Democrats are the party of teachers’ unions, whose interest in school closures has clashed with that of working parents throughout the Covid-19 crisis. They are the party that backs the teaching of contentious race dogmas (sometimes called critical race theory, whether rightly or wrongly) to impressionable children. And they are the party that has overhauled or abolished competitive public school examinations in New York City, San Francisco, Boston and Northern Virginia because of the racial composition (usually disproportionately Asian) of the resulting student bodies.
These issues are especially salient because they concern the heart of Democrats’ public philosophy. Roughly since the killing of George Floyd in May 2020, Democrats have been telling a story about the country that focuses way too much on race and way too much on Donald Trump.
The various iterations of the voting-rights bill known as the For the People Act are a case in point. Holding the presidency, both houses of Congress and the most influential parts of the media, Democrats have monopolized the political argument for a year now. If there were a solid case that the bill really was an emergency project to protect democracy, rather than the partisan wish list that its opponents claimed, it would have triumphed by now.
When Mr. Biden told an Atlanta crowd this month that those who opposed this bill were on the same side as Alabama’s segregationist Governor George Wallace and the Confederacy’s President Jefferson Davis, he was arguably combining the condescension of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 “deplorables” remark with a kind of anti-white race-baiting. That is electorally dangerous. Democrats lost white non-college-educated voters by 25 points in the last election, and there is no guarantee that the margin will not get wider.
But this may not even be the party’s biggest miscalculation when it comes to demographics. Minorities do not seem to like the Democrats’ racialized approach any more than whites do. The political scientist Ruy Teixeira, who has written extensively about Hispanic abandonment of Democrats, notes that 84 percent of nonwhites support the photo-ID requirements for voting that the Democrats’ voting-rights reforms would ban. In a hypothetical rematch of the 2020 election, a recent Wall Street Journal poll found that Mr. Biden would beat Mr. Trump among Hispanics — but only by a point (44-to-43), not by the nearly 30-point margin he enjoyed back then.
This is not the triumph for false consciousness that it might appear to disappointed activists. Democrats have been led astray by their Trump obsession. They have misunderstood what the former president represented to voting Americans. Mr. Trump tapped into smoldering grievances against various information-economy elites and managers. There is no reason that ethnic-minority voters wouldn’t share some of those grievances.
Voters of any background might, for instance, be appalled by Mr. Trump’s whipping up of his followers on Jan. 6, 2021. But they might consider the intervention of info-tech billionaires in the 2020 election to be a larger potential threat to our democracy. Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan gave upward of $400 million to the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life to help local governments organize elections under Covid-19 conditions. Their gift roughly equaled the amount of federal funding designated for that purpose in the 2020 CARES Act. It is hard to imagine that anyone worried about the role of private wealth in prisons or military logistics or public schools would welcome such a role in elections.