Is Massive Dem Fund Raising Lead a One-Off or Sign of Fundamental Change?

Source: Virginia Public Access Project

by James A. Bacon

The latest Virginia Public Access Project data for the 2019 electoral cycle shows a surge in campaign donations to Democratic Party candidates. The gap is dramatic — and unprecedented in recent Virginia politics. The big question: Are we seeing a fundamental realignment of politics parties and voting blocs in Virginia, or is this an aberration arising from an anti-Trump backlash that will recede when Trump retires (or is expelled from office)?

There is a growing body of thought that “Trumpism” will survive Trump, not because people are enamored with the president’s grating personality but because the underlying social/cultural conflicts that gave rise to Trump will endure. In this interpretation, to which I subscribe, Trumpism is a manifestation of the new class divide.

Democrats predominate among high-income Virginians who derive their wealth from the “new” economy that is supplanting the “old” money associated with more conservative political and cultural views. Democrats also predominate among the educated elite that increasingly dominates the state’s cultural institutions — media, universities, schools, museums, and the arts. This new intelligentsia champions the poor and oppressed in its rhetoric (although the consequences of elite-driven policies, as I have repeatedly shown, is often destructive to the poor). The new elite blames the greatest ills of society (racism, sexism, homophobia) on the benighted blue-collar and middle classes. Working- and middle-class Americans with traditional values react negatively and feel alienated. Not surprisingly, this demographic constitute Trump’s most loyal supporters

I have only just begun to explore this new paradigm for interpreting the political economy of Virginia and the United States. Perhaps I am making too much of short-term trends. That’s why I like to cast my propositions in the form of hypotheses to be confirmed or falsified by the data. If my interpretation is an accurate reflection of what is happening in Virginia, the Democratic Party fund-raising advantage in this electoral cycle is not a fluke. It will prove to be enduring. If I’m wrong, fund-raising will revert to the old equilibrium.

We’ll see.

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18 responses to “Is Massive Dem Fund Raising Lead a One-Off or Sign of Fundamental Change?

  1. I have more than a few problems with this analysis. First off, if memory serves, Hillary Clinton took Virginia. The overall election was extremely close with Hillary taking the popular vote. True, Trump prevailed among the lower, white middle class. But to imply that Trump triumphed by tailoring his campaign to widespread resentment isn’t true since the election was too close for that.
    Virginians by a significant margin did not like Trump in 2016 and do not like Trump today. By the way, he isn’t really a Republican (he was once a Democrat) and got the mantle of the GOP by a fluke.
    Virginia has steadily evolved into a blue state because outer suburbs of NOVA and suburbs such as Henrico and Chesterfield have shifted views as more people from other states and countries, attracted by job opportunity, have moved in. They do not now or really care about “how good it was” when the old conservatives were in charge. Their attractiveness died out years ago and am surprised that you are just discovery the fact. The newcomers bring with them the ideas more in tune with the greater nation that is far more sophisticated than the highly parochial Virginia of yesteryear.
    A few other points.

    Democrats also predominate among the educated elite that increasingly dominates the state’s cultural institutions — media, universities, schools, museums, and the arts.

    Huh? Let’s take the media. I haven’t seen any big changes in the media other than the oppressive downsizing of editing staffs. The Post is still center left and neocon on foreign issues. The Pilot and Roanoke papers are still centrist. The RTD is still conservative although not as stridently so as in the Ross Mackenzie era and thank God for that!

    Democrats predominate among high-income Virginians who derive their wealth from the “new” economy that is supplanting the “old” money associated with more conservative political and cultural views.

    There’s something gratingly condescending by describing today’s Democrats as “new money.” It implies that yesterday’s conservative were to-the-manor-born gentlemen who were well-bred. This sounds like it comes from one of those awful old school textbooks that claimed that slaves were happy to have their masters. I’ve been covering state politics since the 1970s and back in the day, actually very few of the prominent politicians could be described as being FFV. A lot were successful middle class types from small towns who pretended to be FFVs.

    The new elite blames the greatest ills of society (racism, sexism, homophobia) on the benighted blue-collar and middle classes.

    Where’s the evidence of this? True Clinton stumbled with her “basketful of deplorables” comment but that it is as far as it goes. Indeed, on some topics, such as stricter gun control, most polls show that a majority of Virginians are in favor.

    Remember, the Republican Party hasn’t won a statewide election since 2009. They will lose big in November. It has been part of a large, extended demographic trend. Trump’s incompetence, corruption and tawdry behavior have just drawn more attention to it,.

    • Peter –

      I think your analysis is pretty narrow. While I agree with many of your points I think you miss the big picture.

      The heightened rancor in American politics began with the liberals’ decent into madness with Bush Derangement Syndrome after the 2000 election. Before that, there were instances of blowback against politicians but not the “everything the politician does is stupid, wrong-headed, criminal, worthy of impeachment or traitorous”. Bush changed that. The contested election with the hanging chads, etc brought new venom to the American political process.

      Hilary Clinton absolutely reeks of the swamp. You can smell the swamp on her from 1000 yards away. From Slick Willy’s long line of female accusers (bimbo eruptions) to Monica to the Clinton Foundation to Hillary relocating to New York to become a Senator to the obvious attempt to coronate her by making her Secretary of State. The only candidate that Trump could have beaten in 2016 was Hillary Clinton. Had the Dems run Biden he’d be president now. Hell, Kaine could have probably won. Just not Hillary Clinton.

      Your comment basically says … Hillary won Virginia so why does Jim Bacon think things have changed? The right question isn’t about Hillary and the popular vote it’s why Trump got any measurable level of support.

      But now comes a political bomb cyclone. In a heated and rancorous political environment the sitting president is the most divisive politician of our age (even beyond pre-impeachment Nixon). Bush Derangement Syndrome has metastasized into Blood Eyed Trump Hatred. So the liberals are pouring money into Virginia to prove how much they hate Trump. But remember – the modern escalation in rancor began with Bush not Trump. Whoever is elected president in 2020 will not end the rancor. Another Trump term will inflame the left and the election of someone like Warren will send the right into outer space. Either way, Virginia’s off-brand, off-year elections will be exciting again in 2021. We’re also one the very few states where anybody with enough money can buy our politicians. The General Assembly is for sale and the left is buying.

      As far as ….

      “There’s something gratingly condescending by describing today’s Democrats as “new money.” It implies that yesterday’s conservative were to-the-manor-born gentlemen who were well-bred. This sounds like it comes from one of those awful old school textbooks that claimed that slaves were happy to have their masters. I’ve been covering state politics since the 1970s and back in the day, actually very few of the prominent politicians could be described as being FFV. A lot were successful middle class types from small towns who pretended to be FFVs.”

      Isn’t that the truth! There’s something about Richmond high society (and those who pretend to it) that is the antithesis of what Virginians like Jefferson, Washington, Madison and Monroe intended. The FFV with their ridiculous claims of lineage back to Pocahontas seem like the British royal family to me. Entitled by birth to something … some special status in Virginia … they attract fops and dandies from across Virginia to the royal court of Richmond where they skin the state alive for personal gain. They revere “Mr Jefferson” although he couldn’t be ideologically further away from the Richmond elite. Richmond was one of those cities described by Jefferson – “The mobs of great cities add just so much to support of pure government as sores do to the strength of the human body”

      The Richmond elite believes that they are the flag bearers for Virginia. In a way they are right – they represent the corpse of royalty lying on the ground under the foot of Virtue. Their crown will be lost this November and the chain in the left hand of the corpse which was meant to represent Britain now Represents the elite of Richmond.

      Goodbye and good riddance to the old guard in Virginia. Let’s hope the new guard is somewhat more tolerable.

  2. I hope Peter is sitting down, because I agree with a fair amount of that. A key point I would add is that most Americans were loath to vote for HRC from the start and the Dems should have chosen another candidate. She lost it more than Trump won it. They stand a good chance of repeating that mistake, leaving Trump with another opportunity to win with the electoral college while losing the popular vote again.

    But when Trump leaves, sooner or later, he leaves behind a splintered, angry, divided GOP, weakened by his legacy of hostility to immigration and his unrequited love for foreign bully boys. (Case in point, his handing Syria to Putin, his continued kissy kissy with North Korea) If there is something in his message or legacy that builds or broadens the party’s support, or will appeal to young voters in the next decade, I don’t see it. A Cult of Personality won’t build a movement, not unless the 2024 candidate is another Trump.

    The answer to the two questions posed in the headline is yes to both. Fundamental change, magnified by the blood in the water drawing sharks from the other 49 states.

    • Lord – I agree with both Peter and Steve…. Steve has it calibrated on the GOP versus Trumpism. The GOP grabbed hold of Trump when it was clear that Trump co-opted the blue-collar part of the GOP ( who stole it from the Dems).

      The “old” economy was manufacturing with jobs for workers who basically had a basic high school education and the company or union would train them for a job that would last a career.

      when that way of life went away those workers felt vulnerable and abandoned but I’d give them no points at all for understanding how the world works and how they need to take some personal responsibility in adapting to that changing world. Instead they just latched on to a George Wallace style demagoguery… that worked because the other side could not stand voting for Hillary.

      Is that a sustainable political force? How does that Demographic work in places like NoVa or Seattle or New York? Those folks have always been around – and they have never been more than 20-30% – that’s enough to tip elections in some places and, obviously enough to win the USA at the POTUS level.

      Is there going to be a groundswell avalanche in favor of Trump if the Dems nominate Elizabeth Warren? could be exciting!

    • An excellent simile.

    • “But when Trump leaves, sooner or later, he leaves behind a splintered, angry, divided GOP …”

      That’s the excuse of all Republican never Trumpers. The Republican Party was just fine and dandy until the Dems were stupid enough to nominate Hillary and the country responded by electing Trump. Balderdash. The Republican Party was shambolic long before Trump. Trump is a symptom not the disease.

      Put aside the Republican Party in Virginia. The Republican Party in Virginia has been a socialist, urban to rural wealth transfer machine for decades. It is a uniquely terrible organization. However, the national Republican Party is another matter. It died on February 19, 2009 when Rick Santelli fell into a televised rant on CNBC demanding that a “tea party” be formed to protect us from … presumably Obama’s policies. Conservatives piled on and the Republican Party became a fringe group with few if any clear policy directions other than abortion is bad. Even staunchly Republican areas like Henrico County, Va slipped into Democratic hands. You can’t blame that on northers moving into the county for to get Federal jobs Donald Trump.

  3. Thanks Steve. Now we have the G7 at a Trump Florida resort badly losing money. Mind boggling. It would be better for the GOP if it can rebuild

  4. Jim, I think you are right on target overall. You say it’s “new economy” money and then you mention the “educated elite” — I would reverse those; I think a lot of it is education: a preference for educated people, having incomes that come with education, comfort with the urban environment where the educated work and live, demanding to educate their children in schools they insist be better than average. The new economy money is a byproduct, a symptom more than a cause.

    My grown children view the GOP as an organization of uneducated sloganeers mindlessly following a pied piper who insults them to their face. They will indulge a Trumper the same way as they interact with Beverly Hillbilly types hanging out at a rural crossroads store: oddities all, inexplicable rationally so it must be ignorance, to be indulged politely when necessary to deal with them, but kept at arms length, if not scorned, as economic and cultural (and generational) casualties. It’s all very well to remind them that there are folks at the other end of the political spectrum just as ‘out of touch’ — but their choice is clear judging simply by their choice of friends and jobs and lifestyle. Elitism? They couldn’t fathom how Trump won the last election.

  5. Done it many times myself. Finally learned this trick: within the five minutes allowed for editing, click to edit just the duplicate post, then delete it entirely in the edit box, then “save” the blank edit box. This will remove the duplicate but leave the first post.

  6. Acbar, “as ‘out of touch’, you just perfectly described the “new educated elite,” who many would also describe as ill educated, arrogant, and parochial.

  7. Being a Republican in Virginia is like being a Washington Redskins fan. You’re old enough to remember the glory days when Republicans really believed in small government and John Riggens was in the backfield. But the new “ownership” of both franchises has ushered in a grossly incompetent management team and consistently horrible results. It gets harder and harder to live in the past – but what can you do? You spend your sports viewing time on the Capitals or the Nationals or the University of Virginia Cavaliers instead of the Redskins. In the same vein, you stop caring about Virginia elections. The existing management team can’t win. You don’t become a Democrat (for God’s sake) any more than you become a Philadelphia Eagles fan. You stop caring, you stop going to Redskins games, you stop contributing to Republican candidates, etc.

    The RPV is dead.

  8. Sorry for the previous double posting. Hope this shortened version will make my point better …
    “There is a growing body of thought that “Trumpism” will survive Trump, not because people are enamored with the president’s grating personality but because the underlying social/cultural conflicts that gave rise to Trump will endure.”

    Thank you, Peter, for a knowledgeable description of VA politics. As a Damn Yankee though I think there is another reason for the underlying conflicts that gave rise to Trump. That reason is the nature/structure of capitalism as it has developed in the US. To some 2016 voters, “Drain the Swamp” meant taking back our Democracy from the power of corporations. The ‘radical left’ is making the same argument.

    We all know lobbyists have become so active with legislatures that they have actually written regulations for both the federal and state governments. This outsized influence has happened over decades and was partly a response to the environmental actions of the 70’s. Bipartisan votes that established the EPA, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the First Earth Day. Those laws were written during the Nixon administration in response to events like the spectacle of the Cuyahoga River burning.

    Here is one of the latest “update” to regs from Trump’s EPA … it lowers the measurement of lead contamination in water that require utilities to replace old lead pipes, pipes that serve an estimated 15-22 million people. The eased requirement endangers the brains of those people, especially any children among them because lead is a known neurotoxin. This issue is not a new “Flint” problem. Lead was a known problem in the drinking water near Temple Univ. 30 years ago.

    So from a burning river to a ‘take your time’ posture the result is our corporate run capitalism. A comparison with Germany’s approach to the coal industry shows the US has missed an opportunity. Germany developed a long-term plan for the Ruhr Valley’s coal industry with pretty good results. WVA elected a coal baron as Governor who actually owes million in tax payments, hoping to ‘bring back coal’.
    (See https://southerlymag.org/2019/10/16/appalachia-is-transitioning-from-coal-heres-what-it-could-learn-from-germany/ )

    Long-term planning is missing here. Wrongly incentivized tax and bankruptcy policy allows companies to avoid environmental and pension/healthcare benefits. One example; the workers who cleaned up the TVA coal pit flood disaster are now all fighting for compensation for their illnesses acquired because they did the cleanup without appropriate protective clothing.

    Corporate obligations have been thrown out the window. This is not socialism, it’s corruption. I believe a large part of the discontent discussed in our politics. The discontent that gave us Trump is actually about the corporate money that has transformed our governments’ purpose into the protection of profit, not the welfare of citizens. It has left many feeling powerless.

    • Fair points. Until you take the special interest money out of federal, state and local politics the United States will be a corrupt disaster. Of course the corporations get away with murder. When government is for sale to the highest bidder the highest bidders win. And don’t fool yourself about it all being about Trump. Hillary sold out America’s uranium industry to the Russians and Obama lied through his teeth about Obamacare. If Elizabeth Warren is elected her “wealth tax” will be an exercise in special interest lobbying. Let me guess – “Family farms” won’t count, investments that can somehow be associated with social good won’t count, lots of things won’t count.

  9. Don the Ripper. I hear you, but understand I am not a Clinton kind of Guy. I do not like Hillary and her speaking grates on me. Bill was a huge disappointment. The Dems badly need to get away from them.

    • No kidding. Now Tulsi Gabbard is a Russian agent according to Criminillary? Really? I thought Trump was the Russian agent. Or was it Bernie who honeymooned there that’s the Russian agent? Hillary is starting to look and sound like Joseph McCarthy in drag.

      Jeez – Gabbard is one of the few Dem candidates I’d consider voting for.

  10. Nor was I a Hillary supporter. I actually worked for Obama in Loudoun in the 2008 VA primary. We liked to think we turned the state, and the country, to Obama. And what the DNC did to Bernie in 16 was just plain cheating. Especially since what I am saying is that the Left Dems, and young Dems, have some things in common with the Right who unfortunately took Trump at his word that he would “drain the Swamp”.

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