What is the base?
The term “base” is often used in politics without much explanation. It’s clear that it means the most diehard supporters and those who can be relied on to vote for a party’s candidate, but who exactly is the base of each party and how is that changing?
For the Democrats their base can be defined as those voters who can be counted on to vote for them. Often candidates will declare positions and ideas during the primaries that are more to the fringe and then moderate or broaden somewhat during the general election, as their base during the primary often includes more politically active individuals and special interest groups, while the voting coalition during the general election may include large donors and more moderate voters who value stability and more mainstream positions.
The Democratic base has changed quite a lot over the years. The main change is that the Democrats have increasingly won support among racially diverse urban centers and lost support in rural areas in the country. Black Americans are by far the most reliable part of the Democratic base, which also includes large majorities of LGBT Americans and Jewish Americans.- Advertisement -
The other more ideological components of the Democratic base include Democratic “true believers” who believe the party’s philosophies and outlook and are progressive leftists as well as the democratic socialists and vanguards of the Justice Democrats. While the Democrats get around 6 out of 10 millennial votes (seven out of 10 for women millennials), and more votes from women, Latinos and union members, the numbers are not high enough to consider those categories as inherently part of the Democratic base, although they definitely trend Democratic.
When Bill Clinton was re-elected president in 1997 over 50% of those who voted Democratic were white Americans with no college degree. Today only around one-third of white Americans without a college degree identify as Democratic. The difference is significant, with the Democratic base become essentially less white, more stridently activist and left-wing and more urban.
The end result of this reality is that the primaries will feature more attempts to appeal to the core groups of progressives and minorities who make up the base and less to bring in the kind of swing voters who sometimes help elect the Democrats during the general election.
See also: Who Makes Up The Republican Party Base?