August 13, 2021 - 3:15pm

David Shor is not afraid to say the unsayable. As a Democratic party strategist, this trait has at times got him into trouble; last year, he was fired from his job at a progressive think tank for tweeting out a study that showed that nonviolent demonstrations were more effective than riots at pushing voter behaviour in a Leftward direction in 1968. 

But this has not stopped him from trying to deliver home truths to Democrats. For the past two years, he has made the case that the Party has lost touch with its working class base, and its relentless focus on identity issues has alienated moderate support. This is a near-heretical position to take in today’s Democratic circles, particularly from a self-described Leftist.

In his interview with UnHerd, Shor goes further, arguing that the Democrat Party has become hijacked by white liberal college-educated activists whose interests and beliefs represent a tiny fraction of the country as a whole:

College educated people have taken over the branding and issue prioritisation of the Democratic Party, at the expense of working class white people who were in the party and working class non-white people who are in the party, and that’s driving people away. That’s really dangerous. Because in the Democratic Party, if you don’t have non-white conservatives, and you’re just a party of educated, white liberals, that gets you to 25%-30% of the vote.
- David Shor, UnHerd

On liberal overrepresentation in politics:

White people with a college degree who are under the age of 34 are less than 5% of the electorate, but they are literally a majority of people who work in politics…so I think it’s very easy for us to develop an inflated sense of how progressive the electorate is or how much people share our values. 
- David Shor, UnHerd

Democrats need to rediscover plain speaking:

If you look at how Bill Clinton or how Barack Obama talked, they spoke very differently compared to Democratic politicians. They use smaller words; they talked about different topics. We should go back to that. Because at the end of the day, the median voter is a 50-year-old without a college degree. And that means that every time you open your mouth, you should say, ‘is this something that a 50-year-old without a college degree will find compelling? Is it something that they’ll understand?’ And if not, you shouldn’t say it.
- David Shor, UnHerd

Why persuasion has become a dirty word:

For a lot of the Democratic Party, persuasion has become a dirty word…But the reality of the numbers is if you go and you ask a series of issue-questions on things like abortion, or taxes or whatever, only about 15% of the population agrees down the line with Democrats on every issue. The vast majority of people who vote for Democrats hold at least one major conservative policy position, whether it’s on taxes, whether it’s on social issues…It’s essential that we reverse education, polarisation, and win back a lot of these Obama-Trump voters who have turned against the party.
- David Shor, UnHerd

On ‘Defund the Police’:

What’s funny about defund the police is that almost every black elected official in the country did not support defunding the police because younger African Americans and especially Hispanics do not support defunding the police. But it still went up to the highest levels of journalism and advocacy discourse, because it was something that young, very affluent, white Leftists liked. And I think that’s cultural imperialism. We can’t let 1% of the population dictate what one of the major parties in the US thinks.
- David Shor, UnHerd

Why he wants Biden 2024:

That’s my personal hope. And I think that is the personal hope of everyone I know who works professionally in politics. Whether that’s possible is something we’ll have to see… If you look at Joe Biden, he’s an example of the old Left tradition that you want, but it’s not clear who will replace him.
- David Shor, UnHerd

On the urban-rural divide:

If you’re in a situation where 5% of the electorate has a college degree, trying to split on educational lines is a bad idea. Democrats tried it in 1972, and we got annihilated…What’s changed today is that as the country and as the world has become more educated, we’re now at a point where you can win a Democratic Primary, you can win a Mayoral race in London or New York campaigning on on cosmopolitan values. But we’re not yet at the point where something like that can win a national election.
- David Shor, UnHerd

Why it’s difficult for liberals to attract moderate support:

Our values are actually strange and foreign to swing voters. If they shared our values, they wouldn’t be swing voters — they would be liberals. So the only reason people ever supported us is because we talked about non-polarising issues that appealed to normal people who didn’t share the commitments to solidarity and egalitarianism that activists had. We’ve lost that thread and…that’s turning a lot of people off.
- David Shor, UnHerd

On the failure of the British centre-Left:

If you look at the last British election result and add up Labour, Greens, Lib Dems, they added up to something like 50.9% of the vote, but they would have only gotten a sizeable minority of the seats. And so this is the really doom thing about the British centre-Left. It’s actually very similar to the American centre-Left, which is that even if all of these parties could magically cooperate with each other, they still would not be in a position to win a majority of the seats, even if they got a majority of the votes.
- David Shor, UnHerd