E.J. Dionne Jr. is the author, most recently, of Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics after the Religious Right. He is a Washington Post columnist, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, and a professor at Georgetown University.
Among the poll findings that bombarded us after the 2010 elections, three are of overwhelming importance.
First, the age composition of the electorate changed radically. In 2008, 18 percent of voters were under 30 and 16 percent were over 65. In 2010, only 12 percent were under 30, while 21 percent were over 65. Not surprisingly, 2010's older electorate was also more conservative.
Second, Democrats lost enormous ground among white working-class voters. In 2010, Democrats lost white working-class voters by 30 points. In 2006 and 2008, they lost them by only 10 points.
Last October, after the economy's downward spiral became obvious, I closed an e-mail to a friend with the words: "I never thought my obsession with the 1930s would ever be relevant to my life." That obsession had many roots, not the least being that my hometown of Fall River, Massachusetts, was a '30s kind of place with a '30s kind of culture, a '30s kind of economy, and '30s-style New Deal politics. But if there is a single person who inspired my fascination with an era, it is the historian William E. Leuchtenburg.
For two decades, the Democratic party has been riven by sharp ideological arguments. Those debates were in some respects necessary and important. But it's obvious that many of those conflicts are irrelevant to our moment, and say far more about the past than the future. The road to nowhere is paved with rote disputes between center and left. Here are 10 tired and useless arguments that progressives ought to stop having, and 10 new ones that they should start making.