Posts Tagged ‘Democratic Coalition’

Can progressives win U.S. workers’ votes? (2)

November 13, 2021

The Commonsense Solidarity poll indicates that the priorities of working-class American voters are the same as mine. Given a choice of five alternatives, they preferred the Progressive Populist option.  I do, too.

The problem is the topics the soundbite poll didn’t cover.  None of the soundbites mention the forever wars, civil liberties and voting rights, and climate change is an afterthought.  These are all fundamental problems that have to be solved if the Progressive Populist agenda is to be enacted.

Mainstream Moderate

America is better than this.  We have to stop demonizing each other based on which party we support, how much money we make or the color of our skin—it’s time to heal.  We need common sense leaders who will stick up for working people, listen to the experts, reach across the aisle and get things done.


What makes America great is the freedom of the American people.  But today, freedom is under threat from radical socialists, arrogant liberals and dangerous foreign influences.  We need strong leaders in Washington to protect conservative values and defend the Constitution against those who want destroy the greatest country in the world.

Two things are important to remember.  One is that the survey is not of a cross-section of the American public, but of the working class—defined as non-Republicans without college educations, earning less than $100,000 a year.  These are the voters whose support Democrats need to win.

The other is that poll covers the entire working class, not the “white” working class.  Poll respondents were opposed to “systemic racism”; this just wasn’t their top priority. 

I assume that, all other things being equal, working-class Americans would be in favor of winding down the wars, reining in the military and dealing with the effects of climate change, but most of them are more concerned with bread-and-butter issues.  The poll doesn’t go into that, however.

Some self-identified conservatives endorse the Republican agenda, as outlined in the soundbite, but at the same time are anti-war, pro-civil liberties and, up to a point, pro-worker, although not defenders or voting rights or action on climate change.

If I was forced to choose, I’d prefer one of them to a mainstream moderate, woke moderate or even a woke progressive who won’t stick up for peace, freedom of speech or labor rights.


Commonsense Solidarity: How a working-class coalition can be built and maintained by Jacobin, the Center for Working-Class Politics and YouGov.

The Left Needs More Than Low-Hanging Fruit to Win by Jared Abbott for Jacobin.

Can progressives win U.S. workers’ votes?

November 10, 2021

Jacobin magazine, the YouGov polling organization and the newly organized Center for Working-Class voters did a poll to find out what progressives need to do to win working-class voters.  Here are the key takeaways.

Working class voters prefer progressive candidates who focus primarily on bread and better issues, and who frame those issues in universal terms. This is especially true outside deep blue parts of the country.

Candidates who prioritized bread-and-butter issues (jobs, health care, the economy) and who presented them in plainspoken, universalist rhetoric, performed significantly better than those who had other priorities or used other language.  This general pattern was even more dramatic in rural and small-town areas, where Democrats have struggled in recent years.

Populist, class-based progressive campaign messaging appeals to working-class voters at least as well as other varieties of Democratic messaging.

Candidates who named elites as a major cause of America’s problems, invoked anger at the status quo and celebrated the working class were well received by working class voters—even when pitted against more “moderate” strains of Democratic rhetoric.

Progressives do not need to surrender questions of social justice to win working class voters, but “woke” activist-inspired rhetoric is a liability.

Potentially Democratic working-class voters did not shy away from progressive candidates or candidates who strongly opposed racism.  But candidates who framed that opposition in highly-specialized, identity-focused language fared significantly worse than candidates who embraced either populist or mainstream language.

Working class voters prefer working-class candidates.

A candidate’s race or gender does not appear to matter much to potentially Democratic working-class voters. But candidates with upper-class backgrounds performed significantly less well than other candidates.  Class background matters.

Working-class non-voters are not automatic progressives.

We find little evidence that low-propensity voters fail to vote because they don’t see sufficiently progressive views reflected in the political platforms of mainstream Democratic candidates.

Democratic partisanship does not hurt progressive candidates.

Working-class voters prefer progressive candidates running as Democrats to candidates who stress their independence from the party.

Blue-collar workers are especially sensitive to candidate messaging—and respond even more acutely to the differences between populist and “woke” language.

Primarily manual blue-collar workers, in comparison with primarily white-collar workers, were even more drawn to candidates who stressed bread-and-butter issue, and who avoided activist rhetoric.


Americans once again chose an outsider

November 18, 2016

donald-trump-stump-640x371In my opinion, Donald Trump got as many votes as he did because he is an outsider.

Why are outsiders popular?  American voters don’t like economic decline or stalemate wars.

The earning power of Americans has been in decline for the past 30 to 40 years, while wealth has become ever-more concentrated in the pockets of 1/10th of 1 percent of the population.

Over the same period of time, the United States has become more and more involved in inconclusive foreign wars.

Americans have turned again and again to outsiders who promise to change the system—Jimmy Carter in 1976, Ronald Reagan in 1980, Bill Clinton in 1992 and Barack Obama in 2008.   Donald Trump was the outsider in 2016.

The hunger for outsiders will cease when a President leads the nation on a path to prosperity and peace.  Or when the country has declined to such a state that elections cease to be held or cease to matter.


Race, class and the Democratic Party

July 14, 2014

When I was a college student in the 1950s, I read THE AGE OF JACKSON by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and, for many years, accepted his ideas about American politics.

Schlesinger argued that American politics (as of 1945) was based on a permanent conflict between big business and its opponents.

A succession of parties—the Federalists, the Whigs and then the Republicans—represented the interests of the banks, merchants, railroads and manufacturing corporations.  The Democratic Party and its Jeffersonian predecessors represented a diverse coalition of people whose interests might be threatened or harmed by big business.

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson

The political health of the United States, as he saw it, required an alternation in power and between these two sides.

The Republican Party was needed to speak for the American capitalist interest, which was what gave the United States its economic energy.  But the Democratic Party, of which Schlesinger was an active supporter, was needed to prevent a dangerous concentration of power in corporations.

The Democrats did not represent an equivalent danger to liberty, in his view, because their coalition of supporters was so diverse—labor unions, immigrants, Southern planters, Catholics, black people, farmers, small business—and their program would represent a balancing of interests rather than a single interest.

I think Schlesinger’s analysis was true as far as it went.  The Democratic Party, as represented by the Indian fighter and slave-owner Andrew Jackson, really was the party of the common man—at least the white common man.  Jackson scandalized upper-crust Washington by allowing frontiersmen and working people to participate in his inauguration.  He did fight to prevent the government from becoming the servant of the banks and the manufacturers.

But the Democratic Party also reflected the prejudices and racism of the white common people.  Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, the great defender of Southern slavery, said there were no class distinctions in the South because all white people were part of an aristocracy of race.  This was not an aberration, and not limited to the South.  It was central to the Democrats’ identity for a century or more, and it was not limited to Democrats in the South.

The problem with Schlesinger’s analysis, and also its appeal, is that it enabled liberal Democrats like me to regard the South’s one-party system as merely incidental.  In fact it was fundamental.

College educated intellectuals and reformers of the 19th century were mainly Whigs and Republicans.   The great New England humanitarian reformers that we Unitarian Universalists admire were mostly Whigs or Republicans.  The Republican Party was founded as a movement to prevent the spread of slavery, which the Democrats supported.  What little support there was for civil rights between the Civil War and Second World War came from Republicans.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Broadly speaking and with many exceptions, there is one party that accepted social distinctions based on wealth and education, and minimized social distinctions based on race, and another party that resented distinctions based on social class and insisted on social distinctions based on race.

Now it is the Republican Party that gets the votes of a majority of white people, and the Democratic Party that depends on minorities’ votes to give it a margin of victory.   I think that any American prior to 1932 would have thought it unbelievable that the United States would have a black President, but they would have found it unimaginable that a black President would be a Democrat.

During the middle and late 20th century, college-educated reformers and racial minorities migrated to the Democratic Party.  But the Republicans still represent corporate and financial interests as they always have, and what little support there is for organized labor and workers’ rights still comes from Democrats.

The political realignment that began during the Truman administration and reached its culmination during the Reagan administration was not a reversal of roles, but a new mix and match.   My thoughts about how this came about will be the subject of another post.


The Democratic and Republican coalitions

November 8, 2012


This chart from the New York Times shows the support of various demographic groups to the Democratic and Republican Presidential candidates in 2004, 2008 and 2012.  Barack Obama got more support from most groups in 2008 than John Kerry did in 2004.  Obama’s support decreased in 2012, but remained strong enough to win.

The big exceptions were Obama’s surge of support among Hispanic and Asian-American voters.  Republicans ought to be asking themselves why this is.  Hispanic culture is based on respect for church, family and work, which are all values that conservatives affirm.

This is a highly informative chart, and an effective use of graphics to present statistical information.

Hat tip to The Big Picture.

What unites the Democrats

February 13, 2012

And always keep a-hold of Nurse

For fear of finding something worse.

==Hilaire Belloc.

A friend of mine defines the Democratic voting coalition as (1) labor; (2) African-Americans; (3) Hispanics; (4) feminists; (5) gays; (6) environmentalists; (7) members of the helping professions, such as teachers, social workers and nurses; and (8) “militantly liberal” inhabitants of university towns and similar enclaves.

What is remarkable is how little the Democratic leadership, including President Obama, has done for any of these groups, except possibly gays.

The Obama administration supports NAFTA-like free trade agreements with countries such as Colombia and South Korea, and has done nothing to support workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively.  It quickly abandons any African-American member of its administration who is under attack from the radical right.  It is deporting unauthorized immigrants at a faster rate than the Bush administration.  Obama has put a woman’s right to contraception on the negotiating, instead of defending it as a basic right.  He has not attempted to give relief to state and local governments so that they can avoid cutbacks in basic governmental and social services.  And he claims the right to commit acts of war and ignore basic civil liberties without accountability.

What keeps this coalition together is that all these groups are demonized and scapegoated by the Republican leadership, giving them no alternative within the framework of the two-party system.   The main reason for them to support the Democratic Party is fear of something worse.