The polls tell us the Democrats have lost a large share of what used to be part of our base—white people (a majority being men) with no college degree, in other words the white working class. Many evangelicals, subject of my last blog post, fall into this category. For the reasons noted in my last blog post, a large percentage of the white working class has bolted to Trump and are now MAGAs. While it is unrealistic to think that we will be able to bring a huge number back—especially the evangelicals with their culture war agenda– every vote counts. Plus, other than providing a platform for airing complaints about the world, the country, the economy, Hunter Biden, wokeness, DEI, the President, and all Democrats, the Republicans have no message or platform. There is nothing positive or hopeful in anything they say or do.
Most important, Republicans have done nothing to help working class, lower income people. Their trickle-down economic policies favor the rich and the privileged. The Republican message is a classic bait and switch: vote for us if you hate the liberal elites, the privileged, and the woke agenda, but don’t ask us questions about how the trickle-down policies championed by us Republicans helps you.
We Democrats have done a poor job of promoting how we are for the Little Guy. But despite all the complaining by Republicans, under President Biden the Democrats in Congress have accomplished a lot in Biden’s first 30 months.
Here is what the Dems need to do to recapture the white working class (or at least some of them):
- Broadcast the accomplishments under Biden which help the struggling working class:
- Lowered healthcare and drug costs (part of the Inflation Reduction Act).
- Job creation in fighting climate change (also in the Inflation Reduction Act). Over nine million new, good paying jobs will be created over the next decade, many blue collar.
- Huge investments in mental health (part of the Safer Communities Act)
- Huge investments in American Industry and Manufacturing focusing on high tech manufacturing like microchips, which also produce good paying, blue collar jobs (the CHIPS and Science Act).
- Massive help to working families during and post covid. (The American Rescue Plan) This act provided $1,400 to most working families and expanded the child tax credit payments plus provided billions for beefed up unemployment benefits, food assistance, subsidies to small businesses, and money for rental and childcare assistance.
- Creation of construction jobs through new infrastructure projects in every state. Almost 7,000 specific projects will happen this year and beyond, and some Republicans are even bragging about this to their constituents even though they voted against the bill. (The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act). Over the next several years 2,800 bridges will be repaired, 3,000 airports expanded, the power grid modernized, resulting in thousands of new, good paying jobs.
- Financial assistance to over 15 million households to enable them to get high speed internet. Republicans who voted against this are also taking credit for the subsidies in their rural red states.
- Reduction in the cost of gas and energy costs for everyone by releasing oil from the National Strategic Reserve. Without this action, gas prices would have gone through the roof.
- Improved healthcare for veterans affected by Burn Pits. (PACT Act) affecting over 3.5 million veterans.
- Steps toward making Big Business and Fat Cats pay their fair share by establishing minimum taxes that all profitable, big corporations now must pay.
Most working people either do not know about or have forgotten these accomplishments. And Biden gets poor marks on how he has handled the economy. A majority of Americans think that the economy is in bad shape, and many say they think a recession is beginning. These attitudes are due to the negative messages by Republicans and rightwing media. They are deceiving and inaccurate.
We Dems have done a bad job in setting the record straight. Unemployment remains near historic lows, and the incomes of lower paying jobs have increased over 20 percent during the Biden Administration—the first significant increase in 40 years. Yes, inflation has been a factor, but our inflation is lower than the experience of most developed countries, and at last it appears to be going down and getting close to the Fed target.
Come on, Democrats! Get the message out. Let working class Americans know the truth—let all Americans know what has been accomplished. Hey, Joe Biden and the Democrats have done a great job given the hand they were dealt!
Now there are other important things that have been accomplished under Biden like stronger gun safety laws, reforming the US Postal Service, the Respect for Marriage Act protecting same sex and interracial marriages, protecting women from domestic violence (Violence Against Women Act), appointing the first black woman to the Supreme Court, pardoning people from simple marijuana possession charges, standing firm behind Ukraine, helping unite NATO, and policies to fight global warming. These accomplishments also are important but not the most important message to the alienated, white working class, which is this: “It’s the economy stupid”: jobs, jobs, jobs.
- Present a clear and compelling vision of the future and how this vision will help working people.
Identify the major initiatives that Biden and the Dems hope to accomplish in a second term. Most important in my thinking would be these:
- Tax Reform reducing income inequality and cutting the deficit. The big hitters must pay their fair share.
- Continuing initiatives spurring job growth.
- Support for Education Reform and education equity including free community colleges and expanding trade skills and apprenticeships.
- Strengthening labor unions.
- A national minimum wage that makes sense and is a living wage. The current $7.25/hour is so far out of line that it is rarely even used anymore.
- Breaking up the monopolies and encouraging more competition.
- Expanding support for working families including affordable childcare and funding more affordable housing.
- Continued focus on curbing climate change.
- Fair elections and strengthening the election process—and assuring democracy will survive.
- Efforts to bring the American people together. (I know, fat chance.)
All these initiatives could benefit from being simplified around themes and “grand ideas,” which I will leave to the experts. (Remember the New Deal, the Square Deal, the New Frontier, and the Great Society?) Biden has gotten a good start by his expanding the economy “from the middle out and the bottom up.”
- Challenge Republicans to Offer Alternatives.
The biggest weakness of the Republicans is that they do not have an economic plan. Traditional conservatives promoted trickle-down economics, but the MAGAs do not appear to have any plan at all. Their focus is all about culture wars. Make them show their hand and tell the American people what they are actually for, other than fighting culture wars.
- Go to the mat on culture war issues that Democrats can win and downplay the ones we can’t.
Despite how awful the Trump-packed Supreme Court is today, they have embraced two culture war issues where the Democrats can win white working class votes: unreasonable restrictions on abortions and affirmative action based on class/income rather than race. Now I am not suggesting that we Dems abandon racial equality and civil rights issues or that I agree with the Supreme Court decision, but rather this is an opportunity to expand the issue of justice and fairness to social class and income. This will be tricky, and expert help will be needed to get it right. And as for abortions most Americans are uncomfortable with the draconian restrictions that are now in place in many red states. We can beat the Republicans on the abortion controversy.
We should not retreat from sexuality issues either, just not make a big deal of them at this time if we want to get the white working class vote. The key is to fight hard on the culture war issues we can win and where Republicans are weak.
I am sure focus groups with working class voters will be used a lot and probably are already underway. There may be other areas like gun safety that might have support, especially from working class women.
- Make the election about saving democracy.
I know, it sounds dramatic. I also concede that this may not be a big winner with the working class voter, especially those who are hard core MAGAs, who will never vote for a Democrat anyway. Yet the message of saving democracy is probably the most important of all. On January 6. 2021 and all the failed, stolen election accusations that followed, we came a hair’s breadth from losing it.
Paint the Republicans as extremists, which they are. Their anti abortion and anti gender identity initiatives are not popular with a majority of the American people. I know their anti woke and anti DEI issues have more support, but still I believe the majority of Americans want us to make progress in these areas. They do not want to see extremists from the Left or the Right imposing their values on the rest of us.
We find ourselves at a time in history where we are dangerously close to losing democracy as we have known it and that we have taken for granted. What if Pence have caved on January 6 and had sent the election results back to conservative state legislatures to decide? What if the mob had hung him and Nancy Pelosi as some say they intended?
We do not know who the Republican candidate will be, but even if it is not Trump, DeSantis and most of the others could be as bad or worse. It certainly will be the highest stakes election in my lifetime.
And there is one more thing, which applies to all target audiences not just the white working class: Give Kamala Harris more exposure to the American public. Biden is old, and age is an issue for many, like it or not. If DeSantis or another younger person is the Republican candidate, it will be a huge issue. People will be quietly wondering who Kamala Harris really is; and if the worst happens, does she have what it takes to take over should Biden not make it.
However, despite the ominous clouds on the horizon, as one who tends to be pessimistic from time to time, I am leaning optimistic on the next election and on the future of our country. I believe that if Biden and the Democrats can mount effective campaigns, the Democrats will win the Presidency, and we have a good shot at taking both Houses. I believe we will move forward as a country and as a planet, despite the grave threats of global warming.
Of course, nothing is a given, and all kinds of things could happen before the election (and after). What if Biden has a serious health issue? What if the Ukraine War widens into involving NATO, or if the Russians take over Ukraine? Or in desperation Putin pulls the nuclear trigger? What if the adversarial posture with China worsens? What if natural disasters due to global warming become far worse than expected? What if another pandemic arrives? What if the extremist, hate groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers grow and become more violent? And what about AI and how that will affect our lives? What if? What if…?
Yes, we face big challenges, but I am optimistic we will come through them. The future generations of Americans who will be taking the baton from the Silent Generation and the Boomers offer great hope. We humans are resourceful when we put ourselves into tackling tough challenges, have good leadership, and work together. And Lord have mercy, there are plenty of problems to solve.
Some years ago, I remember talking to a good friend, a classmate from Union Seminary and a famous civil liberties lawyer, now retired, who said this: “The thing that I fear most about dying is not being around to see what happens next.” Now as an octogenarian I know exactly what he meant.