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New York’s Lesson for Democrats

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The Pew Research Center, which does some of the country’s best polls, classifies all Americans as being in one of nine different political groups. The categories range from “core conservatives” on the right to “solid liberals” on the left, with a mix of more complicated groups in the middle.

I have been thinking about Pew’s classifications recently, because they shed light on one of the Democratic Party’s biggest challenges. They also help explain the mayoral results in New York City.

Among Pew’s nine groups, the group that’s furthest to the left — solid liberals — made up 19 percent of registered voters in 2017 (when Pew last did a full update of its categories). These voters have the views you would expect: strongly in favor of abortion access, affirmative action, immigration, business regulation, a generous social safety net and higher taxes on the rich.

And who are these solid liberals? They are disproportionately college graduates with above-average incomes. They are also heavily white.

Solid liberals are not as white as most Republican-leaning groups in Pew’s classification system, but they are less racially diverse than the more moderate Democratic-leaning groups. Solid liberals are also the most educated of the nine groups, and they are essentially tied with core conservatives as the highest-income group.

Much of the recent political energy in the Democratic Party has come from solid liberals. They are active on social media and in protest movements like the anti-Trump resistance. They played major roles in the presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as the rise of “The Squad,” the six proudly progressive House members who include Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

All six of those House members, notably, are people of color, as are many prominent progressive activists. That has fed a perception among some Democrats that the party’s left flank is disproportionately Black, Hispanic and Asian American.

But the opposite is true, as the Pew data makes clear.

Black, Hispanic and Asian American voters are to the right of white Democrats on many issues. Many voters of color are skeptical of immigration and free trade. They favor border security, as well as some abortion restrictions. They are worried about crime and oppose cuts to police funding. They are religious.

Just consider the name that Pew chose for the most conservative of the nine classifications that still leans Democratic: Devout and Diverse.

One way to make sense of these patterns is to focus on social class. Many professionals, with college degrees and above-average incomes, have political views that skew either strongly right or strongly left, largely lining up with one of the two parties’ agendas. Many working-class voters have mixed views.

In recent years, working-class voters — across races — have grown uncomfortable with some of the progressivism of the Democratic Party. The white working class’s move away from the party is a familiar story by now, and it’s one that certainly involves racism, as Donald Trump’s appeals to white identity made obvious. Yet the shift is not only about racism.

If there were any doubt about that, the 2020 election — when voters of color shifted right — should have cleared it up. And last week’s New York mayoral election has become the latest piece of evidence, as my colleague Katie Glueck has explained.

Eric Adams ran a campaign with decidedly conservative themes. He ran as both a Black man who had endured racism and a former police officer who would protect the city. “How dare those with their philosophical and intellectual theorizing and their classroom mind-set talking about the ‘theory of policing’?” he said in his election night speech. “You don’t know this. I know this. I’m going to keep my city safe.”

The more progressive candidates, like Kathryn Garcia and Maya Wiley, have done well in upscale Manhattan neighborhoods. Adams leads in all four other boroughs.

“The median Black voter is not A.O.C. and is actually closer to Eric Adams,” Hakeem Jefferson, a Stanford University political scientist, told my colleague Lisa Lerer. “What makes more sense for people who are often distrustful of broad political claims is something that’s more in the middle.”

To win elections and hold national power, the Democratic Party does not merely need to win a majority of the vote. Because of gerrymandering, the Electoral College and the structure of the Senate, Democrats have to win a few points more than 50 percent. That’s not easy. And it requires appealing to working-class voters across racial groups.

The good news for the party is that public-opinion data shows a clear majority of Americans lean left on economic issues and are much more moderate on social issues than many Republicans.

The bad news for the Democratic Party is that this national majority is not as liberal as many high-profile Democratic activists and politicians. It isn’t clear whether those activists and politicians are willing to moderate their positions to win more elections.

For more: New York election officials are releasing ranked-choice results today from the mayor’s race, probably showing whether Adams, Wiley or Garcia won.

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Lusia “Lucy” Harris was a dominant force in basketball in the 1970s, before women had good professional opportunities in the sport. She is the subject of an Op-Doc by the filmmaker Ben Proudfoot.

In 1897, invading British soldiers stole thousands of artifacts from the Kingdom of Benin, today part of Nigeria. In Britain, the events are known as the Punitive Expedition. In Nigeria, they are known as the Benin Massacre, because of the residents whom British forces killed.

Activists, historians and royals in Nigeria have called for the return of the art, but museums resisted, arguing that their global collections served “the people of every nation.”

As Europe confronts its colonial history, though, some institutions are changing their position. Germany has said it will return a substantial number of Benin Bronzes (as the items are known) next year, and the National Museum of Ireland plans to return 21 objects. The works will probably go to a new museum in Benin City, scheduled for completion in 2026.

For many Nigerians, the partial return doesn’t go far enough. The looted objects “form part of the bedrock of the identity, culture and history of Benin,” Ruth Maclean and Alex Marshall write in The Times. — Claire Moses, a Morning writer


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