Ruy Teixeira on a Progressive America

How have American demographic and geographic trends changed in the past 20 years?

There are a variety of ways in which America has changed demographically and geographically in the last 20 years that have sent things in a more progressive direction. One of the biggest changes is the decline of the white working class, which is the most conservative element of the population, really. According to exit poll data, the percent of white working class voters is down 15 points in the last 20 years, whereas minority voters who lean pretty heavily progressive are up 11 points, and white collar graduates who have been shifting progressive rapidly in the last couple of decades, they’re up four points. So that’s a big change. Other changes that are important are the professionals, which is a growing occupational group, have shifted pretty heavily toward progressives. Single women, another growing group that has shifted toward progressives, and of course there’s this burgeoning millennial generation, which is adding about 4 million people to the eligible voter pool every year. These are people born after 1978. They’re very heavily progressive, as we saw in the last election. They voted 66 to 32 for Barack Obama. So those are just some of the changes that, in a demographic sense, are making the country much more progressive.

Why has the United States become more progressive?

There are a lot of demographic trends that are reducing the influence of less progressive groups in the population and increasing the rate of more progressive groups. But it’s not just all about demographics. A lot of it’s about how this sort of conservative world view and policies have really become discredited by what’s happened in the past period of time, particularly of course in the last eight years. The American public, the American voters, are just becoming increasingly convinced that you can’t really solve America’s problems just by turning in everything into the free market; that, in fact, there are problems that only government can make a difference in terms of solving those problems. So, as compared to the Reagan era, when government was viewed as the problem, not as the solution, we now are moving into an era where increasingly, government is viewed as the potential solution for a lot of our problems. Back in the 80s, the Reaganites and the Thatcherites said there is no alternative to the free market. They called it TINA. Well, there’s a new TINA today, and that’s that sometimes there’s no alternative to the government if you want to deal with problems the country faces and the need to sort of make the economy work so that it sort of broadly benefits most people. I think people are increasingly coming to see that as something that only government can address.

What do these trends say about what we should expect in the next twenty years?

It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future, but if we look at these demographic trends and how they’re unfolding, you don’t see very much that actually strengthens the conservatives’ case or the conservatives’ prospects. Pretty much all the demographic trends are going to continue moving in progressive directions for the next 20 years. Just as one obvious example, we’re going to become an increasingly diverse society over time. By the year 2023, the majority of children will be minorities, people under eighteen. By the year 2042, we’ll be a majority minority nation. So these things are just going to continue apace. The white working class, which is as I mentioned is the most culturally conservative, generally conservative element of the population, we’re going to see their numbers continue to decline, their rate of the population continue to decrease. We’re going to see continuing increases in the proportion of single women; we’re going to see even the millennial generation, as I mentioned earlier, adding about 4 million eligible voters to the voter pool every year until the year 2018. So I think if you put these things together, as well as with, hopefully, successes progressives will have in governance, in actually making the country a better place, I think you put those two things together and at least the potential is there for a durable and pretty strong progressive majority looking pretty far out into the future.