NEWPORT — The prospects for Democrats in the 2022 midterm and 2024 presidential elections look increasingly bleak, but U.S. politics are never static, according to one well-known political observer.
Darrell M. West, vice president at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C., kicked off the annual Winter Speaker Series of the Newport Art Museum on Saturday with an overview of the country’s political affairs, as he's done for close to 20 years.
“Our politics 10 years from now are not going to be the same as they are right now,” West said during his Zoom presentation that normally is held in person. “As we move into the 2030s, we are going to see demographic change that is going to be quite profound.”
Racial and ethnic groups now referred to as a “minority” of the population will not remain so, he said.
“If you add up the number of African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos, by 2044, that group is going to be a majority in America,” West said. “Our politics are going to be very different then, I believe.”
“African Americans are the most liberal group in America,” West said. “Latinos are not as liberal — Republicans are trying break off Cuban Americans and other parts of the Latino vote — but Democrats have done pretty well with them and with Asian Americans as well.”
Someone like Donald Trump would not win in 2032, according to West.
“Republicans are in a strong position for the next decade, but they are in an increasingly weak position by 2030 and beyond,” he said. “By 2040, it reaches a point where unless they change their platform and election strategy, they face future problems. I’m actually pessimistic about the next decade, but I’m optimistic about the future of American democracy beyond that time period.”
What is the Brookings Institution and who is Darrell M. West?
Brookings describes itself as a nonpartisan research think tank with different points of view. At least one study found it to be the most frequently cited think tank by U.S. media and politicians.
A former Brown University professor, West is the author of 25 books, including more recently, Divided Politics, Divided Nation: Hyperconflict in the Trump Era. He has been concerned about developments in the Republican party, such as passing laws in many states that restrict access to voting and putting election oversight under positions that are partisan, he said Saturday.
“I do think the next 10 years are going to be very contentious, very conflict ridden, very chaotic,” West said. “There are a lot of things that could go seriously wrong.”
West said he understands viewpoints of Trump voters who feel bypassed by elites on the East and West coasts. He grew up on a dairy farm in Ohio and has two sisters who are passionate Trump supporters and a liberal brother who dislikes Trump, he told his audience.
What does the future hold for young America?
West was asked about the effects of “dark money” in elections — the unregulated millions of dollars from anonymous donors that go into political campaigns.
“If the argument is that there is great wealth in America and that wealth is having tremendous political and policy ramifications, the answer is clearly yes,” West said. “There is no doubt about that. Income inequality is at a 100-year high right now. Concentrated wealth tries to convert economic power into political power.”
“You can actually see that in public policy over the past 40 years,” he said. “We basically have had tax cuts that have advantaged wealthy individuals and corporations. Many of our social policies have disadvantaged the middle class across education, health care, transportation and buying a first home.”
“I came from a very working-class family,” West said. “Forty years ago, when I was starting my adult career, it was lot easier to make it and to better yourself than it is now. It is really hard for young people because they graduate college with high student debt, and health care costs them a lot. With inflation and rising interest rates, buying a home is going to become even more expensive.”
“We have to promote economic opportunity. I would like the younger generation to have the same opportunities that I had,” he said.
Will Joe Biden get re-elected in 2024?
West opened the event with a lecture, but spoke less than 25 minutes before he devoted almost an hour to taking questions from listeners.
Some asked West via the chat function on Zoom about Biden’s prospects for reelection, given current rising inflation, the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan and the ongoing difficulties posed by the pandemic.
If the election were held today, Biden would not be reelected, West said, but there will be unforeseen developments during the next three years.
He said it would become much more difficult for Biden if another Democrat decided to challenge him in the Democratic primaries, which could happen if Biden continues to have low approval ratings and is perceived to be a weak candidate by the electorate.
During the post-World War II years, sitting presidents have not been re-elected if they have a strong primary challenger, West said. Gerald Ford faced Ronald Reagan in 1976; Jimmy Carter squared off against Sen. Ted Kennedy in 1980; and George H. W. Bush met Pat Buchanan in 1992.
This article originally appeared on Newport Daily News: Political observer Darrell West says prospects for Democrats not good