With his criticism of NFL players who refuse to stand for the National Anthem, Donald Trump has indisputably proven that he is morally unfit to be President of the United States. Democrats’ responsibility to restore our country’s greatness has become a moral imperative. We must start with the working class whites who are Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters.
Democrats are overanalyzing Trump. The reality is that he became president by playing to peoples’ fears instead of their hopes because he knows angry people don’t think. The majority of Trump voters want positive changes because the everyday people who make America work are getting the short end of the stick. They voted for the wrong candidate for the right reason. That is the starting point for Democrats to become the majority party in the United States.
Democrats should work to get more votes from whites without college degrees. Not because of race or working class status or the current infatuation created by J.D. Vance and Hillbilly Elegy, but because it’s the right thing to do for the Democratic Party and it’s what’s best for America. The future of the Democratic Party does not depend solely on working class whites, but we’re going to have to earn more of their votes to be the party we should be. There are two reasons for that. Trump is going to cheat those folks because he promised them a future he knows won’t happen. Also, winning enough votes from working class whites will prevent Republicans from winning elections.
We should analyze our weakness with non-college educated whites the way we look at our share of the vote with every other demographic group in our coalition. (Democrats have a bigger tent because Republicans rely almost exclusively on whites.)
Whites were 72 percent of the presidential electorate in 2016. Trump’s margin among whites without a college degree was 67 percent to 28 percent, a 39-point difference. Trump won six states that Obama won twice. Three of them (Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin) went for Trump by a total 77,000 votes and all Clinton had to do was flip 39,500 votes and she’d be president. Clinton would have won those three states had she bothered to acknowledge working class whites.
Earning working class white votes won’t require appealing to what we think are their biases (we have to check our condescension), and we have to understand their criticisms of how our government overlooks them. Our appeal to them will not be racial. That’s not only wrong; it’s unnecessary. We’ll tell them up front that we won’t betray any other group in our coalition to get their votes. They won’t like that, but they’ll respect us for it because they admire people who stick with their friends. That will also get their attention because they figure it’s worth listening to anyone with the gumption to say something to their faces that they don’t want to hear.
Then comes the fun part – we look them in the eye and say, “We’re liberal.” That will get their attention, but not in a good way, so we’ll have to make the most of it. And we’ll have to understand that the head never beats the gut in a political argument. Today’s conservatism is nothing more than hatred of poor people and government programs to help them. Any political discussion with a self-proclaimed conservative will come down to that. They consider the poor to be welfare cheats too lazy to work, and those are the only government programs they want to get rid of.
But we have an advantage. We’ve won the argument over whether Americans are liberal or conservative. They’re liberal – low voltage liberals – but liberal nonetheless. They like big government, but most of them won’t admit it because they take liberalism’s benefits for granted.
Former U.S. Senator Fritz Hollings used to tell a story about man who went through college in the GI Bill, bought a house through a VA loan, started a business with an SBA loan, sent his children to public schools where they ate lunches subsidized by the federal government, drove on an interstate highway to use his boat on a lake created by the Army Corps of Engineers, and took Amtrack to Washington D.C. to ask his congressman for help, but voted Republican because he wanted government off his back.
There are two things Democrats can do to help white working class voters as well as others. First, the federal government should create and fund a large scale job training program that will teach the skills that will be necessary for the good paying jobs of the future. That plan will do more than anything else to make America great again. The job training program can and should be paid for by keeping the corporate tax rate at 35 percent and raised if necessary, since corporations will benefit from having a trained workforce to increase corporate profits. As important as that plan is, another is more critical.
America’s future requires measuring our economic health at the base of the pyramid instead of the apex. Working people don’t resent the wealthy, but they hate greed because they deserve a chance at a better life that they’ve been denied for too long. The rich do better when the middle and working classes have money in their pockets. The rich have forgotten that lesson – if they ever learned it to begin with. Either way, Democrats will have to make sure the message is received.