The 2000 election left a Democratic Party that was simultaneously angry, dispirited and divided. Populists believed that Al Gore made a terrible mistake by embracing the “New Democrats” — what we then called a group of socially moderate, culturally cosmopolitan, fiscally cautious Democrats in the ’90s — thereby failing to excite working-class whites. New Democrats, by contrast, thought Gore’s late adoption of heavily populist rhetoric had needlessly alienated whites with college degrees, costing him the election.
As this fight wore on, two important left-of-center thinkers, John Judis and Ruy Teixeira, wrote a book called “The Emerging Democratic Majority.” Although the book is known as a demographic work, the demographics discussed so extensively in it are, in fact, subordinate to the larger goal of the book: to find a way for the two factions in the Democratic Party described above to live together, and to win. Their framework was explicitly Hegelian/Fichtean: They described the “thesis” and “antithesis” as being the populist Democrats and the “New Democrats.” Their proposed synthesis: what they called “progressive centrism.”