I. The Idea that the Problem Was the Democrats’ Abandonment of the White Working Class
OK. No doubt there’s some truth to this. No doubt, the less educated white working class has reasons to be dissatisfied with their economic condition and their economic prospects, and no doubt the Democratic Party could do a better job of communicating with such Americans and of addressing their dissatisfactions. No doubt, all this is worth addressing.
But let’s not sidetrack ourselves into thinking that this is the main problem that accounts for all the white working-class voters who went for Trump and for Republicans down ballot.
Think of it this way: however much the Democrats have moved away from their previous staunch defense of the working class, they are still clearly so far and away better than the GOP at looking out for the interests of average Americans that no working-class voter, with his/her head screwed on straight, who was motivated by concerns over their declining economic situation, should have considered even for a moment voting for the Republicans.
• Which party has looked out for making sure they got health-care coverage? (And which opposed it?)
• Which party has called for raising the minimum wage. (And which has opposed it?)
• Which party tried to extend unemployment benefits during the Great Recession? (And which tried to cut them short?)
• Which party works to insure the rights of workers to organize and to bargain collectively with employers? (And which has systematically undermined those rights?)
Is there a single issue, bearing on the economic interests of the white working class, on which the Republicans have been the better champion of those interests? I can’t think of a single one.
All of which means this: however much Democrats should boost their advocacy for working-class Americans, and however much they should improve their ways of selling themselves to such voters, the main problem here lies with the voters themselves.
The problem is whatever led them to turn to the people who so demonstrably, so obviously, have not had their interests at heart.
So clearly: Being way better than the Republicans didn’t do the trick for the Democrats, so it follows that being even more dramatically better isn’t the key to turning things around.
What most urgently needs to be addressed is whatever it is in the way these voters were thinking and feeling that could lead them to vote for a Party — the GOP — that has consistently shown itself to be the agent of the very plutocratic forces that have stacked the deck against average working Americans.
And as for Trump, much the same applies: as President Obama so eloquently argued on so many occasions during the campaign, it made no sense to think that Trump — with his long history conning working people — would be the champion of working Americans.
With Trump, there is this additional factor: the man had a long and much-publicized history of scamming people, of breaking agreements, etc.
So the question again focuses on the nature of the thought processes and reigning passions of the working-class voters who voted for Trump: what in the hell could make them think that a man with Trump’s history of conning people wouldn’t prove to be just conning them as well?
And now, of course, with his appointment of all these plutocrats, the great Trump con of the election of 2016 is coming into ever-clearer focus.
So whatever the problems in the Democratic Party in relation to the white working class, the really serious/big/blatant problem lies with those working class voters themselves.