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.