Somebody please answer this question for me: How exactly do you appeal to the “white working class voter“? Does that voter have special interests that are attached specifically to the melanin in their skin? What does the “white working class voter” want that the black or brown working class voter doesn’t want? The next time you happen to stumble across Joe Biden, Ed Rendell, Chris Matthews or Howard Dean, please ask them to explain it to you and then get back to me.
These four men, all of whom I generally like, have been making this point ad nauseam since the run up to the 2016 general election. And even though none of them has any affection for Donald Trump, they seem to relish in the energy of “I told you so” when it comes to his victory which still seems shocking more than a year later. The general idea is that Trump appealed to these voters and Hillary didn’t. If she had been more focused on them – or if Democrats in general had been – she could have prevailed. I’m calling bullshit on that entire train of thought and I’m also issuing a warning: By even suggesting that in 2018 or 2020 you have to tailor a message along racial lines in this way in order to win, you are already losing. So Democrats, don’t buy into that bullshit- or else you will lose a great deal more than just another election cycle. Our parents taught us to respect our elders but in this case, these old guys need to shut the hell up, get in the passenger seat and let young folks take the wheel. They are about to drive their party and the country off a cliff like Thelma and Louise.
Let’s dispense with the pretense that race plays the same role in the politics of America’s two major parties. There is no “both-side-ism” here. Republicans drive racially divisive messages and thrive on them at the ballot box. This has been true since Nixon’s Southern Strategy in the 60’s and it is true today. Democrats have represented the racial big-tent of American politics since that same era – making it the one true home of the Rainbow Coalition where everybody has reason to believe that their kin and kind are welcome.
Does this mean that all Republican voters are racists and all Democratic voters are egalitarian purists? Of course not. But it DOES mean that the natural home of race-baiters and white nationalists is the Republican party. So if the Democrats actually believe that they can somehow craft a message that speaks to the unique needs of the “white working class voter” without undermining the ethos of their party and alienating the rest of their voters they are sorely mistaken.
I find it interesting that Biden (for whom I have a great deal of respect) and the other old, white, male establishment figures I listed at the top never actually say HOW this particular voting block is to be motivated and mobilized to vote for Democrats. Right now, those folks are Trump voters and are all lathered up about building that stupid border wall with Mexico and chanting “Lock Her Up!” What message do these particular voters need to hear in order to support the party who has actively advocated for workers’ rights and strengthening the social safety net for the wage earning working class consistently for the last six decades? And what distinguishes that message from what brother Tyrone or sister Consuelo need to hear? All of the exit polls reflect that Tyrone and Conseulo are voting their best interest as working class, wage-earning Americans. So what is the difference?
Evidently, what these Democratic leaders are saying (without saying it) is that the “white working class voter” needs to be soothed by a message that their whiteness and whatever privileges they think are attached to it will be preserved. Because “working class voter” includes a majority of American voters – like Tyrone and Consuelo – the only factor that sets these coveted voters apart is the “white” part. As difficult as this may be to do and as counter-intuitive as this may sound the “white” part, or any part attachable to color, is the part that Democrats just need to let go of altogether.
Barack Obama proved to the world TWICE that Americans will be motivated and mobilized around issues that everybody relates to – color be damned.
You don’t have to message along racial lines to win. That is played out like an 8 track. All of this Trumpism bullshit is the old racial paradigm “raging against the dying of the light.” Hate dies hard so its making a lot of ugly noise and a big ruckus on its way down. American culture is moving through race to another place more rapidly than these old men can really understand. But they can feel it and they are really terrified. That is why they have such a hatred for Barack Obama but claim with a straight face that they respect the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Obama was not a fluke or a one time phenomenon. He kicked off the demise of racism but none of us should be surprised that it fought back with great ferocity. He left a political legacy that Democrats could really build on if they have the guts to ride his wave and let go of old thinking. And having the guts means just going EVERYWHERE voters are and asking for their votes by telling them the truth: All “working class voters” want the same thing no matter what color they are. Everybody wants to provide for their children and to see that they are healthy and safe.
Everybody wants to feel pride and security in their work lives. Everybody wants a chance to enjoy their work lives and retire with dignity. Color doesn’t have a damned thing to do with that.
If you can help all “working class voters” meet these objectives that means you will be helping the white ones too. And that simple truth is the death shot that racism can’t recover from. If you can deliver on real financial security and stability to them I’m betting white voters will be cool with the fact that other people are enjoying it as well. They probably won’t even notice if we never build that stupid wall or put Hillary Clinton in jail.