2016 has been a year of great political change. Like Richard Nixon’s election in 1968, the 2015 election will go down in history as a political realignment. It marks the beginning of Republicans as a white working-class party that can win in the Rust Belt. The failure of any ideological conservative to win the nomination in the face of Donald Trump’s populist-nationalism marks a major shift in the party’s appeal. The new electoral majority of Mr. Trump suggests that the Republicans may never again nominate a traditional conservative for president.
Less talked about, however, are the implications of Hillary Clinton’s failed candidacy. I suspect that the Democrats will never again field a white presidential candidate.
Since the 1960s, the Democratic Party has pursued policies and taken positions that appeal to non-whites. This strategy has been successful; non-whites tend to vote as a bloc for Democrats. Except in local races, however, it is mainly white politicians who have practiced non-white identity politics. Not unlike the populares of ancient Rome, who went outside their class to champion plebian interests to secure power, white Democrats have won at the ballot box by appealing to non-whites. But the day of the white Democratic politician may be coming to an end.
As non-whites increase in numbers, the tone of black-brown identity politics has shifted from explicitly pro-non-white to implicitly anti-white. This has made it harder to appeal to whites. However, until the Trump candidacy, the Republicans did little since 1968 to capitalize on the Democrat’s lack of appeal to white voters.
Ever since Mr. Trump won the Republican nomination, there has been a lot of handwringing about the GOP’s appeal to whites. The Washington Post accused the GOP of becoming a “pity party for white males.” The Huffington Post titled an article, “So Long, Grand Old Party; Hello, White People’s Party,” and Rolling Stone called the Republicans the “party of white paranoia.” However, little fuss is being made over the increasing reality of the Democratic Party as a coalition of non-white and even anti-white factions. And as white voters defect, white politicians may also.
White Democratic politicians in the Age of Obama more or less have to forsake whites in order to win non-white votes. As noted in this article, Hillary Clinton’s campaign was one of blatant pandering. All the potential Democratic nominees found themselves forced to condemn the slogan “all lives matter.” Such spectacles made them seem sensitive to non-whites in a way that disgusted many whites.
Non-whites vote overwhelmingly Democrat whether or not they are excited about the candidate. However, as the Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigns suggest, the black-brown base seems less enthusiastic about a white candidate.
According to CNN exit polls, Mr. Obama won 93 percent of the black vote and 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012, while Mrs. Clinton won only 88 percent and 65 percent, respectively. Also, low black turnout in three key cities—Milwaukee, Detroit, and Philadelphia—was partly responsible for Mr. Trump’s victory in all three of their respective states. Mrs. Clinton could have won the election if as many blacks and Hispanics had voted for her as for Mr. Obama.
It seems likely that a black or Hispanic Democratic candidate can motivate Democratic voters in a way that white candidates cannot. Black and brown voters saw Mr. Obama as one of them. A white politician can appeal to non-whites with words and policies, but a non-white politician plays identity politics without even opening his mouth.
But doesn’t the Democratic Party run the risk of alienating so many whites voters that even massive non-white support will not be enough to win the presidency? As Mr. Obama has shown, liberal whites will vote for non-whites. A large part of the white electorate still thinks it is especially virtuous to vote for a non-white. Furthermore, even if they become uneasy about the increasingly anti-white Democratic message, they will have no other place to go for the “progressive” policies they support. They will do what white Republican voters used to do: vote for a party that does not care about them—only because they have no alternative.
My guess is that the lesson the Democratic Party has quietly learned from 2016 is that they can no longer successfully run white presidential candidates. Just as we are unlikely ever to see another conservative ideologue at the head of the Republican ticket, we may never see another white Democratic candidate for president.