Demographics are a (Red) Destiny

Here’s some maps for you…

2004 under the 2024 electoral vote values.
2008 under 2024 electoral vote values.
2012 under 2024 electoral values.
2016 under 2024 electoral vote values.
2020 under 2024 electoral vote values.
The 2024 outlook.

Back in the Obama years, we heard a lot about “demographics are destiny.” In fact they are, just not how those smart folks thought. There were thoughts of Democrats building huge electoral majorities as late as just after the 2012 election. The only part of that huge majority that has held as “permanent” so far is Colorado and Virginia, totaling 23 electoral votes. Democrats could probably count turning Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, and North Carolina all purple, totaling 49 electoral votes, as a somewhat positive outcome as well (Bush won them all somewhat easily). But for those 72 electoral votes, let’s be clear about what Democrats have seen slide against them. Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin all blue from 1992 through 2012 and somewhat comfortable Obama wins, now are the 54 most competitive electoral votes in our nation’s politics. Florida, Ohio, and Iowa, 53 electoral votes that President Obama carried twice, are now almost certainly red moving forward. Indiana and Missouri, two of the three most competitive states in the 2008 election, are 21 electoral votes of red bastion. And of course, the promised movement of Texas to the left doesn’t look all that close to fruition. That’s 128 electoral votes Democrats thought as late as 2008 were no worse than battlegrounds that have slid away from them to varying degrees.

So the obvious question is why? An underrated part of this is Republican gains with Latinos and Black men in 2020 putting Democrats on defense. Even this though understates the bigger problem Democrats have had for a while- they put all their eggs in the demographic tsunami’s basket, and never understood what that meant under our federal system. This will become even more crystal clear in Senate elections over the coming decades. Population growth is in fact more non-white than ever before, but it’s all in a couple of states. By 2040, half the population will live in eight states, and 70% of the population will live in fifteen states. What that means in short is that half the country will elect 16 Senators and the other half (which will be much whiter and possibly have less education) will elect 84. The 70% of the country in 15 states will get just 30 Senators and the 30% in smaller, more rural, less diverse states will get 70 Senators. The United States Senate, before I am 60 years old, will be one of the least representative legislative bodies in the democratic world. While the House of Representatives, and by extension the electoral vote count for President, should at least partially move with population growth, even that won’t be perfect. Worse yet for Democrats, even if the GOP just keeps up marginal growth with non-white voters, they will keep Texas and Florida in their column for President, keeping them in the ball game to win elections if they continue doing well with white voters. Basically, if Democrats can’t change their 60 year trend line with white voters, Presidential elections remain on a knife’s edge, the Senate’s future is fairly conservative, and the House will only lean Democratic, not permanently tipped left. This is not even getting into state level governments, or what the Supreme Court will look like and do.

Demographics are not the destiny we hope for.

Maybe Social Media and the Internet Were Mistakes…

On Monday I decided to post a video of the Phillies-Giants game to TikTok with the national anthem dubbed over it. I figured what’s more American than baseball on Memorial Day, maybe a few people would like it? Well, a few did. Of my 12 videos I’ve ever posted on there, it’s my first to cross 1,000 views, with over 6,800 right now. It has 50 likes. And the comments… oh, the comments. See for yourself below…

Some people complained about the usher “making himself a seat in the aisle.” Others complained about fat people. Most talked about the fans sitting and the players playing through the national anthem though, which did not actually happen, of course. I put the music over the video, it was not playing in the ballpark. As I said, the comments are gold…

If actual TikTok users accidentally can be fooled by a video on TikTok into believing that two Major League Baseball teams and 26,000 plus fans would just ignore the national anthem and play the game through it, what does that say about Social Media and actual efforts to fool the public? Is the free flow of information on the internet actually a good thing? Can we actually function and handle the things we see? Increasingly, I doubt it…

Unions are Good

Early in Joe Biden’s Administration there was talk of raising the federal minimum wage to $15. This would more than double the minimum wage that we have both federally and here in Pennsylvania. Many states and cities, and in fact federal contractors, enjoy a higher minimum wage than the current $7.25 an hour. Even so, Bernie Sanders $15/hr. minimum wage amendment to the Covid relief bill failed with just 42 Senate votes. There was discussion of a $12/hr. minimum wage bill being put through under regular order, on a bipartisan basis, but that talk has subsided. Congress again showed that they can’t pass focused, consensus bills that are popular, because they are a broken institution, even when run by the good guys.

A funny thing has happened in the time since though. Unemployment has fallen, and wages have risen. A labor market that desperately needs new workers (thanks to 15 years of failing to address immigration, in part) suddenly finds itself having to pay workers more to find enough people to keep the supply chain moving. These rising wages in an economy re-opening after Covid has supercharged demand at a time when we lack supply, and when you combine that with “corporate greed” (in this case to make up lost profits in the pandemic), you get inflation at rates we haven’t really seen during my 39 years of life. The inflation has eaten the wage gains, and what’s worse is that in the short-term the jobs and wages booms in the Biden economy are making the problem worse (the long term is likely better). This is a cold reality for middle class workers in the post-pandemic economy seeing their wage increases crushed by a dollar that just isn’t going as far for their core needs.

There are fixes the government could do, but most of them take time. One thing that suddenly doesn’t look like a reasonable fix to an overheated economy is just raising the federal minimum wage. Had we done $15 an hour early in 2021, inflation might be worse, and we’d already be debating if we needed to do another increase now. What we are finding out is that the government has limited to no ability to quickly address bust to boom economic cycles on it’s own. This should *not* be read as opposition to raising the minimum wage (Congress should have taken $12/hr. after failing to get $15/hr.), efforts to decrease the cost of energy (both through releasing oil reserves AND subsidizing clean, alternative energy), capping insulin prices and increasing ACA subsidies, or any of the actions the Administration has proposed to help slow down inflation- Congress should do their job and pass them all. What I am saying is that government action takes time, sometimes a year or more, to start making people feel better in everyday life. Washington is slow, policies take time to connect to the public, and that’s a bad combination to deal with a hurting working class in America. Government can’t be your whole answer.

During the 2020 Presidential primaries national trade unions came out against “Medicare for All,” not because they opposed universal care, but because the expanded health insurance’s quality would be lesser than the health insurance most of them had won at the collective bargaining table. As I’ve thought about the issue of wages and costs, I can’t help but think that the most direct and fast place to deal with declining wage value is at the negotiating table between employers and workers, if it was even possible. With closer to a century now of declining labor power in this country, the overwhelming majority of employees in this country have no collective bargaining power at all, and therefore no faster way to address a labor market that does not meet their needs. Increasingly less and less workers are even classified as employees, much less full-time employees, let alone employees represented in a bargaining unit. This leaves more and more workers dependent on government actions to address labor market failures, from lacking insurance and overtime rights, to real-time declining wages. Even if Congress was a functioning institution, this is simply an insufficient way to meet the demands and needs of our population in a satisfactory manner. With whatever functionality they have, the Washington leadership class should try to strengthen non-government institutions like labor unions, to be able to more promptly meet the needs of our laboring class. They’re more responsive in prompt fashion, and they can more acutely meet the needs of the public. If capital owners can organize (think the Chamber of Commerce), certainly workers should be able to freely do so too. If our work force was organized and able to directly voice their needs in negotiation, they could address the market failures causing them issues in their lives.

Make unions great again, Congress.