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Espresso vs. Ratatouille: Two Parties in the Kitchen

John Peeler: While the Republicans’ hot gases under pressure are producing an ever-stronger right-wing essence, the Democrats are busy slicing and dicing diverse electoral delectables, hoping to combine them into a savory, long-lasting stew that will feed them for years to come.

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!—Harry Truman

Democrat Base

Espresso vs. Ratatouille: Two Parties in the Kitchen—John Peeler

  •  Espresso: a strong coffee prepared by forcing live steam under pressure through ground dark-roast coffee beans.
  • Ratatouille: a vegetable stew of Provence, typically consisting of eggplant, zucchini, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, and garlic, served hot or cold. Source: dictionary.reference.com

Downstairs from the feast of the presidential campaign, our two parties are busily cooking up two quite distinct recipes for their own futures. While the Republicans’ hot gases under pressure are producing an ever-stronger right-wing essence, the Democrats are busy slicing and dicing diverse electoral delectables, hoping to combine them into a savory, long-lasting stew that will feed them for years to come.

Democrats are busy slicing and dicing diverse electoral delectables, hoping to combine them into a savory, long-lasting stew that will feed them for years to come.

The Republicans, prisoners to the evangelical and Tea Party base that they have been cultivating for years, find themselves in a bidding war for how outrageously they can disrespect everyone who is not a native-born American white male (they do, however, welcome white women who stand by their men). Leading the charge is Donald Trump. To great applause from the base, Trump has called for building a wall on our southern border to keep out the brown rapists and murderers, and for blocking entry to all Muslims, on the grounds that you just never know when one of them will be a terrorist. Even though the lords and ladies upstairs keep ordering a balanced meal, all they’re getting from the base is strong espresso. It looks increasingly inevitable that they’ll have to swallow it.

The Democrats, on the other side of the kitchen, expect the demographic harvest to bring them a cornucopia of ingredients for a winning potage. They count on growth among precisely the parts of the population that the Republicans are rejecting, seasoned with defections by non-espresso Republicans. If they can put the ingredients together into an appetizing dish, they could wipe the floor with the GOP espresso, but it will take great culinary skill to pull it off.

African-Americans are the central ingredient. They’ve been voting reliably and heavily Democratic since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 guaranteed them the right to vote. Predictably, they’ve been Barack Obama’s most reliable supporters: they’ve had his back. But neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders can take that level of support for granted. Keeping black turnout high will be a key priority.

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Highly educated, urban whites (especially from both coasts) are also central to the Democrats. They have provided the drive for Bernie Sanders (though as many support Hillary Clinton). But while they support the rights of blacks and other minorities, these whites typically care even more strongly for cultural issues like gay rights, gun control, and separation of church and state, where their positions may not match those held by racial minorities.

Latinos are also important to the Democratic coalition, but they’re typically more culturally conservative than white Democrats, are often inner city rivals of African-Americans, and are divided by national origin (Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican are the most numerous). Cuban-Americans, in particular, have traditionally been conservative Republicans (both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are Cuban-Americans). That is less true of younger Cubans, but the Democrats still can’t count on them as they can with Puerto Ricans or Mexicans.

White women have increasingly tilted Democratic as the Republicans have become more patriarchal, but they may be put off by lingering patriarchy among elements of the Democratic coalition (e.g. Latinos, top-dog white men). There is also a great deal of variety among women’s political perspectives: married middle-aged women are likely to see the world very differently than young singles.

Senior citizens have been important to the Democrats, though white seniors have to some extent defected in the Obama era. This group could become more Democratic even as blacks see reduced turnout. Seniors tend to like the Democrats because the party supports Social Security and Medicare, but they typically don’t care as passionately about social programs for the younger, such as education, health care, and employment.

If the Democrats can manage to hold onto all these ingredients and blend them well, they’ll win. But if they forget or lose some significant portion, the Republicans could scoop them up, scones for their espresso.

john peeler

The winning chef will get the just desserts.

John Peeler

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