The Actual Bad Sign for Democrats From Tuesday

Unlike the New York City mayoral, or the Virginia governor's race, there is a really bad sign for Democrats out of the East Coast. Via The New York Times, Republicans made inroads in New York's suburbs. "In Westchester County, where Democrats have a solid advantage in voter registration, a Republican challenger, Rob Astorino, upset the incumbent Democratic County Executive, Andrew Spano, who was seeking his fourth term ... In Nassau County, Republicans recaptured the county legislature, and have come close to unseating the Democratic County Executive, , in a race that remained too close to call on Wednesday morning."

Why does this matter so much? Because the New York suburbs epitomize the new Blue America. Twenty-some-odd years ago, the economically diverse, but generally affluent, suburbs in Westchester and Long Island represented the success of the Reagan Revolution. White ethnics, often Catholic, whose parents had lived in the city and voted Democratic, were turning to Republicans for lower taxes, strong national security, and traditional family values. But the New York suburbs led the way back to Democratic dominance, arguably presaging the Obama coalition. Pro-gun-control candidates such as Rep. Carolyn McCarthy from Long Island started picked up seats in the 1990s. Growing diversity and concerns about education in the postindustrial economy helped lead to Democratic inroads in local races.

During the Democrats most recent identity crises, after they lost the 2004 election, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer wrote a whole book about how Democrats can and should appeal to voters like the ones in the New York suburbs. He knows just how important they are: traditionally in New York politics, the city votes heavily Democratic and upstate favors Republicans. The suburbs decide elections.

Next door in New Jersey, the dynamic is similar, with largely minority cities such as Camden and Newark supporting Democrats and outlying areas of Western and South Jersey leaning towards the GOP. As Andrew notes, crucial swing suburban counties went Republican on Tuesday. If I were David Axelrod, that's what I'd be worried about.