The 4 Types Of Democrats

Note: This is Part 1 of my political typology for US Politics. Part 2 is The 4 Types of Republicans. Part 3 is The 8 Lanes in US Politics. Part 4 is The 2 Types of Independents.

There are more than two types of Democrats.

  • It’s not just Moderates vs. Progressives.

There are at least four types of Democrats.

  • Moderate vs. Progressive is one axis.
  • Establishment vs. Anti-Establishment is the other axis.

The 4 Types of Democrats:

  • A = Progressive Establishment
    • Archetype: Ann Arbor, MI
    • US: CA, OR, WA
  • B = Moderate Establishment
    • Archetype: Bloomfield, MI
    • US: NY, MA, IL
  • C = Moderate Populist
    • Archetype: Calhoun, MI
    • US: MI, MN, ME
  • D = Progressive Populist
    • Archetype: Detroit, MI
    • US: MEM, BAL, ATL, STL

I got this idea while explaining the difference between Ann Arbor Democrats and Detroit Democrats during the 2018 Michigan gubernatorial election.

  • ‘A’ Democrats think they’re on the same Progressive team as ‘D’ Democrats, but the two cities vote very differently.
  • Most Democrats also do not spend enough time with C voters, and that’s why places like Calhoun County swung from Democratic to Republican in 2016.

Mass media tends to ignore the entire anti-establishment.

  • But there are more voters (and non-voters) on that side vs. the establishment.

Another way to look at Moderate vs. Progressive is Power vs. Counter.

  • Progressives often win A precincts by countering Moderate incumbents from the left.
    • But this same move makes them weak in B and C precincts.
    • An A → D Progressive coalition can win state and national elections with a crossover candidate with a populist message for Cs.

Successful politicians usually start with a base in one quadrant and then expand.

  • Joe Biden wins elections because he looks like a B Democrat, acts like a C Democrat, and allies with D Democrats.
  • Bernie Sanders won Michigan in 2016 with an A → C coalition, but he lost ground in 2020 when Biden won over his C voters.
    • Biden went B → D → C in the 2020 primary, then used his anti-Trump position to win over the As for the general election.

It’s fun to map out future paths to the presidency.

  • AOC could go A → D → C.
  • Stacey Abrams could go D → A → B.
  • Pete Buttigieg could go B → A → C.

This system also works at the state and local levels, where focusing on 1-2 quadrants can be enough to win specific elections.

  • In Michigan’s 2018 gubernatorial primary, Gretchen Whitmer fundraised like a B and talked like a C, which carried her to a 52% win.
    • Abdul El-Sayed struggled to expand past his A base.
    • Shri Thanedar built a D base by talking to people who politicians usually ignore.

It’s also fun to think about new lanes for promising challengers.

  • Abdul might have a lane to US Congress in 2022 if redistricting creates an A-heavy district around Ann Arbor.
  • Shri already won his State House district in Detroit in 2020 by focusing on his D base.
    • Shri is my dad and I advised him on his 2018 and 2020 campaigns, so I know this system works.

I’ve now used my 4 Types of Democrats model to study hundreds of other races at the local, state, and national levels.

It works too well for me not to share it.

The A-B-C-D shorthand also makes it a lot easier to describe the voting demographics of a specific county or district.

  • For example, Wayne County is usually described as an urban monolith, but it’s really a D city surrounded by B and C suburbs.
  • MI-14 is a D → B District, MI-13 is a D → C → A district, MI-12 is C → A district, etc.

I designed this political typology to assist Democratic candidates in finding their lanes.

  • I also hope to show Independents where there are potential lanes to build cross-party alliances.
    • When both parties are dominated by Establishment candidates, there could be a lane to unify the Anti-Establishment quadrants across both parties.

Political Typology:

Type A: Ann Arbor Democrats
  • COLLEGE TOWNS + SUBURBS
    • See Also: Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo
  • Type A Democrats vote with their brains. They love it when their candidate “wins” a televised debate. They also tend to overestimate that candidate’s ability to build a broader coalition.
  • Type A Trends:
    • Population is going up and getting younger and even more Progressive.
  • Type A Candidates:
    • 2016 President: Sanders
    • 2018 MI Governor: El-Sayed
    • 2020 President: Warren → Sanders
    • Dream 2024 President: AOC
Type B: Bloomfield Democrats
  • WHITE-COLLAR SUBURBAN
    • See Also: Lansing, Livonia, Canton
  • Type B Democrats vote with their pocketbooks. They’ll vote D as long as taxes on their middle-upper class income stay the same.
  • B Democrats tend to support the frontrunner. ‘Electability’, ‘likability’, etc. are code words for “who’s winning now.”
  • Type B Trends:
    • Population is going up and getting younger.
      • Younger Bs tend to vote like As.
    • 2018 Snyder → Whitmer Pivot County.
      • 2018 R → D flips in MI-08, MI-11, MI-H19, MI-H20, MI-H40, MI-H41.
  • Type B Candidates:
    • 2016 President: H. Clinton
    • 2018 MI Governor: Whitmer
    • 2020 President: Biden
    • Dream 2024 President: Oprah Winfrey
Type C: Calhoun Democrats
  • BLUE-COLLAR SUBURBAN
    • See Also: Macomb (Clinton Twp., Sterling Heights), Monroe Counties
  • Type C Democrats vote with their frustrations. They believe most politicians are corrupt, taxes are too high, and the government already has more than enough money—it just needs to spend it better.
  • Immigration is the wedge issue that can turn these Cs to Republicans.
    • Build The Wall is a powerful message to those on the bleeding edge of the Rust Belt.
  • Type C Trends:
  • Type C Candidates:
    • 2016 President: Sanders → Trump
    • 2018 MI Governor: Whitmer
    • 2020 President: Trump
    • Dream 2024 President: Mark Cuban
Type D: Detroit Democrats
  • BLACK-MAJORITY URBAN
    • See Also: Flint, Pontiac, Saginaw
  • Type D Democrats vote with their party. They’re the loyal base of the Democratic party but feel like they’re taken for granted in elections and quickly forgotten by the politicians they elect.
  • Since D Democrats are loyal liberals, the assumption is that they’ll all vote Progressive, but they tend to vote for brand-name establishment candidates in Democratic primaries.
    • There is a major generational gap here.
      • Older Ds tend to vote like Bs. Younger Ds tend to vote like As.
  • Type D Trends:
  • Type D Candidates:
    • 2016 President: H. Clinton
    • 2018 MI Governor: S. Thanedar
    • 2020 President: Biden
    • Dream 2024 President: Michelle Obama
      • Ds love M. Obama >> B. Obama >> B. Clinton >> H. Clinton.
        • Ds still love Barack, but they LOVE Michelle.

Tweet at me @neilthanedar if you want to riff and refine on these ideas!

Published by Neil Thanedar

Neil Thanedar is a scientist, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and activist. He is the founder & CEO of Air to All, a 501(c)3 nonprofit medical device startup designing low-cost respirators and ventilators for COVID-19 and beyond. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Labdoor, a consumer watchdog that independently tests and ranks supplements and other health products for its 20M+ users. He previously co-founded Avomeen Analytical Services, a product development and testing lab acquired for $30M+ in 2016. He has worked with community organizations since 2007 and political campaigns since 2016 to fight for better education and economic opportunities in Michigan.