by UnHerd
Friday, 13
August 2021
Video
15:15

David Shor: College liberals have hijacked the Democratic party

Freddie Sayers spoke to the political strategist about the failings of the Left
by UnHerd


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

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Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago

The Democrat party is viciously insane. Republicans aren’t great either, but they don’t scare me as much as the Democrat party does. I voted for Trump during the last election because I’d rather vote for a man half of America hates than for a party that hates me.

Zaph Mann
Zaph Mann
11 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Hyperbole. There is clearly a range of people in both parties with all the traits from good to bad depending upon your perspective.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
11 months ago
Reply to  Zaph Mann

Well.. we all know that but it’s the small % movements that make all the difference isn’t it? It is so easy to turn off the stupid that the Dems have to be ultra careful in everything they say! Such voters will swing on a single phrase ignoring the 99.9% of issues that really matter! It’s a bit liike the Woke brigade: one slip and you’re cancelled!

Last edited 11 months ago by Liam O'Mahony
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago

Biden in 24? He’s scarcely with us today!

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

They plan on getting the taxidermist Pelosi uses, for the Biden 2024 run.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Which Pelosi has had Nancy stuffed ? Shame on them

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago

Why do Democrats continue to refer to themselves as Liberal? It is driving me mental.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

Liberal means anything goes, right and wrong are now correct and incorrect; it is relative morality, situational ethics, it is refutation of Conservative values as Liberalism denies any ultimate good and evil. It all must be seen in context to judge, and context is only valid if an enlightened person determines the situation’s merits.

See, it is cool, truth is only true if it is seen through enlightenment of Liberalism. A self fulfilling tautology. It does not mean the Democrats are Correct, it means everyone else is wrong. It is exhausting trying to see into their minds.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
11 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Liberal surely implies open minded while illiberal suggests a closed mind. If voters want their politicians to think and act in a black and white way (I don’t mean race of course) then it’s a poor lookout for all of us I think. Life is complicated: there is much in the grey: solutions have to be nuanced.. but that is now unpopular? OMG it’s “build the wall” and “lock her up” and “get Brexit done” now? Tunnel vision? Sounds like fascism to me!

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago

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.

Oh dear, not this again.
This apparently assumes people followed their inclinations and voted for who they want with no regard for the electoral system.
That is an absolute rookie error.
In a safe seat for Party A, where they regularly get 40,000 votes out of 65,000, there is no point voting for anyone. If you vote for A they’ll win with or without your vote, and if you vote for B, C or D they’ll lose likewise. This is part of why turnout is usually so low; most seats are foregone conclusions and your vote makes no difference.
In others you vote not for someone, but against someone else, i..e for the party best places to defeat them.
It is is therefore impossible to infer levels of support from this kind of figure. A chunk of the 50.9% actually supports the Conservatives and a chunk of the Conservatives’ vote supports someone else. On the day they don’t waste their vote if they can avoid it.
To suggest that the way the votes are counted does not affect how they are cast is to argue that there is not, and never has been, any tactical voting in UK elections, which is manifestly silly.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

e.g. I voted Labour at the last election cos it was only viable alternative to SNP in my electorate.
As opposed to , say, a referendum, where every vote counts, wherever in the country.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
11 months ago

Yep, I loathe Labour as fundamentally evil, but I have voted Labour to help keep a Liberal seat marginal. That way both Labour and LibDems waste money fighting each other and have fewer resources to fight Lib/Con and Lab/Con marginals, i.e. on the important outcome.
In a seat where your preferred candidate is a distant third, the least-ineffective way to cast your vote is for the party that came second.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

Great interview, Unherd.
If I understood what David Shor was suggesting, the Democratic party should shift its narrative, publicly focus on consensus issues such as stimulating the economy and increasing access to health care but downplay the more divisive ‘progressive’ issues.
But the goal remains the same: to advance the progressive agenda but this time by hiding their main goal behind some feel-good policies. One day the socially conservative swing voters will wake up and discover they’ve been hoodwinked by this ruse. I’m not sure that’s a strategy for long-term success.

cicavilhena
cicavilhena
11 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I agree. He doesn´t hide the view that different opinions have to be “tolerated” because this is waht democracy demands, while goodness is intrinsic to Democratic values.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
11 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

You’re 100% correct in your first statement but woefully naive on you conclusion. US voters en masse are the stupidest things on the planet. You really can fool most of the people all of the time! Politicians have been doing it since Adam chaired the garden committee!

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

Cool interview, sort of like listening to the scorpion strategist explaining how they have to stop pushing the scorpion image, and come on much more mainstream, if they are going to destroy the frogs in the next election. How they can mask the grinning skull so it looks nicer by staying distant from what they actually believe, and just talk of economics, infrastructure, education, and such universal things, in generic formats…..

(pardon my hyperbole, I am sliding into the character he claims I am, see below)

22:30 on the video timeline, now that is a bit worth re-running, to see what he really stands for, and what he thinks of anyone who does not vote Democrat. This line is just about generic mainstream Republican voters, essentially swing voters, not fringe Right.
“we have to placate these people who, you know, hold terrible views, but that is what democracy is… The only alternative to that is losing, and letting Authoritarian Fa* ciS ts run the country.”

Cool. And I liked the bit where Freddy asks him “How can WE win them back…?” in reference to the minority voters going conservative.

Very much an interview where the character attempts to make himself so reasonable that one is disarmed by his niceness and reasonableness…. but looking you can see the man behind the curtain, and he is not the one being presented.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
11 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I think you missed the point! He said stop talking about the issues that are irrelevant to most voters (and appeal only to the ‘elite’ members) and talk instead about the bread and butter issues. That’s a change of emphasis; not even a change of policy let alone a deception as you seem to be suggesting. He said Dems fall into traps set by Reps on elitist cultural issues. The response needs to be “The American people aren’t interested in those issues: what the voters want us to address are….” : not rocket science is it?

Elizabeth Dichter
Elizabeth Dichter
11 months ago

While Schor makes excellent observations about the Democrats and their dilemma in needing to be more relevant to the majority of voters, he oozes contempt for the non-left, using words like “retrograde”, “racist”, to describe the Democratic opposition. It is going to be hard to hoodwink the average voter to support Dems by just using “small words” as he suggests. A realignment of elite Dems to better reflect the values of the majority of voters in the US should be genuine, not just window dressing.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
11 months ago

All us educated liberals loathe those types!

Joe Donovan
Joe Donovan
11 months ago

“We’ve lost the thread.” You mean like the White House banning the use of the word “mother” in favor of “birthing person?” Ah, true dat.

GA Woolley
GA Woolley
11 months ago

So the only aim is to get elected, and the way to do that is to use small words, and not mention those policies which ordinary people would find objectionable? How about listening, rather than telling? How about promoting policies which ordinary people would find ‘compelling’, rather than sneaking your ideology in by the back door? Has it never occurred to Shor that his certainties are the problem? Doubt is the engine of social progress, but it’s the one thing that today’s ‘progressives’ won’t entertain.

Stephen Rose
Stephen Rose
1 year ago

Didn’t David Shor say that the attitude of the college educated Liberals in the Democrat party was essentially Imperialist! Where is this egalitarianism he speaks of, if it exists there is no humility in it. It is cooking the numbers saying some palatable things, so as to gain power, despise the electorate and get your feet under the desk. Then run the pet projects, that end in abject failure.
This isn’t progressive, it is the old noblisse obilge of the traditional governing class without the tailoring.

Troy MacKenzie
Troy MacKenzie
11 months ago

Funny, he’s worried about giving power to authoritarian fascists. Who is strong-arming people into getting an emergency use vaccine against their will?(I’m vaccinated) Who has instituted loyalty tests in the US military? Who has been holding rioters without trial for the last eight months? Who is colluding with big tech to stifle dissent? I think we know who the authoritarians are.

RALPH TIFFIN
RALPH TIFFIN
11 months ago

An interesting interview and no doubt much truth in it. BUT what sort of education do the turbo(I think that word was used) educated have? Social science subjects and the likes of PPE in this country. Whatever the subjects many of the educated seem to live in their own comfortable worlds.

Joe Donovan
Joe Donovan
11 months ago

Great interview. “The Kid” is super articulate.

John Barclay
John Barclay
11 months ago

Retrograde views? That’s quite arrogant.
I’d argue that the “liberal” mindset is like brutalist architecture: Yesterday’s vision of the future. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now we’ve lived with it for a while, we can see that old buildings are better, despite the extra maintenance problems.

Mike Robinson
Mike Robinson
11 months ago

After listening to this I’m so relieved I’m not ‘progressive’!

Steve Bouchard
Steve Bouchard
11 months ago

Interesting perspective. I have some questions I wish I could have asked but maybe someone can answer. What did David mean when he said that liberals will vote with their feet and vote Republican and “given the nature of the Republican Party, that’s very dangerous” Whats the nature of the party and why is it dangerous? Also he said Biden passed bills “which were very popular”. What bills is he talking about and who were they popular with?

Oliver Elphick
Oliver Elphick
11 months ago
Reply to  Steve Bouchard

It’s dangerous because it opposes the liberals, I think.

Zaph Mann
Zaph Mann
11 months ago

The comments btl here often reflect the extreme or activist view – primarily of the right. One would have thought that a ‘democrat’ advocating against policies and verbiage of extreme left views would gather some support, but no, the usual zero-tolerance is on display. There really isn’t room for people like myself (or probably Freddie Sayers) who support ‘progressive’ social/economic policy (clear air/water, affordable education/healthcare/transport, infrastructure etc…) but have reservations or full disagreement over many aspects of identity/rights etc along with libertarian appreciation of limited intrusion of government.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
11 months ago

Wow: if David Shor is right we liberal educated left-leaning intellectuals are up the creek!

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
11 months ago

The UK Left parties only get 50.9% of the vote because of the foreign born majority, student activist, middle class meteopolitanism of the cities. You have hive minded people in numbers crammed into small spaces. Everywhere outside of the cities is far more conservative that’s why the conservatives win more seats. And the fact is 50.9 is still only a marginal majority made up of multiple (and often squabbling) factions. It used to be that the LibDems would not have been happy being lumped in with the leftists – that says something about the takeover of woke leftist globalists in that party – they learned the wrong lessons from their electoral trouncing. Saying all that, the rise of the SNP and Scottish rejection of Labour has also been a major factor.

Last edited 11 months ago by Cheryl Jones