by William Skink
Democrats have a class problem, and if they don’t fix it the losses will continue to mount. Before getting to the NYT article describing why the Democratic Party is in worse shape than you thought, a recent letter to the Indy from State Rep. Hill Smith includes a hint of this problem worth pointing out.
The point of Rep. Hill Smith’s letter is to lambast the Indy for not including any women it its recent piece on the Democratic loss in Montana’s special election. With the focus on gender, it was this part that caught my attention:
In January of this year, 10,000 Montana women grabbed their Patagonia jackets and donned them with pink pussy hats, huddling together, fists and protests signs in air.
What stands out to me is the part where Hill Smith describes women grabbing their Patagonia jackets. The reason I am pointing this out is because Patagonia is an overpriced active wear brand that not every woman at the march, or across the country, can afford. Rep. Hill Smith is unconsciously stereotyping the 10,000 women who showed up in Helena last January as all being well-off enough to drop over a $100 bucks for this type of jacket.
While this minor aspect of Hill Smith’s gender diatribe may not seem like a big deal, I think it’s indicative of the class-cluelessness contributing to Democrats increasing irrelevance (to use a term recently thrown at me).
Now, let’s get to the NYT piece. One of the popular postmortems of the 2016 Democratic debacle is that it was just white working-class defectors who swayed the election for Trump. But that’s not the whole story:
What the autopsy reveals is that Democratic losses among working class voters were not limited to whites; that crucial constituencies within the party see its leaders as alien; and that unity over economic populism may not be able to turn back the conservative tide.
Equally disturbing, winning back former party loyalists who switched to Trump will be tough: these white voters’ views on immigration and race are in direct conflict with fundamental Democratic tenets.
A Democrat looking to rationalize their loser status will see this quote and only focus on immigration and race, assuming they are losing because all those working class white people are hopeless xenophobes and racists. What Democrats seem more reluctant to acknowledge is the underlying reason keeping key parts of their constituency from turning out. Here’s more from the article:
Priorities also studied Obama-to-Trump voters. Estimates of the number of such voters range from 6.7 to 9.2 million, far more than enough to provide Trump his Electoral College victory. The counties that switched from Obama to Trump were heavily concentrated in the Midwest and other Rust Belt states.
To say that this constituency does not look favorably on the Democratic Party fails to capture the scope of their disenchantment.
The accompanying chart illustrates this discontent. A solid majority, 77 percent, of Obama-to-Trump voters think Trump’s economic policies will either favor “all groups equally” (44) or the middle class (33). 21 percent said Trump would favor the wealthy.
In contrast, a plurality of these voters, 42 percent, said that Congressional Democrats would favor the wealthy, slightly ahead of Congressional Republicans at 40 percent.
The tendency from Democrats is to just dismiss millions of people as ignorant rednecks voting against their economic interests. The party that sold out to Wall Street under the 90’s Clinton regime don’t seem to want to examine why Democrats are seen as more likely to favor the wealthy than Republicans.
What Democrats can’t seem to understand is that economic insecurity is the driving force behind race and immigration issues. When people are scared about their own ability to provide for themselves, scapegoating immigrants and other minorities increases. This sentiment has obviously been exacerbated by Republican politicians exploiting and directing that fear for their own political gain.
The article goes on to describe why the economic populism of the Sanders/Warren segment of the Democratic Party may not be the key to future success that many progressives hope it will be.
Will Democrats absorb and operationalize this information? I doubt it. And that’s why they are going to keep losing for the foreseeable future.