Four ways they can at least help stop the bleeding
"Although most commentaries on the Democrats’ working-class problem have focused on working-class white voters, the last several election cycles suggest that Democrats have a working-class problem tout court."
The use of "tout court" here elevates this to the Hall of Fame level of self-parody. If it was intentional, then I congratulate the authors on their comedy-writing chops.
In DougJ's frame, this would go, "At Dolly's Diner in this abandoned mill town, working-class patrons are divided over whether "tout court" or "sans phrase" does a better job of capturing the flavor of "uberhaupt". But they all agree that they love the flavor of Dolly's apple pies."
First, good essay and very helpful in terms of exploring the set of messages that can help win back what used to be the core constituency of the Party.
Did your analysis explore WHY the Republicans have picked up votes in this area? Polling test questions is good, but I think it has proven less predictive than we'd all like. We know the working class agrees with Dems on specific economic questions, but the losses have continued. What positions did Republicans take that attract, or that Democrats take that repel?
I'm probably a version of the kind of person they are trying to appeal to. I am open to a more progressive economic agenda, but I do not like woke. I also perceive that if democrats are elected, a more progressive economic agenda is not likely to materialize, but a more woke social agenda is. That's where all the action is these days. A universal jobs program might be great, but democrats cannot credibly promise that. The woke threat, on the other hand, is credible.
How is a jobs guarantee going to work in an economy with record-low unemployment? What are people going to do? Use spoons to dig holes?
I am surprised that the authors ignored the elephant in the room, the Democratic Party's wholesale adoption of the woke agenda. Even the most recent Supreme Court nominee was unable to answer the question, "What is a woman?" Until the Party's candidates can honestly answer that without equivocation, it will continue to lose the working class voters, all of whom can answer that.
"We found that working-class voters prefer candidates... who place blame for the problems facing working Americans on the shoulders of economic elites"
BUT, what if I don't think that is true?
I guess I'm not excited to choose left-wing anti-elitism over right-wing anti-elitism.
The Jobs Guarantee program runs counter to the Shor pilled idea that voters inevitably react against attempts to make large changes. Universal health care is popular until you try to pass it.
I like the idea, but (as undoubted politics junkies) the authors still assume that the median voter cares about policy, is listening carefully when politicians articulate policy, is taking the time to distinguish between different policies, etc. None of this is true! The median voter just doesn't pay enough attention to or think carefully about policy details, I'm sorry.
As of lots of people said in yesterday's comment section, imagine asking Donald Trump about what the minimum wage should be. "We're going to talk with experts, very smart experts, and they're going to raise the wage bigly, a big beautiful minimum wage. And I think everyone will be very happy." This is the cognitive level that most voters are operating at, trying to woo them with detailed policy wonkery is a waste. It may even be an actual turn off for working class ones! Elizabeth Warren had lots of pro-worker wonkery and she did terribly with the non-college educated.
Just run working-class and/or outsider candidates, and say vaguely populist things. Nominate some independents in any swing states where the Dem brand is toxic. This is the way
Speaking as the resident oddball who has shifted back and forth across the class line multiple times and multiple different ways (and now am moving into a job, nursing, which straddles the line itself), I find this analysis pretty un-compelling. I'm not saying that it is wrong, necessarily; I assume the data shows what you say it shows. But I think that the analysis / arguments don't really follow from the data.
Edit: Realized I shouldn't just level that kind of criticism without an example. So...
Typical of the logical shortcuts was the discussion of sociocultural issues. To its credit, this article told the truth about what the data shows regarding the significance of these issues as exceeding economic issues. But then it just tries to breezily wave off that concern and go back to the jobs guarantee in a way that is totally unconvincing because it doesn't even try to answer the question raised by that data.
If you want to do nitty-gritty analysis of electoral strategy and voter behavior, you need to be willing to do a nitty-gritty analysis of electoral strategy and voter behavior, even if it points in directions that you find uncomfortable.
Apart from anything else, I find the handling of immigration here -- treating it as a "social issue," but not an "economic issue" -- to be kind of strange. Genuinely not sure -- to what extent would the working-class voters whose views are expressed here see it that way?
Excellent analysis. The piece does not mention that it’s not just pay and more jobs, but the working conditions American’s working class are subjected to. Policy messages can focus on Paid time off, benefits, reasonable working hours etc.
So as the resident blue collar (working class adjacent) commenter, I have several questions.
First… the whole article seems to revolve around a jobs guarantee promised. And I have to be honest, I don’t know what this means. Whether it’s something that my working class, wife or friends would support of be excited about depends on the details.
Working class people don’t worry about getting a job, at least over the past decade or two, as much as getting a job that pays well and has good benefits.
I’ve been predicting for about 10 years that there is a decent chance that the Republican and the Democratic Party basically switch. Republicans become the party of the working class of Democrats become a party at the Rich. Affectively that’s already happened, though the rhetoric hasn’t switched as much.
At some point, the will be a critical mass of upper and middle class people who identify as Democrat. They will begin to control the parties apparatus, instead of the sort of young, idealistic, progressive wing.
At this point, any plans to increase taxes on the middle class, which we all know is the only way to afford many of these progressive ideals, will become unpopular.
But that’s in the future, and Democrats have the more immediate problem of how to stop alienating the working class. Or at least offer enough benefit to counter the aversion to the “woke” perception of the party.
1. Run working class candidates (no college education preferably). Bonus points if they were enlisted in the military.
2. Emphasize patriotism.
3. Play up the class war, by emphasizing hard work as the backbone of America. At the same time, demonize the upper middle class and rich people.
4. Concentrate on programs that provide benefits. Paid vacation. Sick leave. Social Security. Working hours. Child care. Etc
5. Economically concentrate on manufacturing and infrastructure.
7. Tailor education benefits to provide for the first two years of college or training.
8. On social justice or “controversial issues”, come at everything from the point of fairness and economic disparities. For instance, in a debate, if someone starts talking about racial disparities in college for instance, pivot to talking about the real problem is that colleges cater to the Rich. Always stick to talking about the working class as a whole, without going into sub groups, like transgender or minorities.
9. Make sure that when you are promoting the working class ideas, you stay away from attracting to much of the DSA crowd.
OK, that’s it… Since I’m dictating this on my cell phone sitting in the coffee shop waiting for my truck to get an oil change. Sorry for any typos, I’ll try and go back and edit later.
(one last thought, any working class Democratic candidate should drive a pick up truck)
Interesting analysis, but there are a several of assumptions that are troubling. 1) The job guarantee as a marker of pro-working class policy. I can see that it may sound good as does a higher minimum wage, but it is not a good way to higher income jobs compared to a more generous EITC and unemployment insurance. 2) Seeming obliviousness to need for higher taxes on upper income people in order to reduce growth-inhibiting deficits (and the negative effect that deficits have on tradable goods producing sectors like agriculture and manufacturing). 3) More generally, total disinterest in economic growth (of which taxing net CO2 emissions to reduce costs of climate change is an important _part_) as a policy objective: things like attracting high-skill immigrants, land use and infrastructure permitting reform, great care that strengthening supply chains and direct investments in climate change infrastructure pass cost benefit tests.
"would severely limit the party’s capacity to implement the transformative economic reforms needed to lift millions out of poverty and ensure a habitable planet, for starters. This is because, regardless of party, upper-class voters are less likely to support important forms of economic redistribution than their working-class counterparts"
This is a common fallacy among the left, treating climate change and income inequality like they are the same issue, when in fact, they are two completely different and orthogonal issues. Income redistribution, by itself, does nothing to reduce carbon emissions and, conversely, regulations on power plants or cars to reduce carbon emissions, by itself, does nothing to reduce income inequality.
This point kind of gets into something Matt has pointed out multiple times, where left-wing organizations support other left-wing organizations on everything, even on issues totally unrelated to their mission, for example, environmental groups talking about LGBTQ rights or gay rights groups talking about climate change.
I think it's worth pointing out that working class voters likely view immigration AS an economic issue, rightly or wrongly.
On a side note. People love to refrain that the Latino community (which I think is a misnomer: there is no single Latino community but many individual diasporas which share a common language) and the African-American community are not monoliths. This must be even MORE true of the 'Working Class' community. There are similarities between the 'White working class' the 'African-American working class' and the 'Asian-American working class' etc. But let's be real here: each constituency is cross pressured. Asian Americans are, my gut tells me, more likely to oppose Affirmative Action than, say, African-Americans. African-Americans are more religious than their counterparts (I think), while White and Latino Americans may oppose immigration more.
How do you appeal to any single on of these constituencies without pissing off the other? That is to say nothing that within each of THOSE constituencies there are big differences. Obviously Northeast 'White Working Class' voters are far less conservative than those in the South. In short: I don't think there's a single big 'one thing' that Democrats can do to reverse the trend of education polarization without destroying the party as it stands. The biggest issue for the Democrats is their 'big tent' party is more fragmented, discordant and has more inherent contradictions than the Republican Party. The only thing that can unite Democrats is opposition to something else. Which means, while I think the tactics here are useful (and they should use them) I think the more important strategy for Democrats is to find a common cord which can unite as many constituencies as possible and run against that.
Trump has been the useful, orange, target. But they'll need to find another post 2024 (assuming God willing they beat him again).