Election 2020

The Democrats have a reputation for taking people for granted. Minorities complain that Democrats take them for granted and are only interested in minority issues come election time – while white working class workers feel liberals pay attention to them. It is this perceived casual attitude that has turned their erstwhile working class base against Democrats.

Whether this an accurate picture of Democratic politicians doesn’t matter. It’s what people believe.

photoIn 1968, Richard Nixon rolled out the so-called ‘Southern Strategy’. Poor white racists were told to be scared of blacks and their newly won civil rights.

In 1980, Reagan piled on, and the Party of Lincoln became the heir to Jefferson Davis.

1n 2016, Trump added a xenophobic element and spiced his message with a pro-job agenda. Rustbelt white workers listened and swung the election to a man who has shown time and again that he has no regard for the working man.

Republicans win political arguments because they stick to their message, no matter how absurd or misleading. Take the Trans-Pacific Pact (TPP). Republicans portrayed TPP this as a job-destroying measure, whose sole purpose was to line the pockets of wealthy donors to the Clinton Foundation. Hillary waffled.

She came across as an expedient and cynical politician in the ‘I was for it before I was against it’ mold. She should have hammered home that jobs don’t flee abroad. They are lost to technology. Jobs in the Rustbelt were just as likely to move to South Carolina as anywhere else.

The US now manufacturers twice what it did when Reagan left office – but with half the workforce.

Bearing this in mind, can Democrats win back these disaffected whites? Yes. Can they do it without alienating their minority base? Yes again.

They could start by prioritizing an economic message. Everyone – minorities, gays, women, and whites, et al. – is pro-salary and pro-employment. Look how energized they were by Bernie Sanders.

Liberals have history on their side. Conservative tax policy has stripped the white working class of its economic vitality with tax policies that favor the wealthy. Right-wing anti-worker legislation – under the Orwellian named ‘right to work’ laws – stripped workers of their bargaining power.

This conservative abasement of white workers started with Reagan – and Bush kept up the pressure. Now the Republicans are gearing up to pass national “paycheck protection” laws. As you might expect from the right, the intent of laws like these is diametrically opposed to their name. The only paychecks that the Republicans are protecting are those of the ownership class.

The thrust of all these measures is to gut unions. Unionism was instrumental in expanding the middle-class. Conservatives see them as a drag on profits – which to them are important than workers. But Democrats have done nothing to explain to these workers how disastrous Republican policies are to their economic health.

States compete to see which can provide the most pro-business environment. The winners see an influx of jobs. But nationally no new jobs are created –  while wages decline. Look at the so-called “Texas Miracle”. Millions of jobs were created – but few came with health benefits, more than minimum wage, or much job security.

Why do you think the right hates government workers and public school teachers? These jobs pay well, come with benefits and retirement plans. It is easy for conservatives to get workers who have lost all their benefits to vote against these people out of jealousy and resentment. But what these workers fail to realize is that a falling tide lowers all boats.

Republicans will keep winning until the Democrats convince working Americans to stick together.

 

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