threats to Democracy, and that being his true goal, wanting to be a president in the mold of FDR. We just don't know, at this point, which one of those versions of Joe Biden is going to win out. The appointments may point to one version, and the rhetoric points to another. I think after the coronavirus package, we'll get a big hint which one we're going to get.
Amy Walter: I know. I keep reminding myself it's only been a month. It feels like it's been two years since the election, but it's only been a month since Biden has been president, and it's only been a couple of months since the election.
Adam, now we see that Trump is as powerful as he ever was, it seems, that he is the party. It's not an ideology. It's not issue-based. It's literally are you pro-Trump, or are you one of the handful of Republicans willing to stand up and say we need to define ourselves beyond Donald Trump.
What does this tell us, then, about where the Republican Party goes from here, and how our politics can possibly work if it is fealty to a person rather than a battle over ideas that is defining where we are?
Adam Serwer: A lot of people try to argue that Trump, as a figure, is devoid of ideological content. I don't think that's correct. The form of identity politics that he practices is extremely ideological. While it's not exclusively white, it is of a certain particular right-wing identity politics that is usually associated with white Christianity, which reflects the demographic composition of the Republican Party.
The same is actually true of Joe Biden. It's important to look at Biden's strategy, political strategy. It's a form of de-escalation. When he's talking about Republicans being good people, the Democratic Party is made up of-- The plurality of Democrats identify as liberals, but the majority of Democrats are moderates and conservatives. It is an ideologically heterodox party.
The Republican Party is an ideologically Conservative Party. When you have a diverse ideological coalition, you cannot engage in the kind of rhetoric of contempt that you see from Republican, even federal officials. You can't do what John Kennedy does, and mock conservatives the way that he mocks liberals with their tote bags, and their lattes or whatever. That cultural shorthand is not available to you, because you have a coalition that has to unite hipsters in Brooklyn with church grandmas in South Carolina. You can't really do that thing.
From Joe Biden's perspective, it is tactically smart for him to try to de-escalate those cultural tensions by reaching out in this rhetorical way while still pursuing a policy agenda that is ambitious enough to solve the country's problems. The issue, of course, is that he has a structural impediment, which is that the Senate cannot do anything. He cannot get anything passed that Joe Biden and Kyrsten Sinema do not also want to pass.
The way that the Senate is currently structured, big legislative items, like voting rights, cannot make it through the 60-vote filibuster threshold unless the Democrats are willing to alter that institutional rule, which so far Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin are not willing to do.
I think it's important to distinguish between Joe Biden being naive about bipartisanship in Washington, and Joe Biden taking a tactical path towards attempting to depolarize or turn down the heat on the culture war that Trumpism basically thrives on, a sense of threat, from these all-powerful liberals who are trying to impose their way of life on you. The best way for Joe Biden to diffuse that assumption is to not seem like he's trying to do that at all.
Amy Walter: The uniqueness about Donald Trump seems to be his shamelessness in the identity politics. You would hear this over and over again from many people who voted for him, which was, "I like that he says things that other politicians won't say."
Can a traditional politician, we're watching them right now, Josh Holly, Ted Cruz, some of these other elected officials who are trying to mold themselves in the image of Donald Trump, is that going to be believable? Can they actually do this and have it work? Is there we're going to see somebody come up who looks more like Donald Trump on the Republican side, who comes from a very different background than the United States Senate or being a governor?
Adam Serwer: I think Trump's lingering influence in the party is evidence that he is a singular figure in terms of his ability to manipulate those political currents in the Republican party. That doesn't mean that there won't be a successor who can do it.
When you look at where Trumpism has been successful, it has not been particularly successful on an individual level when Trump is not the person wielding it.
Amy Walter: That's right.
Adam Serwer: If you look at Kelly Loffler, or if you look at Corey Stewart in Virginia, it really works well for Trump and it captures the imagination of the Republican base in a way almost no other politician can, but it's a lot more-- I'm not exactly sure what the mechanism is. It's a kind of swagger that you can't actually teach.
Amy Walter: It looks like a caricature.
Adam Serwer: That doesn't mean that someone won't figure out a way to do it someday, but I think the lingering influence of Donald Trump, if there was someone who could do it the way he could do it, he wouldn't have as much influence in the party as he does right now.
Amy Walter: Susan and Adam and Astead, thank you for taking this time and walking through all of this. You guys are doing awesome work. Thank you so much.
Adam Serwer: Thanks for having us.
Astead Herndon: Appreciate it.
Susan Glasser: Have a good day.
Amy Walter: Adam Serwer is a staff writer at The Atlantic covering politics. Susan Glasser is a staff writer for The New Yorker, and Astead Herndon is a national political reporter for The New York Times.
One of the most rewarding aspects of hosting this weekly show has been hearing from so many of you, our listeners. You've taken the time to be part of the show by sharing your opinions and weighing in on our listener questions. This week, we decided to turn the tables and open up our lines to let you ask the questions of me. All right, Jay, fire away.
Andrew: Hi. This is Andrew in Kalamazoo, Michigan. How can we make the legislative branch legislate once more? I hate to say it this way, but how do we make Congress great again?
Amy Walter: Hey, Andrew. Great question. I think at its very core, what we have is a misaligned incentive structure. At its core what we know is that individual members of Congress see themselves more as individuals than part of a team, but a lot of this comes back to leadership. How can the leadership in Congress help individual members appreciate and understand that the most important thing for them to do is to deliver back to their constituents?
Which then comes back to us; we have to hold these folks accountable. Whether you sit in a red or a blue or a purple district, your voice really does matter. Where it really has incredible weight is in a primary. The kind of red or blue member you get also matters. Taking the time to show up in a primary, to let the candidates know that you're just not going to accept somebody who goes to Washington to just put on a show, but you want them to actually bring something back to their constituents and put you first.
Andrew wasn't the only one wondering about Congress actually getting things done.
Leon: This is Leon from Brooklyn, New York. My question is what are the odds of an immigration bill being passed through Congress underneath this new administration?
Amy Walter: Hey, Leon. Well, we know that President Bush and President Obama both tried and failed to get comprehensive immigration reform passed. President Obama probably came the closest that made it through the United States Senate on a bipartisan vote. I think those days, unfortunately though, are past, and that most of the work that's going to get done on immigration is going to happen through the executive branch, through executive orders.
I think that perhaps the house will be able to take something up and push it through, but getting something through the Senate, a 50-50 Senate, and one where immigration has become such a third rail for Republican candidates makes that really unlikely.
Sam: Hi. This is Sam Callister calling from Albuquerque, New Mexico. My question for Amy and the rest of The Takeaway crew is if the unprecedented level of political donations we saw in 2020 is here to stay, is this a good thing that we should want in our democracy?
Amy Walter: Hey, Sam. That's a great question. Money's always been a part of politics. For as long as I can remember, there have been attempts to try to limit how and how much money goes to candidates pretty unsuccessfully.
I think on the one hand, we know that, you're right, there's so much money pouring into the system, much of it from people who are millionaires and billionaires and putting super PACs together. We also know that, thanks to the internet, we have more people engaged in political donations who are just regular folks who are giving $5 and $10 and are making a huge difference.
In the olden days, the only way a candidate really was going to be able to be successful is they had to get past these gatekeepers, the people who knew the donors or had the lists of folks to call to get those big checks. Now, if you have a good enough following, a good enough message, you connect, you can raise that money yourself with very low overhead and turn it directly into campaigning. Let's take another one.
Caller 3: Will there be a Trump party? If so, how will that affect American politics and American society?
Amy Walter: I think it's pretty fair to say that we do have a Trump party. The Republican Party right now is one that is dominated, not so much by an ideology or by an issue, but by a person, and that's Donald Trump and fealty to Donald Trump.
The question going forward is just how long will his influence over the party last? We know that he's going to want to weigh in on these 2022 elections. We expect he will be endorsing or taking out his vengeance against certain Republican candidates, but at some point, you wonder just how effective he can be without the bully pulpit of the presidency and without his favorite form of communication, which is Twitter.
We also know that Joe Biden is the president. At some point, the attention to Donald Trump is going to fade. The focus will be both for American voters and the Republican Party on how they feel Joe Biden is doing in his job. and whether there's someone on the Republican side who could do better.
I think most parties, and especially when we think about elections, so much of it is a reaction to the person that's currently in office, as opposed to a reaction to, or a reflection on the person who was there before that.
Doug: This is Doug in Portland, Oregon. We are so divided. The sides are so entrenched. The rhetoric is so vitriolic. Social media continually pushes us away from each other in any mutual understanding or compromise. How will we ever grow towards something that is more conversational, understanding, and functional? Will I ever have a chance to respectfully engage my conservative counterparts and be respectfully listened to as well? It's hard to imagine days.
Amy Walter: You're right, Doug. It does seem hard to imagine, but I feel as if there is a way to do this. It really starts with us. I know that maybe that sounds a little bit cheesy, but it's true. You sound like somebody who wants to engage respectfully and thoughtfully, so continue to do that and you set an example for others to follow. Don't get caught up in what you're seeing on social media. Don't fan the flames, step away.
I'm one of those folks that I definitely check in on Twitter, probably too much, but when I see the conversation veer into the personal and the vindictive, I just step out, or better yet tell people to stop. They'll listen. They're following right now because it seems like it's the only thing to do, but if they see that there is a way to do it differently, they will.
What I'm hoping, again, this is really, to me, the big question for our time, is where our leaders will do the leading. We are in an era where trust in our institutions is as low as it's ever been, and trust in leaders is as low as it's ever been, but it doesn't mean we don't need them. Part of the reason I think our trust has fallen is that they have failed to do the thing they were supposed to do, which is help to put some boundaries and set some standards.
It's possible. We see those people in our lives all the time. Maybe it's a teacher or a coach, someone in your community who's doing that hard work. Lift them up. Pick them up. Show that this is the way to go. Spend more time talking to them and about them, and less time engaging with people who just want to pick fights.
Thanks to everyone for taking the time to share your insights or your questions with me. I really, really enjoyed that. If you didn't get your question in, don't worry. It's not too late. You can always find me on Twitter. I'm @amyewalter.
Amy Walter: One of the big takeaways from 2016 was to constantly question our assumptions about voting behavior. Democratic dominance in the so-called blue wall States in the Midwest was no longer assured, but neither was the GOP hold on southern and western states like Arizona, Georgia, and Texas. Even so the assumptions about demographics, specifically the role that race has on voting preferences, continued. For years, the conventional wisdom suggested that the higher the turnout, the better for Democrats.
In 2020, Biden did win 7 million more votes than Donald Trump but he carried the electoral college by just over 40,000 votes. While record turnout helped Democrats win in places like Georgia it also helped Republicans retain their hold of vulnerable Senate seats in places like Iowa and North Carolina.
This week, I sat down with Cheryl Laird, assistant professor of government and legal studies at Boden College, Julia Azari, associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Marquette University, and Mark Hugo Lopez, director of global migration and democracy research at Pew Research Center. Cheryl speaks first.
Cheryl Laird: I think sometimes people need to think about things like split-ticket voting more, that you do have individuals who will decide to engage in voting at the top of the ticket for one party, and maybe down-ballot voting for somebody else. I live in a state where being an independent is something that is very touted here. It is possible for somebody to decide to be in one place with their partisanship for one person and somewhere else with somebody else.
Additionally, you could have people who are participating and maybe deciding that they're only going to vote for particular candidates and not vote for other individuals, and also, that the Republican party does have some appeal to individuals. I think there's been an assumption, like you've just said, that those people who are not participating are people that wouldn't necessarily find the appeals to the Republican Party as something that would drive them out or motivate them to turn out.
There is evidence to say that actually there is something to think about there. Some appeals in some of the rhetoric on particular policies and positions can be something that even for non-voters, now that they started to- those that have started to participate that we see in 2020, maybe found some of those peels to be something that drew them to turn out.
We really have to reframe it because part of the issue here is as well as our observational data is that a lot of times, we tend to focus on likely voters and people who vote, but we don't really spend a ton of time understanding non-voters because they often aren't in those samples and polls that we collect.
I think we now have to really engage with the idea of, what are people really thinking in those spaces? Are they split-ticket voting? Are they deciding not to support certain individuals? Are they turning out for things that seem to speak to them, and maybe it's not in line with our previous assumptions?
Amy Walter: Julia, what about you? As somebody who is deeply immersed in, especially the historical data about our politics and voting behavior, what assumptions were appended in this last era? How does that guide you in thinking about what to expect for the next four years?
Julia Azari: Thank you for the history set up. That's actually a good framework to think about the two things that came to mind for me. The first one is the elasticity of the vote or the ability of the electorate to swing in general in response to candidates and events.
Actually, maybe it takes us in a little bit different direction than what we were talking about with the mobilization topic. This is the level of surprise among commentators and political scientists, first about Trump's victory in 2016 in which partisan loyalty really just drove and how people voted and didn't seem to be responsive to things that a lot of commentators and even people like the Bush family thought were wrong with the Trump candidacy, a lot of establishment Republicans.
2020 was just that times a million where I think the pandemic and the economic collapse did not benefit the Trump administration. Probably, it likely put them over the edge of losing the election. Nevertheless, they got a lot of votes.
If we put that in historical context, that just hasn't always really been true. If you think about other periods of economic decline and struggles, the 1980 election, huge punishment for the incumbent; Jimmy Carter wins just about 40% of the vote. Similar situation in 1932 during the great depression for Herbert Hoover.
You could argue that those are different kinds of moments, and comparisons always have some caveats, but I think it's fair to say 2020 was not a high point for the [crosstalk]--
Amy Walter: We had two once-in-a-lifetime events, a pandemic and the economic damage done in a very short amount of time. It's like nothing we'd ever seen before. He loses, but he still gets 46%, 47% of the vote.
Julia Azari: I would also add the unrest over the summer, and then the evident feeling among a lot of Americans at the status quo in terms of race and policing was also not tenable. The Trump administration, I think, is also deeply linked to that. Nevertheless, we see, during this unprecedented moment, a fairly strong base showing for the incumbent.
Amy Walter: Mark Hugo Lopez, what about you? Was there something as you came into this election? Go back these last few years and use it to-- How much does that guide you in going forward when you are thinking about some of the trends that are out there and the assumptions that you're making about what they tell us about voting behavior and voting participation in the future?
Mark Hugo Lopez: One of the trends that I've been following is, of course, how Latino voters are viewed. Latino voters have often been seen as a strongly democratic group, or a group that will support democratic candidates in growing shares, and of course, in growing numbers because of the rising number of Latinos who are eligible to vote. There's a lot of potential in the Latino vote.
Part of that story has been that also Latinos, because many are foreign-born, about a third, for example, are foreign-born, are going to be driven by immigration policy.
One of the things that's happened over the last almost a decade and a half that I've been following this is that immigration hasn't always been the deciding factor for Latinos. The reason why I bring that up is because the comments that Donald Trump made starting with his announcement of his candidacy in building the border wall with Mexico and calling Mexican immigrants all kinds of things, such as criminals and rapists and so forth, the media analysts thought that that's going to drive Latinos towards Democrats.
Then we see 2016's results. It looks like the Latino voters supported Trump at least at about 25% share in the 2016 election, although there's some debate about that.
In 2020, even more so after four years of efforts to reduce immigration, to change immigration policy and many other things, many thought that Latino voters would run away from Donald Trump, that he'd get less support in going into this election.
As people started to do more looks into this, it seemed that there was a strong level of support for Donald Trump amongst some groups of Latinos, which led to one of the things that I think is an interesting assumption people make that all Latino voters are similar, that Latinos are a block when I think this last election has shown that maybe Latinos are a diverse group of voters who have diverse points of view, and different candidates might be able to appeal to different segments of the Latino vote in different ways.
I would also point out, though, that Donald Trump's performance in this last election, and maybe about 28% to 30% support among Latino voters nationally, isn't out of line with what we've seen with Latino voters and other elections in support for Republican candidates. Ronald Reagan won around 35% of the Latino vote in '84. When you take a look at George Bush in 2004, he won 40% of Latino voters' support in that year, at least.
Amy Walter: Mark, get us to that question about the diversity of the Latino population, which I think, I hope, at least, the media has been better about trying not to clump it in, but doesn't always do such a perfect job of recognizing that this idea that there's a monolithic Latino vote is obviously a false one.
I was talking with someone the other day, said to me, the narrative about Latino voters in 2020, was driven as much by the time zones as anything else.
Because Florida and Texas, one is in central one is in the Eastern Time Zone, because their results come back earlier than, at least for those of us on the East Coast, then Arizona and Nevada, that the story of the Latino vote was driven by the fact that Trump did significantly better, especially in South Florida, and the Rio Grande Valley, as opposed to the conversation starting with, had maybe Arizona gone first and Nevada gone second, and then we had Texas and Florida, that the story would have been look how important Latino vote was to Biden's victory in those two western states.
Can you talk to us a little bit about what do we know right now about who turned out, where they turned out, and what that tells us about Latino vote going forward?
Mark Hugo Lopez: First, as you noted, the Latino electorate is very diverse. Latino population is very diverse, with people tracing the roots to all parts of Latin America, for example.
Interestingly, while it is the case that what happens in Florida shapes the narrative about the election, not just Latino voters, but the election generally, because it's early on, it's a battleground state and it's so important in so many ways, it is true that the conversation about Latino voters oftentimes focuses on those in South Florida.
What's interesting about that is that Florida is perhaps the most diverse of Latino states because it's got just about every group represented there. As a result, it is in terms of origins at least, one of the more diverse, if not the most diverse states in the country.
By contrast, California is dominated by Mexican Americans, but in Florida, yes, Cubans may be almost half of the population, but it's a very diverse population with people from South America, like Venezuelans and Colombians. You have Dominicans. You also even have a Mexican population that's the third-largest in the state.
It is also interesting and telling that when we talk about Latino voters, the focus every year is on Florida and what happens in Florida. Again, that's partly because it's a battleground state. How Latino voters go has some implications for how the national election might go because of Florida's general importance.
It is still the case that Latinos, in this election, supported Joe Biden at a level that looks to be about 2/3, at least support for Joe Biden in this election among Latino voters. That's not much different than what we've seen from, say, Hillary Clinton in 2016. It's below what we saw for Obama in 2008 and 2012, it's on par. His support is on par with what we see for most democratic presidential candidates over the last 30 years.
Amy Walter: Cheryl, let's talk about Black voters. You've done so much work on this group of voters, and especially on their, as you said, steadfast commitment to Democrats. A lot of the conversation we were having in 2020 was about just how steadfast that will continue to be Trump going specifically after African American men. There was talk that younger voters still feeling as if the Democratic Party doesn't really get their generation in this moment, and maybe they sit it out.
What have you learned, over the last four or five years about Black voters and voter behavior, and what it can tell us going forward?
Cheryl Laird: The Black voting behavior that we observe with the Democratic partisanship is one that is very strategic. It is coming out of a particular history, one in which an understanding of how one is able to lift up the group interest the best within politics, and best being what has been deemed by the group, has been a path through the Democratic Party. A lot of that stems from the civil rights legislation that has come out of the Democratic Party in support of African Americans, as well as opportunities to enter into elective office, even access to the vote fully through the VRA.
That has served as one of the major parts of why we see the partisanship the way that it is. Historically, it has come out of a long history of a collective politic that has been engaged in by African Americans. We can look at these modern moments, but understanding the historical span of time for why the behavior is the way it is, is an important part of that. It isn't something that has novel-ly come up today, but something that has been a large part of what we've seen African Americans do to try to leverage their power as a minority group and a majority-based system.
Key to understanding then why I would say that for younger Black individuals, continuing to be pretty much in line with this Democratic Party norm has to do a lot with the socialization of this norm. That is something that occurs within these racially homogeneous settings, and that those racial homogeneous settings are due in large part due to things like residential segregation. As long as we see African Americans continue to primarily be in communities and spaces where their touchpoints and contact with individuals are other African Americans, that will be something that helps to maintain the norm over time.
Even as we see more African Americans vote in support of Donald Trump, what we saw in the 2020 election, the numbers that I saw coming out of it didn't seem inconsistent with any of the numbers that we had seen before when you look at the percentages.
Amy Walter: Julia, I want to get to this broader question about demographics and what it could mean going forward. I remember, I'm sure you do too, in the Obama era, there was this belief or conventional wisdom that demographics were destiny. Mark alluded to this too, that as the country became less and less white, as we had more and more younger Latinos, and we have Asian Americans aging into the voting pool, that it was going to be harder and harder for Republicans to win. Then 2016 came along and showed us that actually, a Republican candidate can still win by just driving white turnout.
We had in 2020, yes, it was a much bigger margin for the Democrat in the popular vote, but switch 90,000 votes in three states in Nebraska second district, and you have the first president in American history elected twice without winning the popular vote.
We could be locked in this place for a while now, where you have a popular vote loser winning the Electoral College, once again. What does this do to our politics and what does this do to our democracy if we have election after election where those two don't meet; the Electoral College looks incredibly different from the popular vote?
Julia Azari: This is a great question. I think my answer is going to be a little bit of a downer. I think that there is a decent chance of entering into situations with a bunch of these institutions, the Electoral College, the power and strength of the Supreme Court, where people see them as fundamentally out of step with public opinion. I think the senate also is an example of this where we have a very 50/50 senate despite not really having a 50/50 country.
I don't know that the coalition to change them is going to be big enough to actually make fundamental changes. You end up in a situation where you have a lot of people who are dissatisfied, but not enough to create change. That, to me, seems like a really fundamentally unstable situation, exactly the unstable situation that I think when the constitution was designed, the framers were trying to think of how to avoid that sort of instability.
If I can say a little bit about the Democrats and the larger challenge of the Democratic coalition, which is that once these elections are done, they're also expected to govern.
I think that the Democratic majority has a really challenging problem on its hands, which is that it has a broadly popular agenda is the big ideas are more popular than the Republican stances on the big ideas. The public leans in the Democratic direction, on environmental issues, on immigration, on economic issues. That's not that unusual, but right now there's a lot of pressure to produce lasting change and serious change on some of those issues.
At the same time, the Democratic coalition itself is not unified on what to do. Again, this isn't new. The devil is always in the details. It's always in the producing a policy that has winners and losers, but I think the Democrats are in a very specific position in which there's pressure to do something about these issues.
They have members of their coalition that really want to see fundamental structural change in these areas that want to see a party really tacked to the left. They have a segment that's more like the Biden-Harris segment, that is more oriented toward the status quo, democratic-liberal to be sure, but not necessarily a pro-change force within the coalition. I think the Biden administration is listening to those other voices, but it's also clear that this other segment of the party exists.
They're doing this also in this incredibly competitive, deeply polarized, very angry, and toxic political environment. The way in which the larger partisan environment and then the intraparty divisions plays out really creates an important needle to thread for Democrats. I honestly have more questions than answers going forward about what that looks like.
Amy Walter: I think we can all feel, or at least I'll speak for myself, that very humbled about predicting what's going to happen, based on what we have been through for these last four years, but specifically what we've been through since the beginning of 2020. Julia, Cheryl, Mark, I want to thank you so much for coming on and sharing your insights with me. I really appreciate it.
Mark Hugo Lopez: Thank you.
Julia Azari: Thank you so much.
Cheryl Laird: Thank you for having me.
Amy Walter: Julia Azari is associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Marquette University, Mark Hugo Lopez, director of global migration and democracy research at Pew Research Center, and Cheryl Laird, assistant professor of government and legal studies at Bowden college.
One last thing for me today. I've had the great privilege and honor to host this show every week for the last two and a half years. I'm so very grateful for those who made this possible, including those at WNYC, PRX, and of course, the amazing team of professionals who work so hard and making sure we get the best possible product on the air every single week.
Over the last few years, political reporting has become more about generating outrage than seeking to explain, covering the loudest and most controversial voices, while ignoring those who are doing the work at keeping our democracy alive. The goal of this show was to be the opposite of all of this. We wanted to help people understand that politics wasn't meant to be distilled into 140 characters, that curiosity is one of our most valuable and underappreciated assets.
It doesn't mean I want politics to be neat and clean. It's messy. That's okay. The more voices in the mix mean that we're hearing from people whose stories were once left out of our political narratives, but messy doesn't have to mean dysfunctional.
What we need more than anything in this moment is leadership. Instead of throwing up their hands and saying, "Well, it's what the people want," or, "It's what the market demands," leaders are there to set boundaries and are willing to be unpopular for doing so.
I also wanted every show to convey a sense of humility and empathy, to accept that you don't always have the answers, or that sometimes the people you may not always agree with sometimes have some pretty good ideas. Covering this moment in American politics has been an amazing experience. Thank you for taking this crazy journey with me.
While I won't be at this microphone every week, I will be popping on every now and then to talk with Tanzina about politics and Washington. You can catch me every Monday on The PBS News Hour or read my weekly column at cookpolitical.com.
I'll leave you with this. Our politics is only as broken as we allow it to be. Show up. Speak up. Listen more. Shout less.
Our senior producer is Amber Hall. Patricia Yacob is our associate producer. Polly Irungu is our digital editor. David Gebel is our executive assistant. Jay Cowit is our director and sound designer. [unintelligible 00:55:25] has been our board up. Vince Fairchild is our board op and broadcast engineer. Our executive producer is Lee Hill.
Thanks so much for being with us over the years. This has been Politics with Amy Walter from The Takeaway, signing off one last time. We'll see you sometime soon. Until then, take care. Be well.
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