Elections Turn On Policy, Not Public Relations

My liberal and left-wing friends continue to puzzle over a single, unanswerable question: why do white, working class people vote “against their interests”?Perhaps the reason that this is an unanswerable question is that it is the wrong question. I would like to suggest that they don’t vote against their own interests– or at least, that when voters that have profound needs defect from the Democratic party, perhaps the party leadership should honestly assess whether they are promoting rhetoric, or the policies that voters need.

In the waning hours hours of November 8 2016, the Democratic party had to grapple with the difficult truth that it had lost the trust of its white working-class base. The defection of counties in Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania, won by Obama in 2012, delivered the presidency to Donald Trump. Blame Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders if you like, blame Hillary’s failure to campaign sufficiently in the Midwest, blame James Comey, blame Robbie Mook’s bad data, blame Facebook — but when it comes down to it, white working-class voters no longer supported Democratic policies.

It doesn’t always take a catastrophic and unexpected loss for a political party to discover that something seismic has occurred: sometimes it is a win that reveals surprising and unwelcome news. This was the case in the early years of the Reagan administration, when a new era of American conservatism was inaugurated. But as records at the Ronald Reagan Presidential library show, soon after the euphoria of a victory first strategized in the ashes of Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign, White House analysts detected  a yawning, 10-point gap in support for the President among white men and white women who had voted in 1980. In other words, the archetypical “Reagan Democrat” who had created the possibility for reversing the New Deal and the Great Society, was a man — and his wife, daughters, and sisters were voting disproportionately Democratic.

To read the rest of this post, published at Public Seminar on May 16, 2018, click here.

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