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Hispanic and minority voters are increasingly shifting to the Republican party

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Ruy Teixeira co-wrote an influential book with John Judis 20 years ago called "The Emerging Democratic Majority." It seemed to presage Barack Obama's election as president in 2008 and argued that demographic changes in America and the growth of Hispanic voters and other groups would make Democrats the majority in America in the 21st century. Now he's not so sure. In a series of interviews and posts, Mr. Teixeira has told Democrats that more voters of color - and we'll ask him how he feels about that phrase - are supporting Republicans. Ruy Teixeira joins us now.

Thanks so much for being with us.

RUY TEIXEIRA: Glad to be here.

SIMON: What do you see happening?

TEIXEIRA: Well, what I see happening - you mentioned my book with John Judis. We stipulated in that book that you needed a core level of white working-class support, since white noncollege voters are still such a large share of the population. Now, as it turned out, over time, we did see white working-class voters continue to move away from the Democrats. In some ways, Obama's 2008 election was a high point. Ever since then, they've been bleeding white working-class voters. That's really why Trump got elected.

But what's interesting and very concerning, I would think, to Democrats - they tended to write off losing white working-class voters as kind of like, what can you do? You know, they're a declining population. They don't like the multicultural, multiracial America. They're all a bunch of racists and xenophobes. But I think what's underscored the potential overall class problem for the Democrats is the movement of nonwhite working-class voters away from the Democrats in recent period of time, particularly Hispanic working-class voters. And they gained, in terms of their advantage, among white college educated voters. So that's quite a shift.

SIMON: Shifting, I'm sure you've heard the phrase, from the factory floor to the faculty lounge.

TEIXEIRA: I have. Yes, indeed.

SIMON: You thought the recent recall of school board members and the district attorney in San Francisco were especially telling.

TEIXEIRA: Because I think it helped underscore for us the ultra-progressive wing of the Democratic Party privileging criminal justice reform over public safety. People want to be safe from crime, and that includes a lot of nonwhite voters. It is not a matter for them of choosing between the two, but rather above all, you've got to keep our community safe. We saw that in San Francisco, where the Asian population in particular was hugely important in these events.

SIMON: We've heard some Democrats say that crime is a trumped-up issue - and that pun is intended - meant to discredit Democratic leadership in New York, Chicago, San Francisco.

TEIXEIRA: Well, that's an example of something I call the Fox News fallacy, which is the idea that if something is reported on and pushed by the conservatives at Fox News, it must be essentially sort of a made-up story. But I think what we found is Democrats are very much in the hole, in terms of the view of voters, on who can best handle crime. They don't see the Democrats calling for putting violent criminals in jail; though they're willing to talk about, you know, let's get guns off the street and so on. But they're balking on what I would call the sweet spot of a progressive position on crime, which should be tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime. That was Tony Blair's famous phrase.

SIMON: I was about to point that out, yeah.

TEIXEIRA: And I think Democrats have been reluctant to do that on the theory that somehow that's giving in to racial animus and that - you know, just sort of being on the side of the reactionaries. But I'll tell you something. You know who is really hurt the most by the surge in crime? - poor Black people, poor Latino people, poor Asian people.

SIMON: How do you feel about that phrase, voters of color?

TEIXEIRA: Look, I mean, voters of color don't talk about voters of color. Who the hell lives in communities of color? The people I know live in neighborhoods, right? So there's this whole, you know, sort of rhetorical lexicon that the left of the Democratic Party has become obsessed with and insists on using, which basically just alienates normie voters, including normie nonwhite voters. I mean, we have people in and around the Democratic Party talking about how all white people have white privilege and how this is a white supremacist society and so on. And I just don't think this is the way people think about the world, including, you know, normie nonwhite voters.

SIMON: You've heard Democrats say that inflation certainly is a concern, but look how low the unemployment rate is.

TEIXEIRA: It is very low. On the other hand, inflation's very high. And the way that nets out for most people - that equation hasn't worked for them. If you look at the polling data, among the most negative groups about the economy in this country and about how the Biden administration has handled the economy are Hispanic voters.

SIMON: How do you feel about the confidence some Democrats seem to have that widespread support, demonstrable support for abortion rights and gun control will win votes in the next few elections?

TEIXEIRA: I think it's certainly possible that at the margin, these issues will help them in certain more educated suburban constituencies. I think, you know, some of these voters were thinking about sitting out the 2022 election or perhaps were otherwise, you know, sort of on the fence. Maybe this pushes some of them. But if we're getting back to our problems and the issues of working-class voters, it's not at all clear that an emphasis on abortion and gun control is really the magic potion that's going to move them over to the Democratic side, despite the fact they support moderate abortion rights. They support moderate gun control. You know, they think January 6 was a bad thing. But, you know, the salience level is just really different for these voters. Their concerns are much more mundane, much more close to the Earth.

SIMON: But as someone who's given advice, what do you think Democrats should do?

TEIXEIRA: I'm not a political consultant, but I do have views on what the Democrats would be better off doing. I think they should move to the center on a variety of these sociocultural issues and turning crime, immigration. I think they should stop putting so much emphasis on race essentialism and gender ideology. They should speak more in terms of the country as a whole, the working-class as a whole, working people as a whole, that they're trying to lift up everybody and that, you know, America is fundamentally a great country. We're patriotic. We think we have tremendous potential. We don't think it's a racist country. We think we made tremendous progress, and we need to make much more. And I think that'll go some way toward rebranding the Democrats as being the party that's on the side of sort of ordinary working people.

SIMON: Political scientist Ruy Teixeira. Thank you so much for being with us.

TEIXEIRA: Sure.

(SOUNDBITE OF BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE'S "PACIFIC THEME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
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