Dems: Stop Making It More Complicated Than It Is

Greg Sargent writes that Trump is on the political ropes. His support in the “rust belt” is withering away. Futher, GOP donors are panicking because Trump seems to have no strategy for 2020 other than whip up his base. Democrats should be optimistic about 2020. But, then, we’re talking about Democrats.

True to form, some Democrats are responding to these developments in the worst conceivable way. They are feeding the impression that they face a major dilemma: They must choose between appealing to one or the other of those two broad groups — Midwestern voters on one side, or the younger, more diverse and more educated voter groups on the other. But this is mostly a false choice. Hyping it hurts the Democrats’ cause — and arguably helps Trump.

This is a variation of the squabble the Democrats had after the 2016 election. Appealing to working class voters, it was argued, meant betraying the Dems’ commitment to racial justice. Which is a stupid argument, especially since many working-class voters are people of color. There is absolutely no reason why policies that strengthen the working class against the kleptocracy cannot be in harmony with racial and gender equality.

But Sargent points to a New York Times article that reveals Democrats arguing between seeking votes in the “heartland” with bread-and-butter issues, or appealing to racial and gender diversity.

Should Democrats redouble their efforts to win back the industrial heartland that effectively delivered the presidency to Donald J. Trump, or turn their attention to more demographically promising Sun Belt states like Georgia and Arizona? … there is a growing school of thought that Democrats should not spend so much time, money and psychic energy tailoring their message to a heavily white, rural and blue-collar part of the country when their coalition is increasingly made up of racial minorities and suburbanites. The party should still pursue voters who have drifted toward Republicans, this thinking goes, but should also place a high priority on mobilizing communities more amenable to progressive politics. …

…The dispute is not merely a tactical one — it goes to the heart of how Democrats envision themselves becoming a majority party. The question is whether that is accomplished through a focus on kitchen-table topics like health care and jobs, aimed at winning moderates and disaffected Trump voters, or by unapologetically elevating matters of race and identity, such as immigration, to mobilize young people and minorities with new fervor.

Clue: Young urban progressives of all racial backgrounds care passionately about health care and jobs, too. And rust belt residents have noticed that all the bennies go to the top 1 percent these days, and they don’t like it. Or are the Dems really just debating about whether they can afford a ticket that’s not two white guys?

Back to Greg Sargent and where the Democrats stand on race, identity and immigration:

Democrats can’t back away from any of this. What’s more, the notion that this new emphasis somehow deprioritizes “kitchen table issues” is confused. Matters of race and identity are in many ways economic issues. There just aren’t really clear and separate lanes here, and the real story is that the leading Democratic candidates have internalized this complicated truth.

Thus, the candidates most often associated with economic populism — Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Sherrod Brown — are also talking about how structural racism limits economic opportunity in particularized ways in addition to the structural problems with the economy that have stagnated wages and exacerbated inequality across the board.

The very idea that focusing on race and identity somehow cuts against a “kitchen table” focus itself helps Trump. It falsely implies that policies geared in that direction — many of which are aimed at working-class minorities — of necessity must distract from addressing the needs of working-class whites.

Beneath this discussion is the assumption that all working-class whites are racists. I assure you that’s not true.A lot of them,  yes, but not all, and you don’t need to win them all to win elections.

See also Taking Back the Map.



10 thoughts on “Dems: Stop Making It More Complicated Than It Is

  1. In 2016,  D's snatched defeat from the jaws if victoy.

    And now, with the 2020 election about 21 months away, it seems like they may ditto that performance (even if Hillary did win the popular vote by 3 million people)  – at least according to some media sources.

    Imo, they should blow the dust off of FDR's "Four Freedoms," which are:

    1.  Freedom of speech.

    2.  Freedom of worship.

    3.  Freedom from want.

    4.   Freedom from fear.

    Add that the D's will try to pass a new ERA, throw in health care as a right, tax cuts for middle/lower classes and tax increases for the rich, and you have a pretty solid platform.

    I may add more later.  

    Time for dinner and my evening pills.


  2. Appealing to working class voters, it was argued, meant betraying the Dems’ commitment to racial justice. Which is a stupid argument, especially since many working-class voters are people of color.”

    It just depresses me to no end that they are still stuck on stupid with something so damned obvious.  Dems seem to think “racial justice” is the ONLY thing blacks and other non-whites care about.  That “immigration” is the only issue Hispanics care about.  Even as they keep Black Lives Matter at arm’s length and run from La Raza.  They’re not fooling anyone, but we get it.  We know better than most the real intractability of racism and discrimination, and the kinds of solutions needed to significantly address “racial justice” are not something anyone expects any one candidate to deliver a solution on.  It is too big of a problem.  And we can do without them coming to churches to sing black gospel songs and try to talk to us in what they think are black idioms.  And that’s it. 

    Having said that though, ALL working people struggling at the lower end of the scale, and by percentage MOST of them are black and Hispanic will benefit from a $15/hour minimum wage.  Not five to seven years from now because democrats are scared of the donors who give them money, but now.  ALL working class people are vulnerable to the situation where an illness, not even a catastrophic one, means bankruptcy and utter devastation for families.  The ACA saved some but many working people are still dealing with that.

    Maybe I’m being naïve, but if I were running a political party who’s goal is to stay in power so I could do the things voters want, I would look at, what it is that they want by determining what’s popular with them and run unapologetically on it.

    I would have thought the democrats learned this lesson in 2016. 

  3. The policy issue that seems to resonate with working-class whites and might get them to think about voting Democratic is antitrust/antimonopoly.

    JD Scholten nearly took down racist Iowa Rep Steve King without directly attacking his Republican opponent, in part by echoing back the voters frustration with huge monopoly and quasi-monopoly companies such as Monsanto, Comcast, Archer Daniels Midland, and the media companies.

  4. I was talking w/ my daughter about how Democrats could approach health care particularly in rural areas  with a clinic system. The smallest rural areas would be staffed with a basic office that could handle the bulk of medical needs, staffed by government employed physicians and nurses. The size would be determined by the surrounding population and more complex medical issues would be referred to a larger office with more sophisticated (expensive) equipment. Nobody would ever be turned away – it's federally funded. If the patient is insured, they bill it. If not, they still do the same medical tasks. 

    Yes, the system would eventually be extended to urban (democratic) areas but initially, offer quality health care for free, if nescessary, in Republican areas. Theinfastructure of such a system can be incorporated into a medicare-for-all system or a private system. Make the final vision of private v public immaterial. The need in rural areas is there now. Provide federally-funded health care for ten years and the Republican voters will never allow the system to be curtailed. 

    Democrats need to offer the services rural areas need. Health care in smaller towns is a biggie – residents need it but doctors select locations where they are sure to make a profit, which leaves GOP towns short on doctors. This is an example of how Democrats break the GOP hold on rural areas. Provide progressive solutions that work. Yes, but that money could be spent on poor Democrats instead. Yes, but the perception of Republicans that Democrats are only buying votes with 'free stuff' for lazy minorities is supported when we only pass legislation for the urban dwellers. 

    Philisophically, we have to be the party for ALL Americans and prove it by fixing things in red areas, too.

  5. Trump whipped up a few voters with “MAGA stable genius repeal and replace lock her swamp wall you pussy grabbing mexican rapists”.  But without much in the way of results, independents became somewhat jaded.  And confused, probably.  It might be hard to come up with a catchy new slogan they’ll want to gamble on again.

    The base will of course be busy making stain glass windows picturing Trump doing the okay sign for their churches, no what matter the slogan is.  I’m expecting “We take it up the kazoo for you” red caps. 

    Dems have the opportunity to be “A doctor in every town, every worker a king!” or something.  “I’m With Her” was a lazy ripoff of a little known band name.  Dem candidates need to take the time to think of a decent slogan, even if it’s sorta “socialist”.

  6. Yes Bill you are right on the idea, but Slogans are just not the Dems forte.  I was at an a fair/concert in Colorado before the 16 election and they had a booth of Dems with buttons and slogans.  Even with a serious buying mood and great selection I could not make a purchase.  A few tempted, but lacked inspiration.  

    Right now my friends and I are just using Anyone but Trump as our rallying cry. 

  7. "Anyone but…" is the strategy for both sides. Voters are sick of that. They want a candidate who is sincerely FOR something. They don't even care what – voters want a genuine candidate, not a plastic result of extensive polling. The number of conservative voters I've run into who respect Bernie is truly amazing.

    I don't think this feature of voter response can be overstated. People who still like Trump are impressed by the misspellings and contradictions because it's Trump and Trump is tweeting to them! 

    A moderate candidate is almost certain to be packaged and over-processed, rehersed and perfectly insincere. Though I disagree with Uncle Joe on a lot of past gaffes and a tendency to be moderate, he's one candidate who doesn't have an artifical aura. 

    Those of us who are willing to dig into substance and detail are in the distinct minority. The race will be decided by a touchy-feely quality that Trump thinks he can turn on at the last moment. Trump thinks his ability to connect with the average person (gag) will overcome a mountain of facts about being Putin's pet. If we elect the party-endorsed android with less charisma than a robot in Disney's Hall of Presidents, Trump could pull it off again.

    I'm sorry to say it, but the outome of the race will have almost nothing to do with issues. Trump knows it. Can Democrats learn it in time?

  8. Doug,

    More even than just the Democrats, we have to ask, "Is our media leaning?"

    It was our MSM which, following bullshit Reich-Wing talking points on Democratic candidates, pinned the following on them.:

    Gore was an earth-tone wearing liar.

    Kerry was a French speaking, flip-flopping elite.

    Obama was a…  They couldn't quite pin bullshit on Obama without seeming openly racist.  Oh, they tried all right; they tried "racism-lite" dog-whistles, like whether he was really a US citizen.

    Hillary was an evil, tyranical, war-mongering, closeted lesbian shrew who wanted to fundamentally change America – but not in the bigoted tRUMP way, which, ofcourse, they completely approve!

    And the MSM is already pulling this "FOLLOW THE NEW SHINY LIGHT" bullshit on Warren, Kamela, etc.

    We liberals need to loudly point out when the Reich-Wing's bullshit is parroted by our MSM!  I'm looking at YOU NYTimes!!!!!

     "Follow the media."

  9. Doug, anyone but Trump at this point is more a rallying cry of willing to settle and support many ideas that are for other's good and things they want or think they need.  Democrats are an amalgamation of groups with quite distinct special interests that are willing to help each other out on and hope our turn comes some day. I am beyond the expiration date that I care if my turn ever comes.  I and my jaded friends have learned to quench our political thirsts from a near empty cup for ages.  So let the younger people decide what they are for and go for it.  I will be happy to see someone getting their turn, and give what feeble support I can.  Some will learn it is not their turn, and they must help also.  At least they have a chance at a receptive and understanding ear.  That is something really important too.

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